The debate on online versus printed books is an ongoing and controversial issue. E-books tend to be easier to handle, more portable and right at the tips of your fingers. However, evidence shows that printed books have many more unknown benefits.
In 2014, writer and Scripps graduate Rachel Grate wrote about the benefits of reading physical books: “A 2014 study found that readers of a short mystery story on a Kindle were significantly worse at remembering the order of events than those who read the same story in paperback.”
While e-books do help students by allowing them to read faster, people do not retain the information they are reading as much as with paper books.
According to a 2006 study done by the Nielsen Norman Group, on-screen text readers tend to only skim the material and read in an “F” pattern. This means that most readers only read the entire first line of text and then only read through the first couple of words on each line after that.
Also, reading e-books rather than paper books before bed has shown to significantly hurt one’s sleep. The light emitted from cell phone, computer and TV screens reduces one’s ability to sleep due to the effect that artificial light has on melatonin production, a hormone made by the pineal gland that helps control sleep.
A 2012 study in Sweden found that extensive cell phone use can be linked to an increase in stress, sleep disorders and depression, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health.
Another study found that reading an e-book before bed can affect alertness the next morning. Because of the reduction in melatonin production, readers take longer to fall asleep at night and to wake up in the mornings, making them sluggish and unmotivated.
Partly because of these problems, many people are switching back to the traditional way of reading. Last year, Naomi S. Baron, the author of “Words Onscreen: The Fate of Reading in a Digital World,” asked 300 college students about their preference of books. Ninety-two percent said they would rather read a physical text rather than a virtual one.
They said they liked that there were less distractions and there was less of an eye strain when reading paper books.
“I prefer paper books because the feeling I get when I turn the page gives me a sort of relaxing feeling that I wouldn’t get from an online source,” Shantel Alexander, a UCC student, said.
Although printed books have more psychological benefits, e-books are much more cost effective. For example, at the UCC bookstore paper textbooks can cost $50 to $160 whereas the e-book version normally cost between $5 and $20. E-books can also be stored on a device and are much less expensive to buy. Printed books have to be taken care of and stored. If the books are stored in a library, costs for librarians also increase.