Most people realize the value and joy of reading—to explore, to learn, or to just kick-back and relax and be whisked away to a crime scene in the Far East, a shootout on the high plains, or standing on the deck of a luxury ocean liner struggling to keep afloat.
I learned the importance of reading early in life. Both my parents were readers, but my father harbored an enormous appetite for reading. He read everything he could get his hands on. Novels, biographies, daily newspapers, how-to books, and so much more.
He was a stickler, however, for not reading during meals, so he banned newspapers and books and other materials. But I did manage to fool him by reading the marketing copy on the back of cereal boxes and other food products containers.
He always kept a dictionary close-at-hand and a pencil for scribbling various remarks in the margins. When he was in his later-80s, before his eyes began deteriorating, I handed him an Ebook and explained how it worked. He looked up, glasses perched on his nose. “Exactly how would I take notes and underline or circle things?”
I mentioned it was possible to highlight certain passages in the text and access a dictionary—all electronically. He rolled his eyes and shook his head. “No thanks,” he said with a short, quiet laugh. “I’ll stick to paper.” The memory of that brief conversation still amuses me. But, in reality, the debate continues over Ebook vs Paper.
For the record, I love libraries and bookstores—even second-hand book shops. Visits to these places always bring to mind the character of Lt Col. Bill Kilgore in Apocalypse Now, who proclaimed “I love the smell of napalm in the morning.”
It's the same with bookstores. The musty smell of old books or the scent of new paper and ink is intoxicating.
Roaming the aisles represents a journey of discovery—untold stories, mysteries, and long-held secrets. One the other hand, I enjoy the portability feature of an Ebook—and the ability to store a broad range of books or documents inside a tablet less than a half-inch thick.
But the convenience factor of an Ebook, I’ve learned, doesn’t appeal to everyone.
Naomi Baron, a linguistics professor at American University, reported that in a survey of over 300 university students from Japan, Germany, Slovakia, and the U.S., 92 percent preferred reading paper books when it came to serious reading.
In an interview with the New Republic, Ms. Baron said students “care about the smell of a book,” adding, “…There really is a physical, tactile, kinesthetic component to reading.”
In her book, Words Onscreen: The Fate of Reading in a Digital World, she points out students find Ebooks fine for casual reading but not for serious reading.
At the same time, Professor Baron suggested there were a couple of physical issues involved.
Students “say they get distracted, pulled away to other things. The second had to do with eye strain and headaches and physical discomfort.”
The reaction, on an informal basis, is all over the board. One person described Ebooks as a “minor blip on history’s radar,” insisting that paper books will always dominate.
Someone else suggested that denying the relevance of digital reading products strike her as a head-in-the-sand mentality, almost like saying “the Internet is a fad.”
Author Michael S. Hyatt, blogger, speaker, and former chairman of CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers, recently published a post declaring he’s focusing on physical books for 2016 and putting Ebooks on the shelf. And he cited for eight specific reasons. Among them:
- Ebooks Engage Fewer Senses:
- Ebooks Result in Less Retention and Comprehension
- Ebooks are More Difficult to Navigate
- Ebooks Provide Less Satisfaction in Finishing
You can read all eight of Mr. Hyatt’s reasons here.
So what’s your take on this? Do you prefer Ebooks or physical books? Are arguments against Ebooks legitimate? Is it time to shelve this debate?