If I’m reading for pleasure I enjoy a print book immensely over a digital book. I like the heft of a text, the smell of paper, ink, and glue. I enjoy the texture of the page, and rustle of turning pages.
If I’m studying I like to be able to pencil in my own notations, perhaps highlight, reference to an earlier section, or even a different book. When you are notating in a “real” printed book compared to digital, it isn’t as disruptive to the train of thought as it is to paste notes, or pop up a comment box, or even highlight with a stylus.
However, when I’m researching history or background information for a story, I really appreciate digital books and files. The ability to digitally search through hundreds of pages for a specific phrase or topic in a matter of minutes or seconds is phenomenal. Being able to copy and paste or to grab a screen shot or section of a graphic, photo, or text is such a time saver. Ditto on organizing digital files, building indexes, and creating citations and references.
So I love both print and digital books and use both frequently. I bring this up because of a few things in the news lately, which kind of make sense to me.
A scholarly study of use of digital vs print textbooks in public schools and in college studies found some interesting things. Not surprisingly, students of all ages now prefer electronic texts, and are of the opinion that they learn more easily from e-books. It makes sense, these people have lived in a digital world since birth, and are well-acclimated to it.
When the study looked at speed and comprehension of the same students working on the same topics in both print and digital media, the found some differences. As the students said, they read faster digitally, and did well on comprehension of the core idea in the section they read. However, an overwhelming majority of them did much better on details of the material covered when reading printed material.
So they get a summary core idea faster digitally, and a more intimate understanding in the slower reading of print texts. Similarly, a different study of college students found that they retained much more information when taking notes physically on paper, than when either entering notes on their computer, or tape recording them.
Arizona recently passed a law requiring more recess and “free play” time for elementary students. What they have found in the past year, is that student grades, classroom behavior, and student and (surprise!) teacher morale has improved considerably.
Studies in the US, Japan, and Europe found that preschool children both learn and develop skills faster when learning with actual physical objects rather than using digital displays. Part of human learning comes from all our senses, not just visual and audio, so learning colors, shapes, size, weight, texture, smell, etc. from physical objects provides learning through more of the senses.
So the best of reading (or anything else) is to have a range of tools and options you use, and include life experience to make the words have more depth of meaning.
As a writer it occurs to me that it is equally important to relate to the full range of senses when describing a historical vignette or a fictional scene. And it’s a good idea to get up from the computer and experience life frequently. Put aside the digitals once in a while, and interact with people, nature, and your own deeper thoughts. Oh, and take a nap. Catch you later.
Mystery writer, Southwestern Historian, researcher, husband, father, grandpa, with an opinion on everything.