Reading-Media Preferences

14 Mar

I’m not a prolific reader but I still read a lot. We didn’t have computers when I was in school. There were massive mainframes in my college that I used (rather, had to use) during computer classes or projects. Even after I had several laptops at home, I preferred to purchase physical books. Last year, I bought an Amazon Kindle. It is a great device for reading novels or other text-heavy books. I read only one book on my Kindle. I then bought a Kindle Fire, which is a good device for a quick look at Facebook and email, or Web surfing, but it’s not suitable for reading.

various e-book readers. From right to left iPa...

Image via Wikipedia

A few people I know read books on their iPads. There are many books currently available and many more, including text books, are coming to the iPad. I could never make the switch from a print book to an ebook, though my professional career heavily involves developing ebooks.


  • The tactile feel of the print book is amazing. I think this, subconsciously, is the main reason I love print books.
  • I like organizing my books on the bookshelves. It just looks fantastic. I feel proud. I will pass on my collection to my kids.
  • Usability research has proved that reading a print book is faster compared to reading on a computer. However, other studies suggest it’s not statistically significantly slower on an iPad.
  • Reading a print book is comforting to the eyes. Working on a computer the whole day strains my eyes and mentally exhausts me. The last thing I’d do at home is read on a digital screen. The iPad however, people say, doesn’t strain the eye. I don’t believe it.

There are other benefits to a print book (but those are not the reasons for my preference).

  • You can fling one across the room, aiming, as Mark Twain liked to do, at a cat.
  • It’s easy on the hands. It’s not possible to hold the iPad with one hand for long.
  • It can be dropped without any damage. Good for kids (and some grownups).
  • I was surprised to learn that it’s easier to remember things read on a print book than an ebook. There is not much evidence but the reason cited by a neuroscientist seems to be plausible.
    “In nature, information comes with a physical address (and often a temporal one), and one can navigate to and from the address. Those raspberry patches we found last year are over the hill and through the woods — and they are still over the hill and through the woods.And up until the rise of the web, the mechanisms for information storage were largely spatial and could be navigated, thereby tapping into our innate navigation capabilities. Our libraries and books — the real ones, not today’s electronic variety — were supremely navigable.”

In a research study sponsored by my employer, two professors from James Madison University concluded, among other findings, that pdf ebooks and print books produce the same scores on quizzes, but the time and effort expended is more with the ebooks. Also, the students multitask more if the e-device for reading is also the same as they use for social networking. I think nobody has cracked the effective ebook code just yet.

In my household, using digital medium for studies is a strict no-no. Kids have to use the Web for search and many other curricular activities, but when it comes to reading/learning, there is no substitute for a print book.

Writing in The Times in 1991, Anna Quindlen declared, “I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves.”

Related readings
The Problem With the Web and E-Books Is That There’s No Space for Them
The Way We Read Now


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