Paper beats Pixels

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Paul Whybrow

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Jun 20, 2015
This article on which book format is best for enhancing literacy and language skills and for bonding with the parent seems to back up other surveys about e-books:

Paper beats pixels: Research suggests parents avoid e-books when reading with children

E-readers certainly have their advantages, mainly being able to carry dozens of titles, but we interact with a screen differently to how we relate to a physical object. A book isn't just the words on the page, it's a physical object that we feel with our skin, that we manipulate with our hands and which smells in a way that's redolent of a pleasurable experience—think of the odour of a new bookshop and of a second-hand books emporium. Hard to get turned on by the smell of a smart device, be it a laptop, phone or Kindle.

Having a glass screen between us and the words is not only a barrier but also carries connotations of being work-related or a way of killing time with meaningless web surfing. Neither attitude is conducive to achieving the type of concentration needed to learn from and enjoy a book.

A 2014 survey showed that recall of events in a mystery story was worse by those who read using a Kindle:

Readers absorb less on Kindles than on paper, study finds

Furthermore, reading from a device that's basically shining a light into your face, is a poor way of relaxing while you're in bed, as your body needs to produce melatonin for you to sleep properly:

Don't Let Your E-Reader Keep You Up at Night

I sound like I'm against e-books, which isn't the case, what with 45 titles published and five crime novels to begin releasing this summer. I must admit, I've never read a novel in digital format. The most I've read on-screen is probably a few thousand words of a PDF download writing guide.

I'm online for 12 hours daily, up until midnight, 90 minutes before I fall asleep—time I fill with reading a book in physical form—my brain appreciates the change of pace.

If you have children, how do you read to them?

What format do you read for pleasure...and for work?

Children are captivated by pictures. As a teacher, at the end of school all would be sat on the floor and I on a small child's chair and hold the book sideways so I could just about see the words and they could just about see the pictures; which wasn't satisfactory at all to anyone. I couldn't keep an eye on what they were doing on the floor and they did some strange gymnastics so as to see the pictures properly.

You would probably think I should have first read a piece and then showed the relevant pictures, turning the book fully round in their direction. But it doesn't work that way- children want to see the pictures AS you are reading- it has to be a continuous interaction, otherwise they will certainly find better things to do than listen to a story. ;)
I have a Kindle, Kobo and I don’t want to guess how many physical books. Love every format of book I can get my hands on.

Physical books are magical: the shiny covers, the smell, the ease of flicking through them. Plus you can give them to friends or the charity shop afterwards.

The advantages of ebook readers, though, are endless: brilliant for research (note-taking, highlighting, searching, quick reference to dictionaries and Wikipedia, instant translation). Kindle has X-ray too, so if you’re reading a complex book with a cast of millions, loads of locations or concepts, you can get more information and stay on track. E-readers are also great for reading enormous books that would be uncomfortable to read. Also, Kindle and Kobo don’t have a glare. They adjust according to available light and the Kobo can be set to turn warm at night to block out blue light. And there’s the gratification of instant purchases. I sound like a salesperson.
Whilst I enjoy physical books, I can't hold one anymore. I read via my Kindle app on my Ipad or Surface. I love how if I swap between devices, the other device offers picking up where I stopped on the opposite device.

I've also found Audible a pleasure. Took me a few years to come round to that! Even some Audible books sync with my Ipad. Love that when it works.
OK, here we go.

Advantages of Kindle, etc. (other e-readers are available)
Lighter than a lot of thick books.
Remembers where you were up to.
Can carry a whole library around with you (not sure why you'd want to though!)
Don't have to go to a bookshop/wait for amazon delivery. (Although personally I love browsing bookshops)

Advantages of printed books: (in no particular order)
Smell, touch, feel, etc.
No high initial cost outlay.
If you leave it on the train by accident, it only cost you a few quid, or maybe less if it was second-hand.
You can read it in the bath and not worry too much about dropping it in the water for the same reason.
You can give it to someone else when you're done with it.
It doesn't need charging/batteries.
It doesn't break if you drop it from a height onto a hard floor.
Unlikely to be stolen by someone.
Looks good on your bookshelf next to the others in the series.
Yes. That's why it's a good idea for writers to decrease the length of their stories and increase the impact of their words.
This article in yesterday's Guardian explores some of the problems with ebooks, not the least of which are plagiarism and piracy:

Plagiarism, ‘book-stuffing’, clickfarms ... the rotten side of self-publishing

It's sometimes said that 'Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,' but it doesn't apply to what is effectively fraud. A writer acquaintance, who's written a series of modestly successful children's adventure stories, published as ebooks, was alerted by a friend travelling in Asia that her books were for sale in China as cheap paperbacks. Her friend moved onto India, where she also found them in street markets. She recognised them, as she'd designed the book covers—which had been altered to look like Chinese and Indian children. So far as they could ascertain, the supposed authors' names were the only thing the plagiarist wrote themselves. The writer could only speculate on how many millions of sales she'd made, without knowing it. There was no way of stopping the trade.

Should this piracy have occurred in the West, legal action could be taken, but even when that happens, book pirates fight back. It beggars belief, but one of the most notorious of them has launched a GoFundMe campaign to pay for his defence against being sued:

Pirate Site Owner Launches GoFundMe Campaign to Raise Funds to Defend a Piracy Suit | The Digital Reader

Do you ever feel like the world is going increasingly wrong?
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