While on Facebook earlier this week, I came across this article. It says that “our brains were not designed for reading, but have adapted and created new circuits to understand letters and texts. The brain reads by constructing a mental representation of the text based on the placement of the page in the book and the word on the page. The tactile experience of a book aids this process, from the thickness of the pages in your hands as you progress through the story to the placement of a word on the page.”
Basically, it confirms what I’ve always believed. I remember more when I read from a physical book.
Now I’m not completely against e-readers. But I think that being able to balance both electronic and paper reading is key. I have a Barnes and Noble Nook (which I LOVE), but I also read plenty of books on paper. Ebooks are definitely convenient (mine has a built in book light; hello late night road trips!), but I’ve found paper books are much better for remembering details, especially as a student. Whenever my professors would assign readings that are online, I would usually go to my university library to find a paper copy, or I would print the reading if I couldn’t find the book. Sometimes I would just suck it up and read it online, but like I said, my comprehension and memory of the material was definitely lower than it would have been if I just printed it out.
I know, it’s not good for the environment. However, I can’t let my education suffer because I want to save trees. I do try and recycle heavily, so I hope that makes up for some of it. I also try and use less paper by using my public and university libraries (whenever possible) rather than purchasing books. If I do purchase a book, it’s because I felt a major connection to it and I would love to reread it long into the future. Mainly, I use my Nook to reread books I love on long road trips or during an airplane ride and to read book series only available in ebook format (new authors, mainly).
As a student, ebooks might seem more practical, but I have no problem carrying one or two (or five) books with me everyday. My Education > Convenience. I learn best by reading from physical books. I make marks in them. I highlight important statements. I learn best by reading from physical books.
The article thinks so too. “While e-readers try to recreate the sensation of turning pages and pagination, the screen is limited to one ephemeral virtual page. Surveys about the use of e-readers suggest that this affects a reader’s serendipity and sense of control. The inability to flip back to previous pages or control the text physically, either through making written notes or bending pages, limits one’s sensory experience and thus reduces long-term memory of the text.”
Of course everyone learns differently. Everyone has their own right to choose ebooks over physical books, but now science has given us one argument for the benefits physical books. Perhaps science will also tell us why ebooks might be better in other ways.