One Writer’s Journey

August 28, 2014

Print vs ebooks: Which Is Better?

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:23 am
Tags: ,
Print vs ebooks 2Which is better?  A print book or an ebook?  It may depend on your criteria.
Ebooks are less expensive to produce.  You can store many books on one device and easily carry it from place to place.  I get that.
That said, I prefer print.  I read ebooks when I’m on the treadmill.  That’s because I have a treadmill desk and it is easier to read electronic books on my lovely screen that is generally bigger than the print book.  A lot of the research for my Maya book came to me as PDF files of various journal articles.  It was too much to print out so I worked from the screen.  In spite of this, I still prefer print.  Up until I read this article, I thought that maybe it was just me, but I seem to connect better with things that I read in print.
But a recent study of Norwegian 10th graders produced some surprising results.  One group of students were given a piece of fiction and a piece of nonfiction in print form.  The second group received the same two pieces as PDF files.  The researchers had already tested the students reading skills and vocabularies so that doesn’t account for the differences.
When asked questions that tested their understanding, the students who read the PDF versions scored noticably lower on both the fiction reading and the nonfiction reading.  The researchers don’t know yet what causes this disparity but they did put forth a theory about mental maps.
Because a print book is a tangible, physical thing, reading it combines a stronger visual and tangible experience to create a mental map.  Because readers can page back and forth in a longer work, they are better able to review the content and form relationships between different portions of the text.
Other studies show that readers are more emotionally involved in a text that they read in paper form.
Part of the reason that I find this so interesting is that many schools are presenting text books and other information in electronic form.  Should we be concerned?


  1. I completely understand! I love the convenience of an e-reader for travel. It weighs a whole lot less than the 10 or 12 books I would need to pack. I also love it because I can check out books from the library without even leaving my bed! Sweet!!

    BUT and this is a HUGE but – E books are terrible for research. When I am researching a project I need to be able to flip from one chapter to another and juggle four or five texts to compare facts. This just can’t be done with an e-reader – I don’t care how many “screens” you have.

    I think there will always be a place for print text. At least I hope so- otherwise… I’m in trouble!!!

    Comment by stephaniebearce — August 29, 2014 @ 5:00 am | Reply

    • Stephanie,
      I know exactly what you mean. I can do research through PDF articles if I have to do it that way. But print is so much simpler. I can see in my mind where things are on the page. That doesn’t happen with the scrolling screen.

      Comment by suebe — September 1, 2014 @ 4:43 am | Reply

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