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.