I’ve just come across themes amazing article entitled “Why digital natives prefer reading in print. Yes, you read that right.” It examines the preferred reading habits of young people who have only ever known a digital world.
Students in American universities surveyed display a very strong preference for reading “dead tree” books for pleasure, and in many cases, for their studies.
Here are a few samples from the article.
Textbook makers, bookstore owners and college student surveys all say millennials still strongly prefer print for pleasure and learning, a bias that surprises reading experts given the same group’s proclivity to consume most other content digitally. A University of Washington pilot study of digital textbooks found that a quarter of students still bought print versions of e-textbooks that they were given for free.
“These are people who aren’t supposed to remember what it’s like to even smell books,” said Naomi S. Baron, an American University linguist who studies digital communication. “It’s quite astounding.”
Earlier this month, Baron published “Words Onscreen: The Fate of Reading in a Digital World,” a book (hardcover and electronic) that examines university students’ preferences for print and explains the science of why dead-tree versions are often superior to digital. Readers tend to skim on screens, distraction is inevitable and comprehension suffers.
In years of surveys, Baron asked students what they liked least about reading in print. Her favorite response: “It takes me longer because I read more carefully.”
The preference for print over digital can be found at independent bookstores such as the Curious Iguana in downtown Frederick, Md., where owner Marlene England said millennials regularly tell her they prefer print because it’s “easier to follow stories.” Pew studies show the highest print readership rates are among those ages 18 to 29, and the same age group is still using public libraries in large numbers.
It can be seen in the struggle of college textbook makers to shift their businesses to more profitable e-versions. Don Kilburn, North American president for Pearson, the largest publisher in the world and the dominant player in education, said the move to digital “doesn’t look like a revolution right now. It looks like an evolution, and it’s lumpy at best.”
The article, first published in the Washington Post, is too long to reproduce in full here. Here’s a link to the whole article.
The article is yet another in the long line of articles which resoundingly declare that doomsayers who predict the death of “real” book publishing don’t know what they are talking about.
Perhaps the best piece I have ever come across, which makes the point about the unique values of printed publications is the “bookbook” video released recently by Ikea. Click here for a really good laugh, whilst a really important point is made.