The unending battle of print books vs. eBooks have not thrown up any clear winners so far. Both sides have their ardent supporters but while eBook fans mainly harp on the convenience factor, those who champion print books prefer to speak of the unique experience that print books provide.
Physical Pleasure of Print Books
Every avid reader is aware of the intimate experiences that a print book can provide. Whether it is the wonderful smell of ‘fresh books’ in a bookstore, the joyful feel of books as you ruffle through the bookshelves at the library, the happy memories of curling up with an old favourite on a rainy day. There is also the magic of being lulled to sleep by a gripping book; eBooks, on the other hand, come with the warning that they may be detrimental to a good night’s rest. These experiences are unique to paper books and cannot be replicated with eBooks.
Studies also show that both parents and children prefer print books over eBooks when it comes to bedtime reading. Parents feel that there is more communication and bonding with their children when they use a print book to read to them. The eBook, on the other hand, especially the ones with apps, provided greater distraction and less reading value. Literacy experts confirm that print books are more effective in building literacy because of the focus on the narrative and the opportunities it provides for interaction between the parent reading the book and the child. Many of the eBooks have so many added “click-through” features that they do not provide a centralized focus on the story.
Community Building Values
When you share your favourite book with another book lover, the physical exchange creates a bond; transfer of eBooks just doesn’t have the same effect as handing over a physical book. People reading print books in public places give an idea of what is on their mind and this can be a great conversation starter with the person seated next to you on a flight or bus. An eBook gives you no such leads; an eBook reader is a person staring at an electronic device and that is rather forbidding for someone looking to start a conversation.
When it comes to academics and learning experience, even millennials seem to prefer printed text over eBooks. A survey conducted in 2014, which appeared in The Washington Post, shows that more than 4/5 of the money spent on textbooks was on printed textbooks. Interestingly, almost 1/4 of the humanities students bought printed textbooks, even when the free content was available online.
The student community may be right in turning to the physical version of textbooks for a better academic outcome. The study has shown that comprehension and retention are definitely better when reading from a book as opposed to the screen. Contrary to popular notions, young people also prefer print books to eBooks when it comes to reading for pleasure. They don’t feel as emotionally connected to the story and are not able to immerse themselves in the text while using eBooks.
A print book is for keeps. It stays with you for life, building up memories through the years. An old dog-eared copy reminds you of the numerous re-readings, the ‘lending-borrowings’ and your intellectual journey with the book. The Kindle version is a colder form of the printed books; it remains unchanged through the years and brings back no warm memories of the past.
After a steady rise in the sales of eBooks through the years, 2016 saw a decline in market share for the first time, proving once again that despite advent of technology, print books have a unique place in the hearts and minds of the readers.