When e-book readers first came on the market, many believed that they would strike a deathblow to the traditional publishing industry. Ten years later, hard copy books are still hitting the shelves and the printing industry is booming. Many readers enjoy the process of turning the pages and holding a book in their hand, but the recent decline in e-book sales isn’t just about resistance to change. What scientists have discovered over the past decade is that trying to absorb information supplied in an electronic format may not be all that great after all.
1. Increased Reading Comprehension
A Norwegian study of 10th-grade students found that those who read the print version of a text scored much higher on a reading comprehension test than those who were given the electronic version. Similar tests with adults have provided the same results, particularly when it comes to remembering a sequence of events or characters. It seems that there’s something to be said for feeling the pages with your fingers and seeing your progression as the pile in your left-hand gets thicker. People who settle in with hard copy become more fully immersed in their reading and therefore, are better able to retain what they learn.
2. Less Skimming and Ease of Use
Surprisingly, most millennials prefer hard copy to digital media when it comes to textbooks. The main reason, it seems, is that they are less likely to skim and tend to pay more attention to what they are reading when they have a printed page in front of them. This preference for a hard copy can also be found in manuals and business reports. People prefer to read these types of materials in printed form because they often need to flip back and forth between sections. Many companies that experimented with digital reports have returned to bound copies due to the negative feedback they received from their various stakeholders.
3. Less Physical Strain
Computers can be hard on the eyes and reading for extended periods on a lit screen can literally hurt your brain. Using an e-reader at night can also disrupt your sleep patterns by decreasing the production of melatonin, the hormone that makes you sleepy. This, in turn, decreases your ability to retain information and you’re likely to find yourself skimming between paragraphs or being unable to remember what you have just read. Digital media brings on visual fatigue much more quickly than a printed copy, which is why hours of trolling the web or trying to read a novel online will leave you with itchy, burning eyes.
The lesson for businesses in all of this is ‘don’t be too hasty to go completely paperless.’ If you need to impart important information, be sure to provide a hard copy option, even if your material is available online. Many of your clients still prefer to read a tactile document and will appreciate a bound copy of your marketing materials or other documentation. If you want them to pay attention to what they are reading and retain the pertinent points, stick with hard copy.