I love books. Of course, I am librarian! I think each book is a treasure, a gift.
I enjoy the tactile experience, the paper softness, its smell.
I can lend a book, give it forward, I remember who gifted me which book, I may hug it even!
Their materiality give them context, a significance, therefore a stronger memory.
Most importantly, I love reading books. I enjoy diving into the pages in precious dedicated times. Losing myself in a book, forgetting time, living someone else life, being rocked by the rhythm of the words…
I also read print (alias a knowledge book) to learn a subject in depth, exploring all its aspects and nuances, often re-reading a difficult or important part to take it in. Oh! And they don’t have advertising!
I am an avid online reader too. But I can’t say I love it.
Online is where I get a lot of information, everything I want to know and more.
I explore the world and worldviews, I get news and weather of course. I keep contact with my friends, my community, and read many things I do not need.
Snippets, snapshots. Quick. Easy.
I read articles too, I skim-read the page to see if it’s what I want to read, then click away or continue skim reading. I tend to skip the end when articles are too long. Or my phone beeps and off I am.
Online reading has great advantages: ability to read in the dark, my phone of lighter than most books, it’s easy to find the information I want, it’s perfect when travelling and even saving paper!
As librarian, I witness first-hand how books in print are less and less used. Is it a problem?
Maryanne Wolf is a reading specialist. In her latest book, “The Reading Brain in a Digital World” she questions the future of the reading brain and our capacity for critical thinking, empathy, and reflection as we switch to online technologies.
Studies have shown that 85% of students multitask (=get distracted) in an online environment but only 26% when reading print.
Analyses of movements of the eyes when reading show that we scan through a screen (in the shape of an F) whereas eyes follow lines in a book. Trained to search and find words fast on webpages, we unconsciously practice speed-reading on a screen. So we read e-books faster! We look for the meaning, the plot, but miss the implicit, the depth and the literary expression.
So what about thinking, analyzing, evaluating? What does it mean for learning?
A study by Geoff Kaufman and Mary Flanagan says that for abstract (inference-based) questions, the print participants scored higher, on average, with 66 percent correct compared to the digital participants with just 48 percent correct. For concrete questions, digital participants out-scored the print participants: 73 percent correct versus 58 percent.
This study shows screens do not make us dumber as some people fear or blame. But it does show that brains do not work the same way with print or screen.
I invite you to reflect on your reading habits, be aware of the differences print or digital offer and choose your reading medium accordingly.
It turns out that it’s no longer a Print VS Online debate, it is a Print AND Online world. We have to be bi-literate.
How do YOU read?