The race is getting tighter now. With downloadable music already set to completely replace CDs, the next round of the format battle begins. Who will come out on top: ebooks or printed books?
There are many factors to consider when discussing the matter of ebooks vs. printed books, but ultimately, it boils down to the reader’s preference. Avid fans of printed books claim that there’s still nothing like the smell of paper and the rustle of the pages as the reader flips gently through the book with their fingers. There’s something intimately rustic about the entire experience, they claim, and it’s one that cannot be derived from the cold, electronic ebook version.
On the other hand, those who prefer the ebook often say that the device takes a whole lot of weight from their shoulders – literally. Packing for trips is bad enough as it is, but it becomes doubly so when confronted with the task of choosing which book to bring. With the ebook, however, a reader can take hundreds of books with them on the journey, and only take up a few square inches in their carry-on bag.
Apart from these physical considerations, however, studies have shown that when it comes to reading comprehension, printed books are still a better choice. One such study was recently conducted by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop. The study found that literacy building in children is more effective with a printed book than with an ebook because of the centralized focus on the story and the opportunities for interaction between the child and the parent reading the book with the child. While ebooks also deliver the story, and encourage children to participate with interactive add-ons, there is no conversation and nothing to encourage the child to verbalize or explore using language. In fact, the research concluded that sometimes “click-through” added features can actually detract from the reading experience because of all the interruptions.
Of course, for other people – especially adults, who are more able to comprehend the overall story or meaning in the text – these interactive features such as linking, bookmarking, highlighting, and others provide a huge benefit and meet many of their needs. By and large, however, some devices tend to overdo it, and so end up creating more distractions than necessary.
There’s also the matter of production cost. Obviously, printed books cost more because of the resources needed. Ebook reader manufacturers, though, spend the bulk of their production cost on the device itself, and from then on everything is digital and a fraction of the cost per book, compared to printed books.
Marc Slater, director of 7 Speed Reading, weighs in on the debate. “Clearly, the winner in this round is none other than the person doing the reading, no matter which method they choose. With all of the options available in the market, there simply is no way to not enjoy reading. If anything, what people should be focused on is learning how to read faster. After all, there are so many books to pick up and read out there – both in printed form or ebook version – that we should be concentrating on reading as many as we can, in whatever format suits us best.”