Despite the significant pace of technological advance and an increasing number of spheres of life being digitized, solid old-fashioned things are still in demand too. The book-reading, being the most widespread and popular hobby, has undergone serious modifications. One no longer has to go to the library or a bookstore to get a book, as modern gadgets such as e-readers, smart phones and tablets allow book-lovers to locate and download or purchase an electronic version of any book. However, in spite of the seeming universal convenience and practicality of electronic books, a great number of arguments demonstrate that traditional paper books have firmly established themselves on the peoples shelves and in their hearts and digital versions can only partly substitute good old paper books.
The weightiest argument in favor of electronic books seems to be the ecological one. No trees are cut to create a digital copy of a book and that is without any doubt one of the greatest achievement of technology. Another important argument is the absence of necessity to carry many heavy books in one backpack which is essential for students. The opportunity to have all the necessary textbooks in one thin and light e-reader became a real salvation for many students who often develop backaches and even rounded shoulders from carrying bulky bags full of books. One more argument is practicality: it is much easier and often cheaper to find a digital book online than find and purchase a paper version. Therefore, one cannot deny the convenience and practicality of electronic books for particular category of people, namely the students that need to have access to many textbooks and other scientific literature at the same time.
On the other hand, a significant number of arguments show that paper books are in many ways more beneficial for peoples health, reading comprehension and overall satisfaction from reading than digital versions. A worthwhile research conducted by Kretzschmar et al. in 2013 demonstrated that both older generation of people, generally skeptical of electronic media, and digitally-native generation of younger adults prefer reading paper books although the research showed that reading with help of the newest technology was not more effortful that reading a paper book (Kretzschmar et al., 2013). The researchers suggest that this may be because of general cultural attitude towards reading in this manner (Kretzschmar et al., 2013). The majority of people find touching paper pages and holding such a cozy object as a paper book much more comforting than looking at the screen of an electronic device. Another argument in favor of paper books is that people seem to retain more information from a paper book than from a digital version of it. According to the research conducted by Ann Mangen in 2014, readers who read an e-book during the experiment performed significantly worse on the plot reconstruction measure, i.e, when they were asked to place 14 events in the correct order" (as cited in Flood, 2014). Mangen states that it can be explained 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" (as cited in Flood, 2014). Seeing the physical progress that is made by the reader while turning the pages seems to construct more tangible ties with what is being read that eventually makes retaining of the information more effective.
Reading from an electronic source can also deteriorate the quality of peoples sleep by lessening the production of important sleep hormone, melatonin. A recent study, conducted by Chang et al. in 2014, showed that light-emitting readers interfere with the persons desire to sleep resulting in sleep deficiency which proved to lead to disruption of circadian rhythms and endangering the general persons performance, health and safety (Chang, Aeschbach, Duffy, & Czeisler, 2014). Lack of sleep is also reported to cause a variety of diseases, including even cancer. At the same time, reading paper books is said to make you sleep better (Bushak, 2015). Reading helps to take the mind off the daily problems and makes a person sleepy while a glaring screen of a smart phone or a tablet will give the mind the signal to wake up (Bushak, 2015).
Comparing paper books to their digital analogues, it seems rather obvious that paper versions are more reliable as too many things can go wrong with electronic devices. One can drop and break an e-reader in the bus; the battery can run out, there can be no access to the Internet to download or purchase the book you need etc. Moreover, reading from a device like a tablet or smart phone conceals the danger of constant distractions, like checking for new messages on Facebook, Skype or Instagram, reading news or watching videos on YouTube. The beauty of reading a paper book consists in being submerged thoroughly and completely into a different world, turning the pleasantly rustling paper pages, holding the reassuring weight of a favorite book in ones hands. Moreover, one can underline the most enjoyable or important passages to go back to them if one needs to. In fact, many students acknowledge that although e-readers spare them from carrying too much weight, they actually prefer paper versions of textbooks for subjects like chemistry because a science so abstract requires something more solid and tangible than a monitor screen.
To sum up, both paper and electronic books have their positive sides but it looks like trading paper books for their digital versions makes little sense. Although electronic books do save trees from being cut down and students backs from overstraining, they certainly lack the coziness of good old paper books. Besides that, paper books do not interfere with sleep hormones and encourage sound and profound night rest. Moreover, one can make notes on the paper pages and generally remember the information better while using a traditional book. The old-fashioned paper books are also more reliable since comparatively nothing can happen to them unlike their digital versions that can be inaccessible for many reasons.
Bushak, L. Why We Should All Start Reading Paper Books Again. (2015). Medical Daily. Retrieved 20 June 2016, from http://www.medicaldaily.com/e-books-are-damaging-your-health-why-we-should-all-start-reading-paper-books-again-317212Chang, A., Aeschbach, D., Duffy, J., & Czeisler, C. (2014). Evening use of light-emitting eReaders negatively affects sleep, circadian timing, and next-morning alertness. Proceedings Of The National Academy Of Sciences, 112(4), 1232-1237. http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1418490112Flood, A. (2014). Readers absorb less on Kindles than on paper, study finds. The Guardian. Retrieved 20 June 2016, from https://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/aug/19/readers-absorb-less-kindles-paper-study-plot-ereader-digitisationKretzschmar, F., Pleimling, D., Hosemann, J., Fussel, S., Bornkessel-Schlesewsky, I., & Schlesewsky, M. (2013). Subjective Impressions Do Not Mirror Online Reading Effort: Concurrent EEG-Eyetracking Evidence from the Reading of Books and Digital Media. Plos ONE, 8(2), e56178. http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0056178
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