March 19, 2012

An unanticipated down-side to e-books

Filed under: Books, Media, Technology — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 10:24

It’s possible that e-books actually make it harder to retain what we read:

I received a Kindle for my birthday, and enjoying “light reading,” in addition to the dense science I read for work, I immediately loaded it with mysteries by my favorite authors. But I soon found that I had difficulty recalling the names of characters from chapter to chapter. At first, I attributed the lapses to a scary reality of getting older — but then I discovered that I didn’t have this problem when I read paperbacks.

When I discussed my quirky recall with friends and colleagues, I found out I wasn’t the only one who suffered from “e-book moments.” Online, I discovered that Google’s Larry Page himself had concerns about research showing that on-screen reading is measurably slower than reading on paper.

This seems like a particularly troubling trend for academia, where digital books are slowly overtaking the heavy tomes I used to lug around. On many levels, e-books seem like better alternatives to textbooks — they can be easily updated and many formats allow readers to interact with the material more, with quizzes, video, audio and other multimedia to reinforce lessons. But some studies suggest that there may be significant advantages in printed books if your goal is to remember what you read long-term.

H/T to Tyler Cowen for the link.

1 Comment

  1. Finding it hard to swallow this one. Words on a page, electronic or paper, no difference. Perhaps more people “flip back” when they read an actual paper book and don’t go back electronically. I have been enjoying my e-reader and even when I get a paperback, I search the underweb for a digital copy I can put on my reader. I don’t feel guilty at all, I have the paper in my hand when I do this. If they would charge a reasonable rate I would buy, and I have a number of time, but the latest $8.00 ebooks are just ticking me off. So, I’ll buy a used paperback for $3 at a used book store and then rationalize away my search for a digital version, for my own convenience. 🙂

    Comment by Dwayne — March 19, 2012 @ 21:06

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