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Death of the bookworm

Since the first Kindle came out in 2007, there has been debate over whether eBooks have the same psychological effect as a traditional paperback.

Andrea Rudiger, a second-year architecture technician student at SAIT, said she prefers reading paper to eBooks.

“I like holding something tangible and the feel of flipping through the pages,” she said, adding that by the end of a long day of working on a computer screen she’s had enough.

The Kobo that Rudiger owns hasn’t been used since the battery died two years ago.

“Maybe I’m old fashioned, but I just keep buying books instead of replacing the battery,” she said.

When it comes to class work and note taking, Rudiger explained that it depends on the situation.

For annotation and note taking, printing off notes and highlighting sentences is her chosen way of studying.

However, the convenience of function keys and software has its advantages Rudiger said.

“Using command F is really handy when I need to find something over having to flip through 1,200 pages.”

A recent study held Stavanger University in Norway, suggested that people who read eBooks recall less than when they read from paper, according to Anne Mangen, lead researcher on the study.

The study was based on 50 readers who were given a short story to read, with half using a Kindle and the other half in a paperback.

The readers were later given a questionnaire asking them to recall aspects of the story such as characters, settings and plot.

The results were roughly the same except when it came to questions about when events occurred and arranging plot points, in the story, in which the digital readers scored half as well as the paperback readers.

Mangen chaired another European research project that studied the effects of digitization on text reading.

“Research shows that the amount of time spent reading long-form texts is in decline, due to digitization, reading is becoming more intermittent and fragmented,” the study led by Mangen stated.

The study included there is empirical evidence indicating that affordances of screen devices might negatively impact cognitive and emotional aspects of reading.

Mangen concluded that, “the haptic and tactile feedback of a Kindle does not provide the same support for mental reconstruction of a story as a print pocket book does.”

Since the human brain was not designed for reading, but adapted to understand letters and text, reading is possible by constructing a mental representation of the text by placing the word on the page, according to “Constructing structure maps of multiple on-line texts” published in the International Journal of Human-Computer Studies.

Mangen hypothesizes that the difference between paperback readers and digital readers might have something to do with the tactile experience the paperback lends itself to.

She explained how it might have something to do with the fact that the fixity of a text on paper and the gradual unfolding of the paper through the story has a kind of sensory offload, supporting the visual sense of progress during reading.

A study conducted in Cambridge by Kenton O’Hara and Abigail Sellen on the comparison of reading paper and online documents supports the idea that “reading paper supports annotation while reading, quick navigation, and flexibility of special layout.”

The article concludes that reading paper allows readers to understand the content on a deeper level and grasp a deeper sense of its structure.

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