Too many pro-book articles come with built-in tech bashing.
Oh, yes, you need to read more. But if you’re serious about it, you’ll stick to paper. No ebooks!
But Popular Science—perhaps because it believes so strongly in the S word—offers a welcome contrast to this all-too-common Luddism. Writer Dan Seitz serves up solid advice that you might want to share not only with friends but also with teachers and librarians in need of enlightenment. His article is titled Books are good for your brain. These techniques will help you read more.
Seitz nicely sums up current research on the glories of reading, not just for younger people but also for older ones eager to keep their brains active. Then he offers specific tips well-known in the library world. Begin with the books you most enjoy as opposed to feeling obliged to take on a Tolstoy opus—that can come later. Feel comfortable starting with as few as five pages a day. Seitz also advises to “cut yourself some slack, especially if you’re starting from zero. Even if you miss a day, recognize that we all sometimes stay out late, get wrapped up in a TV show, or just forget. Be willing to pick yourself back up and honor the long-term commitment the next day.”
Now—this is where the Seitz article really shines:
“To fit in those five pages, it also helps to keep a book, audiobook app, or e-reader on you as you go about the day. Then, when you have some down time—you’re waiting for a friend, dozing through your commute, or doing a task that doesn’t require your full attention—you can open your text instead of pulling up your favorite smartphone game.” As Seitz sees it, “Carrying an e-reader with you certainly makes it easy to churn through pages at any time.” Exactly. This is one of the reasons I’ve even proposed the creation of cell phone book clubs (even though participants could still read in other ways).
But what about E vs. P?
“The academic research,” Seitz writes, “has mostly focused on retention, that is, how much of a book’s events you remember after you read it. Although paper books may have a leg up on that score, their advantage appears to depend on environment and context. The aforementioned pro-paper study took place in a laboratory setting: Students all read the same text, but some looked at the words on paper and others viewed an on-screen PDF. A different study looked at kids in the classroom, reading from either a book or an iPad, and found no meaningful difference between the two media.”
Back to the research using the PDF. What sloppy science, as I myself see it! How can an academic compare paper and digital media while inflicting a PDF on subjects and thereby leaving them unable to change the typestyle and make other adjustments? The customizability of ebooks in, say, ePub or Kindle format is no small feature. Research that doesn’t take into account the advantages of fully changeable formats—impossible with PDFs—is like putting a thumb on the scales.
In the Popular Science article, there’s more on the advantages of ebooks and audio books for people short of time or money (good on Seitz for talking up library ebooks!). “Ultimately, ” Seitz concludes, “if you hope to get a reading habit going, you shouldn’t dismiss paper, digital, or audio. Go with what makes the most sense for your needs, choosing a combination of the three depending on the occasion.”
Decades after the invention of ebooks, it’s a shame that the E vs. P debate must go on when actually there’s room for all kinds of book formats. The current post isn’t the end of it. In the near future, TeleRead will publish a clueful librarian’s discussion of ebook-dissing.
Image credit: Here.