eReader or Print? … Does it Really Matter? Just Read!

Ereader or Print

The controversy continues. Do true readers read eBooks or books printed on paper? From my perspective as a writer, it’s irrelevant. The argument is based on a false premise. That is, that there is some intrinsically superior form of reading, that either readers of eBooks or print books are inferior, or superior, in their reading appetites and comprehension than the other group, depending upon your personal perspective.

It’s a silly argument. The real issue is do we read, and do we teach our children to read in a world that is becoming increasingly illiterate. Perhaps that sounds a bit strong, but the truth is that, while more people may know the alphabet and are able to read words, I maintain that reading comprehension has decreased and continues to do so. In a world of texts, emails, memes, and posts, the art of abbreviated communication has replaced reading and writing.

There are some studies that suggest that reading in print increases comprehension and retention because of the tactile connection between the page and the reader and the ability to envision the entire reading material as a whole. EBooks do not have pages and therefore limit the tactile connection that is a comforting sensation for many.

Personally, I’m not convinced. These days, I read almost exclusively from an eReader. It contains a full library of history, science, biography, politics, economics and fiction, and frankly, when I discuss these issues with others, I am pretty certain that my comprehension is at least as good as theirs.

I will admit that the facility of reading an eBook versus a print book may mean that at times one is simply reading to relax and drift off to sleep. Retention at these times may not be as important as the simple flow of words.

I also admit that the opening of a physical book requires an additional physical effort that enhances the tactile sensory satisfaction of reading, thereby possibly increasing retention for some, but I suggest that this is more a matter of familiarity than of superiority of the printed material.

Don’t get me wrong. I love books. I love holding an old-fashioned book also. I love it because that was how I began reading in life. I’m a sentimental old fool, attached, as we all are to things I know. I have no doubt that had I been brought up reading eBooks exclusively, without any reference to physical books, I would be as attached to them.

The Pew Research Center points out that in 1978 only 8% of Americans had NOT read a book during the previous twelve months. In 2014, that number had increased to 23%. This is a cultural issue and not about which reading medium is best. No doubt, this statistic would impact reading comprehension studies amongst a random sampling, since readers would be more likely to have higher cognition and retention than non-readers, regardless of where or how they were reading.

Like everything, the ebook revolution is in a transitional stage. For me, the bigger issue is the fact that fewer and fewer people actually read. This is not an issue of which reading medium is superior, but of our cultural tendency to seek shallow simplicity rather than depth. Thinking requires effort and effort is not FUN. And, if it is not FUN then it is not worthwhile…right?

I do worry that the ability to read and understand deeper thought and emotion is decreasing. I do not consider the medium of the reading material (print or electronic) to be the issue.

We are the issue. The culture of immediate gratification and self-indulgence has far more influence, in my opinion, on the lack of literacy in our society than whether books are on paper or a screen.

Recently the American Association of Publishers (AAP) conducted a study that determined that Ebook sales are on a decline. The AAP has also been working very hard, filing lawsuits against Amazon to price eBooks artificially high in order to prop up the sales of their very expensive print books.

The result is that THEIR ebook sales are naturally down. The truth is that when you consider all eBooks outside of the AAP, ebook sales continue to rise.

In my case, I sell about a hundred eBooks to one print and sales are rising. Another point of interest is that readers of eBooks tend to read more frequently and in greater variety.

While I understand the love of print books (I love them too) I also love old cars but that doesn’t mean I want to drive one every day. The AAP would like us all to read only their published books. They hate the idea that anyone who has the desire to learn the craft of writing can publish a book and develop an audience without relying in their closed and tightly controlled system to be noticed.

The electronic information age has been revolutionary for the arts. Writers, artists and musicians who would never have been heard or seen under the traditional good old boy systems have found audiences. Some have even achieved stardom.

If the advent of eBooks encourages more people to read, I count that as a positive trend, not a negative. Now, if you will excuse me I must get back to writing my latest book. Oh yes, it will be available in both print and electronic formats if that matters to you.

To Read or Not to Read … Not Much of Debate in My Opinion

Books - Lincoln vs West

No mystery where I come down on this debate.
READ … Teach your children to READ … I firmly believe that much of the tragedy in the human condition would be eliminated through the expansion of the mind and sensibilities that takes place through the simple act of READING BOOKS. Not asking you to read my books, Just set the example and teach your children to READ BOOKS!

Best – Glenn

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