With the invention of kindles and e-readers came a collective sign from the book-reading community. How could anyone replace the tactile sensation of flipping through the pages of your favourite book, hungrily searching for the answer to questions asked and eagerly awaiting a resolution? The smell of a book, new or old, is so distinctive, so perfectly comforting that just a whiff can bring back memories that catapult you straight back into a long-forgotten narrative.
But, there are some who argue that books are “dead tree” mediums, while others complain about their size and weight labelling them cumbersome and awkward – too hard to cary around. These are the main gripes of those who switch to e-readers, that and the fact that you can carry around multiple books with ease.
Science, however, offers readers of books a slight advantage over their e-reader counterparts. According to multiple studies, reading physical books has been shown to improve memory and concentration.
A 2014, study conducted by researchers at Stavanger University in Norway, found that people who read books are significantly better at remembering what they read as opposed to those who read on kindles or e-readers.
The study, presented in Italy at a conference gave 50 readers the same short story by Elizabeth George to read. Half read the 28-page story on a kindle and half read from paper back copies. The readers were then tested on their ability to remember aspects of the story including objects, settings and characters.
“The Kindle readers performed significantly worse on the plot reconstruction measure, ie, when they were asked to place 14 events in the correct order,” said Anne Mangen, a lead researcher on the study.
Because of this, the researchers suggest that “the haptic and tactile feedback of a Kindle does not provide the same support for mental reconstruction of a story as a print pocket book does”
Furthermore, the study found that empathy increased with paper-back readers. This has to do with the unique interaction required, when reading a real book.
“The fixity of paper, and this very gradual unfolding of paper as you progress through a story is some kind of sensory offload, supporting the visual sense of progress when you’re reading.”
Studies have also shown that ones ability to flip back and forward through books, aids in committing information to the brain’s long-term memory.
In terms of concentration, the results of a survey conducted by Naomi Baron, author of Words Onscreen: The Fate of Reading in a Digital World and director for American University’s Centre for Teaching, revealed an overwhelming consensus.
Out of the 400 students who were surveyed, across the US, Germany, Japan, India and Slovakia, between 92-94% of students said “I concentrate best when I read print.”
Do you notice a difference between reading paperbacks and e-readers?