Return to Paper

Per a goal I set, I tried to read more books. And failed. And tried again. Through these attempts, I have realized that reading long works electronically is just not for me. I love to blog and read posts and articles with the browsing capabilities and endless content available on the electronic landscape. But when it come to books, I am willing to haul around the weight of paper and need that traditional feel for my ideal reading experience.

I have several unfinished books in the inventory on my tablet but the two books that I physically trudged to the library to borrow, I finished in three to four days, proving to myself that I am fully capable of reaching my goal of one book per week. I just have to indulge my whim to read books on paper. Yes, I was annoyed at myself and tried to deny this for a while. Electronic reading is just so convenient:

  • Thousands of books and variety of choices available within seconds
  • I can carry as many of them as I want and only bear the weight of a remarkably light electronic device that is useful for many other tasks
  • Concepts and sections can be easily searched for follow up reading and referring to different sections of the book
  • Newer versions of readers and apps to adjust brightness make reading on a screen friendlier to the eyes than ever before
  • The process can be made more interactive to collect information and provide links for further exploration
  • It offers note taking and bookmarking functionality that is easier to return to than using a pen and sticky notes in a real book
  • You can multitask or have an easier posture without having to hold a book open
  • Cheaper to source electronic books than paper versions and even libraries have a growing electronic inventory
  • If needed, it is more discrete than a book that everyone can see in your possession

Well, despite all these reasons, I know that paper reading is for me and I am willing to relinquish the conveniences for it. I am going to make those trips to the library, carry the weight of my book, and thoroughly enjoy every real page. Here’s why:

The Topography

After finishing one book electronically, I failed on the few that followed that. Tablets and e-readers do not retain published fonts and they all look the same on a screen (I use Overdrive with library books). To me, the thickness, binding, paper texture, fonts, and separation of sections, these are all part of the story and personality of the book. And I thoroughly missed that. I also love the smell of books new and old (never encountered any bad surprises with that yet, fortunately).

The Experience

I read significantly faster on paper and can lose myself in the ideas more effectively. It just works: “…evidence from laboratory experiments, polls and consumer reports indicates that modern screens and e-readers fail to adequately recreate certain tactile experiences of reading on paper that many people miss and, more importantly, prevent people from navigating long texts in an intuitive and satisfying way. In turn, such navigational difficulties may subtly inhibit reading comprehension.” I often found myself browsing over sections already read and glancing over prior paragraphs on a screen to realize I was not retaining as much of the concepts or scenes as I had hoped.

The Memory

Another study found that “students who read on paper learned the study material more thoroughly more quickly; they did not have to spend a lot of time searching their minds for information from the text, trying to trigger the right memory—they often just knew the answers.” It seems that I fare okay without the easier search and note taking tools available electronically. I can relate to the research results from my studying days on how navigation through a textbook or other printed materials played a key role in my learning. Also, depending on the software used, electronic reading loses the effective presentation I like experiencing and retained more when the reading experience tangibly interacted with my physical space.

The Stamina

I do not get tired as easily when I am reading on paper. I do not get tired of holding a book open either. If I do not have the tablet on a stand, just sitting with it is a lot harder. I have to hold a tablet a lot closer to my face to focus on the words than a book. My eyes glide over words on paper and transform them into complete concepts and images a lot more effectively than from an electronic screen.

I love reading and this is how the beloved hobby works best for me. How do you like to enjoy your reading? What completes the experience for you and enables you to be a more effective reader? Do you have any strategies that make electronic reading just right for you?

Excerpts are from The Reading Brain in the Digital Age: The Science of Paper versus Screens published in Scientific American


2 thoughts on “Return to Paper

  1. I too feel this way. Sometimes I just have to sit the phone/tablet down. It takes me months to finish an electronic book, paperback 3/4 days tops. Great article, I honestly thought it was just me that felt this way.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s