In Defense of Traditional Books


I have enjoyed reading books ever since I started to read. When I was younger, one of my favorite things to do was to slam the book shut and put it on my bookshelf after I finished it. When I did this, I felt satisfied when I did this because it was my way of showing that I achieved my goal of completing the book and could now move on to the next book. This little ritual of mine may disappear soon as more people switch to reading e-books on the Kindle, iPad, or Nook. As technology moves forward, it is important to keep in mind what we may be losing.

In a recent article in the MIT Technology Review, David Zax discusses some of the benefits of reading actual books as opposed to e-books. According to a recent study, reading an e-book may “subtly inhibit reading comprehension.” Although this is not certain, studies have suggested that people do not retain as much information and do not understand the text as well when reading an e-book (It would probably be better if you printed the rest of this post instead of reading it on your computer). Zax talked about how he could remember where a certain passage was on a page when he was reading a book. This was not possible for him when reading an e-book. The study explained that this happens as a result of a mental representation of the text that is created when we read books. This is similar to a mental map we create for streets, trails, and other terrain. However, we do not create these mental representations as effectively when reading e-books because there is no fixed location on a page for the text.

The article also says that most people prefer reading traditional books when reading for a longer period of time. Staring at a screen for extended periods of time can be very stressful on a person’s eyes. Most devices also have a built-in light to make it easier to read. However, having a light shine directly into a person’s eyes can also be very tiring.  

This is just another example of the double-edged sword of technology. The benefits of e-books and devices like the Kindle are obvious. People have access to thousands of books without ever having to go to a book store or the library. Students can all of their textbooks in their backpack at the same time without carrying twenty pounds of books. However, it is important to remember everything that is being left behind. I agree with the author of the article that there are some things that an e-book cannot replace. Maybe in the future e-books will be just as good as a traditional book. Until then, I am going to stick with my paperbacks. 



10 thoughts on “In Defense of Traditional Books

  1. I really enjoyed reading this post and found the topic to be something of high personal interest. I have always loved reading and, like you, enjoy reading paperback books. Ever since I have been a young kid, I have loved the smell of books and the satisfaction of seeing one on my book shelf after finishing it. What I enjoyed the most about this post was how you grounded the personal matter in scientific data, explaining why individuals tend to learn more through paperbacks rather than ebooks. I definitely agree with this point and tend to retain information more when it is on paper. I wonder what impact ebooks will have on reading and education in the future. Will our nation become less intelligent as more and more individuals switch to ebooks? This is a really interesting article related to the subject:

  2. Good post! I like how it was personable and an enjoyable read. I agree with you and Katie about books. I find it very weird to use a Kindle or tablet to read books or newspapers because it doesn’t have the same feeling. I, too, feel satisfied when seeing how many pages I’ve read and I like the feeling of holding a book and flipping through its pages. I never really thought about the comparison between retention of memory but now that I think about it, it is much easier to find a paragraph in a hard copy book than on a tablet. However, there are benefits of tablets such as saving paper and also saving companies money. Printing books cost money per each book, however like what we discussed in class on Tuesday, online books have lower marginal costs because it only requires one copy and every copy after that is free. I’m kind of sad that traditional book sales are dwindling, but it is becoming a virtuous cycle, more people are buying ebooks which means more publishers will put books in the ebookstore and then more people will buy ebooks because they are cheaper and there are more options. Also @katie, I don’t think ebooks will make us less intelligent but there sure are many other things that will.

  3. I really enjoyed reading this article. I definitely agree that reading books is nothing compared to reading from a computer or an eBook. It would truly be a shame to see books go down the drain. There is an emotional attachment to books people have to books that would be lost. Holding a back in hand is nothing like holding a rectangle full of technology. Aside from the traditions book hold, books are definitely much easier to read. I think the study you referenced is undeniably true. I was actually just thinking today that I can study from my hand-written notes on loose leaf paper much easier than I can read my notes I typed on my lap-top. I sometimes feel when I study the notes I have on my computer I am just reading through the words and not actually processing or retaining the information. I am glad to see that this is being scientifically backed with data and experiments. Overall, great blog on an interesting topic. My favorite sentence was “It would probably be better if you printed the rest of this post instead of reading it on your computer”..(I laughed out loud when I read this.) I would only recommend a little more visuals to add to the presentation of the blog.

  4. I agree with you; I prefer my traditional books. There’s no better feeling than physically turning the pages as you progress through a good read. However, I feel that a lot of people find purchasing E-books are more cost efficient (once you get past the cost of the E-reader itself); the books are cheaper, so much information takes up less space and it is more easily transported. Perhaps, what you said about reading comprehension being lower on E-readers compared to text is true, but is it possible that it could increase? The younger generation is starting to be more technologically savvy. Andrew’s Twitter post emphasizes the positive side of the double-edged sword. However, on the other hand, my cousin got her Kindle when she was maybe 9 or 10. Since then she has mainly used it for games and videos rather than educational purposes. Although the generation will be more accustomed to looking at a screen for long periods of time, it does not mean that their reading comprehension using E-readers with increase. I also believe that the traditional book has fewer immediate distractions while reading.

  5. Great post, and I absolutely agree with you that e-books cannot fully replace traditional books. I would much rather pick up a real book to sit down and read rather than read a book on a kindle. The feel of a kindle or iPad doesn’t compare to the feel of a traditional book. I also tend to agree with what you found about retaining less information when reading online or an e-book. When I have a reading assignment online I find myself constantly scrolling down the page to see how much more I have left instead of focusing on the reading. However, when it’s a traditional book, you can see how many pages you have left and see your progress.

  6. Thank you for writing this post! You did a great job of outlining the pros and cons of ebooks. I personally agree with your defense of traditional books. Another print medium that I prefer to read in a hard copy versus on an e-reader is the magazine. I can’t imagine flipping through Vogue on an e-reader instead of the physical copy. I think that magazines should continue to be printed because it makes the experience more interactive. When I get my monthly subscription of a magazine I like to cut out inspiring pictures and add them to my scrapbooks. I could not do this if I read my magazines on an e-reader. Like you said, the advantages of e-books are obvious but sticklers like me may always prefer the traditional version.

  7. I liked this blog a lot because you went into detail about a topic that we have never discussed in class, but then ultimately related it back to the double edged sword aspect of technology and how e-books can actually be a hinderance rather than a benefit. This blog was also very appealing to me because you introduced us to your own experiences and humor into the blog. I wish that I learned about the benefits of reading off of actual paper rather than a screen earlier in college because I remember at the beginning of the year I used to read any assigned articles only on my computer, but eventually saw that I retained more when I printed them out.

  8. I love the idea of the portability of e-books; to have volumes upon volumes of stories in one device is truly exhilarating. You might even be able to store them on a Cloud and then access them at any time, anywhere. But I have to agree that reading something tangible, with pages that you can flip, and words that always remain on one page, is so much more preferable and satisfying. Thus, I’m sure that individual books with paper pages will never become extinct.

  9. E-books seem like they are the future of the book industry. they allow increased portability people no longer have to lug big bags around especially for college students the ability to hold multiple textbooks in your pocket is awesome. this being said I also agree with you when it comes to reading books i enjoy being able to see the progress that i have made when reading. also physically turning the page is incredibly rewarding. Although e-books seem to be far more convenient i would have to say that i far prefer traditional books because of the physical book and as you said the ease on the eyes. this is a great post and i think you did a great job posting about a very pertinent issue.

  10. Nice post! I have to agree with you, I’m not a fan of the cyber books. I love reading, but I too like reading actual paperbacks instead of online. Not only does it hurt my eyes to read online, but it’s not the same relaxing feeling. I like to read to escape the hectic, interconnected world around us. Reading on a computer or a Kindle just isn’t the same escape for me. However, I do think this is the way the world is moving. It is much cheaper, and more environmentally friendly. Overall, interesting post! Here is an article I read last week that actually relates to your point about reading online lowering our reading comprehension. Is Google making us stupid?

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