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What if reading on paper was not totally over, yet?

2014-05-26 15:19 by Nathalie Kantorowicz (comments: 0)

Earlier this month WIRED debated that the smart reading device of the future could well be paper, a very provocative view in our digital world, and which goes against the common view that paper is soon to be extinct for reading, whether it is for news, magazines, or books.

The statement was actually based on a number of recent studies. Those included findings by neuroscientists, who noticed the human brain has been evolving, developing digital brains with new circuits for skimming through the torrent of information online. This alternative way of reading is now competing with traditional deep reading circuitry developed over several millennia.

More startling was the finding that even the most technology savvy were likely to prefer books to e-books, as a research developed by Purdue University in Indiana found out that only four percent of the college students studied opted to use an e-textbook, while and still greatly preferred the print version. Although this cohort was the most technologically savvy to ever enter universities, they did not prefer e-books over textbooks regardless of their gender, computer use or comfort with computers.

"Reading is human-technology interaction" says literacy professor Anne Mangen of Norway's University of Stavenger. "Perhaps the tactility and physical permanence of paper yields a different cognitive and emotional experience." This is especially true, she says, for "reading that can't be done in snippets, scanning here and there, but requires sustained attention."

This resonates very well with findings from recent discussions in our communities. Discussing earlier this year about reading news and books, on paper or electronic format, we found out that members aged 26 to 55, across France and the UK, truly enjoyed the convenience of e-readers and tablets for their favourite books; the immediacy of the e-book, combined with the convenience of carrying a whole library on one device, not having to carry a heavy book around, were the most commonly mentioned benefits. On the other hand, many evoked the pleasure of reading, of literally turning pages and holding a physical book, of which you knew exactly how fat it was. Regardless of their age, education level, and apart from a few hard-core e-fanatics, all those who were experiencing the benefits of e-reading were also adamant that paper books proved a different experience.

So, is paper dead for reading, to your opinion? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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