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  • Writer's pictureDonna Page

Long live the print book

Interestingly, it is the younger generation who are going back to paper.

This is an article that I was interviewed for the North Coast Courier, written by Elana Geist.

Screens and ebooks are supposedly replacing libraries and print, yet more and more millenials are reverting back to the old school charm of printed books.

A 2017 CNN article stated sales of consumer e-books plunged by almost 20% in both the UK and USA in 2016, while sales of print books and journals increased in both countries by about seven percent, with children’s books rising by 16% in the UK.

Interestingly, it is the younger generation who are going back to paper.

The UK-based youth research agency Voxburner found that 62% of 16- to 24-year-olds preferred print books to ebooks in their 2013 survey. The most popular reason given was: “I like to hold the product.”

Ballito based clinical psychologist Donna Page says besides the sensory stimulation and relaxing nature of reading a paper book, studies have shown that people generally absorb more information from print reading compared to digital.

“The general consensus with studies is that you are reading slower on a screen, less accurately and generally you retain less information compared to paper reading,” said Page.

“Reading from paper gives you memory markers and context – you can touch the paper, feel how heavy the book is, orientate yourself to the left and right pages, the front and back of the book. You can quickly flip forward or backward to catch up on detail. You remember turned pages, like footsteps of a journey imprinting in our minds.”

She said your brain actually uses a different process when reading from a screen compared to paper.

“Generally when we read on paper it is of a linear nature – left to right, top to bottom. Screen reading is usually more haphazard as we try scroll and click links to navigate. While linear learning is considered better for memory retention, non linear learning allows one to shallow dive into vasts amounts of information.

“The key here is that different is not necessarily worse, only that its important to understand the difference. Studying for a test might be better on paper, but browsing a new topic online could yield more creative results.”

A 2013 Norwegian study of the reading pattern of tenth-graders showed that students who read on paper scored significantly better in reading comprehension than those who read texts digitally.

A further study by Dr Patricia Kuhl of the Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences at the University of Washington compared the language learning achieved by nine-month old babies who were spoken to in Mandarin by a live instructor versus a group addressed by an instructor on a DVD.

The staring at the screen in the DVD group made it look like they were learning, yet Dr Kuhl said brain scans and language testing revealed the DVD group had “learned absolutely nothing”.

The American Academy of Pediatrics even has a policy that their members prescribe reading out loud to parents of babies and toddlers.

Page urges parents to read out loud to their children even if they can read on their own.

“Read more complex books as this helps build imagination and vocabulary, encouraging them to try bigger and better books as they build their confidence and knowledge base which lays the foundation for numerous subjects at school.”

Her concern is the very little research on the impact of digital screens on developing minds.

“The world is changing and digital information will certainly play a huge role in all our lives, but until we learn more about the long term effects on missing out on linear reading, my advice is to give your children books that you can touch and feel!”

As Albert Einstein once said, “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy stories. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy stories.”

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