Research Shows 92% College Students Prefer Physical Books Over E-Readers

Research Shows 92% College Students Prefer Physical Books Over E-Readers
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What you need to know

While the number of people using smartphones and other portable devices users is growing rapidly, recent surveys show that e-reader users have been increasing rather slowly; in some cases, it has even been declining.

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Compiled by Yuan-ling Liang

According to a survey conducted by Global Views Monthly (GVM) in 2014, when provided with both physical books and e-books, 77.1% of the Taiwanese people prefer physical books, while only 18.1% choose to use e-readers. Surprisingly enough, with such a high use-rate of portable electronic devices, half or more of the people in Taiwan have never used e-readers.

In an article on GVM two years ago, it estimated that such low performance of e-readers was because the new devices were still budding in Taiwan. However, after more than a year, surveys still show little change in user tendencies, which means there may be other reasons.

Naomi Baron, a linguistics professor at American University, conducted a research recently involving a survey of more than 300 college students from countries around the world, including Japan, Germany, Slovakia and the US. It shows that 92% of students still prefer books with actual ink printed on paper.

Although 50% of Americans own a tablet or e-reader, and an even greater proportion own smartphones, Baron has found that most of the people seldom put such function into real use.

Baron analyzes such discovery in an interview with the New Republic, ”There are two big issues. The first was they say they get distracted, pulled away to other things. The second had to do with eye strain and headaches and physical discomfort.” In his research, students even complained that e-readers are inconvenient because their batteries need to be recharged periodically and there are difficulties in adapting the devices to old habits, such as reading in bathtubs.

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Past mental studies comparing different reading methods also echo Baron’s theory of e-reading distraction.

Professor Ziming Liu of San Jose University has been studying change in people’s reading behaviors over the past decade. Liu’s research shows that sustained attention seems to decline when people read onscreen rather than on paper. This also contributes to people spending less time on in-depth reading.

Andrew Dillon, a professor at the School of Information at the University of Texas, Austin, explains that we can integrate in different media, images, sound and other text in digital, which are disruptive activities that can carry a cost in terms of attention. People tend to be overwhelmed by the vast amount of media.

In another study led by reading researcher Anne Mangen from the University of Stavanger in Norway, 50 graduate students read a short mystery story, either in a pocket print book or on a Kindle, and were then tested how well they had digested the content. Results show that those who read on paper performed much better at reconstructing the plot of the story.

Mangen explains that the tactile feedback of paper may help people process certain information when they read. It helps create a mental map of the text and build a cognitive structure.

Apparently, due to lack of “real feelings” and discomfort e-readers bring about, their popularity still has a long way to go. Just as Baron tells the New Republic, “People care about the smell of a book.”

Edited by Olivia Yang

Sources:
Global Views Monthly
92 Percent of College Students Prefer Reading Print Books to E-Readers (New Republic)
92 percent of students prefer physical books to e-readers (Digital Trends)
Everything Science Knows About Reading On Screens (FastCo Design)