Since their creation, e-readers have been all the rage among avid readers, which has led to the commonly held belief that print books are on their way out. But recent numbers show that after the initial surge in popularity has died down, the market does not actually favor e-books in the long run. It has become clear through various surveys and studies that print is not only preferred by most readers; it's actually inherently more readable, too.
1. Readers do not retain information as well when using digital forms
TIME contributor and neuroscience journalist Maia Szalavitz reported that when reading a text in print, people are more apt at fully understanding the concepts. Szalavitz cited research by psychology professor Kate Garland of the United Kingdom's University of Leicester that found the way people remember information is different by nature when consumed in different media forms.
Garland conducted an experiment in which she presented the same text to two different groups of students. One group read in print, while the other read digitally. The digital group recalled individual facts as well as the print group, but it did not comprehend the information it had read as a whole. Garland elaborated that when you know something, it comes to you without consciously recalling it. Conversely, reciting a fact merely consists of creating mental cues that trigger a word or phrase in your mind.
2. Print books enhance understanding of the landscape of the text
Another key factor in achieving complete understanding when reading is creating a mental landscape of events, something that The Guardian contributor Alison Flood said is hard to do when using an e-reader. She referenced Anne Manger, of Stavanger University in Norway, who oversaw a study that had participants read a story from either a Kindle or a paper book. Manger's findings indicated that plot resonance is hindered when using digital. The Kindle readers were significantly worse at reconstructing the plot of the story in sequential order.
Manger observed that the ability to create a physical sense of timing and structure was a key element of comprehension, and that the tactile nature of print books was simply better at providing this to readers. E-readers do not establish the sense of intimacy that can be achieved through reading a hard copy, as they lack spatial landmarks that Manger said create reference points throughout the text.
3. By nature, e-reading is conducive to distractions
Szalavitz noted that people are more prone to becoming distracted when reading digitally. Scrolling and clicking does not engage the reader as well as turning paper pages does. Also, when text is presented online, it is often accompanied by sidebars, advertisements, flashing icons, hyperlinks or other distractions that can steal the attention of the reader. Print books, on the other hand, do not have any of these options, and so are immune to this problem. Now, obviously this does not guarantee that people can remain focused on the text – it's human nature for the mind to wander, after all – but print does not have any inherently distracting features.