Are the days of the printed book numbered, or are eBooks a flash in the pan?

As you can imagine, many of the customers of Admiral have printed books.  And when they come to move house, they often have more books than space.  So sometimes they are faced with having to store books with Admiral for a while, or simply give them away to the local charity shop.

Now I must admit that for some time I’ve been thinking that this is the sort of situation which over time will come to an end what with people using Kindle, Kobo and other eBook readers.  It seems eBooks make up a fair old slice of book purchases in the UK.  Maybe a half of the fiction purchased, although a much smaller percentage of the non-fiction.

But now stories have started to emerge about how the book stores have stopped selling eBook readers, and indeed stopped dealing in eBooks too.

It turns out it all started to go wrong for eBooks a couple of years back when the first serious studies were undertaken which showed that readers who used a Kindle were significantly less able to remember what they had read, than people who read regular printed books.

The survey, which took place right across Europe showed that book readers were far better at recalling the events that were recounted in printed books than those who read the book in a digital version – irrespective of the type of book they were reading.  In fact, the finding was replicated both with fiction (such as detective stories) and non-fiction.

Readers who read on paper report more empathy and immersion in the book.  It seems they are more distanced from whatever they are reading if they read a digital book.

The technical explanation of this is that the tactile feedback of a Kindle does not provide the same support for the mind processing what is read as a printed book generally does.  The research also seems to suggest that the movement of turning the pages somehow helps us see the story or explanation develop (both in fiction and non-fiction).

These research findings have been replicated in various studies.  One study gave all the participants a novel to read.  Another in Norway gave year 10 students books to read in print or on the screen.   The results were always the same.

Another finding that has also emerged is that the amount of time spent reading long-form texts is declining, while reading is becoming more intermittent and fragmented.

Of course the manufacturers of eBook readers are not too happy and I am told they have been doing more and more research on this issue, but the results still keep coming in against them.

Indeed, even when they turn their research on the digital generation it seems they are finding that younger people are now changing their attitudes and have started to believe (in ever larger numbers) that that there is useful information that’s only available offline.

Students (whom we might assume are all too happy to read online all day and night) are much, much more likely to buy printed volumes for their studies by a ratio of about 9 to 1.

Indeed, students tend to opt for physical copies of books, even when digital versions are available for free.   This is particularly emphasised for humanities studies.  Science and maths students have a different view, but this could in part be due to the fact that increasingly research papers are being issued only online.

Yet another study showed that teenagers prefer printed books for personal use, too and have re-learned the old tradition of browsing in bookshops and libraries – indeed they rate these activities above hearing about a book on a social network.

And not surprisingly we come back to the issue raised earlier about connecting with what they read.   Students don’t connect emotionally nearly so much with on-screen texts as they do with printed books.

Meanwhile teachers who value the printed word are rejoicing in the fact that teenagers comprehend less of the information presented in digital books.

Parents are also still buying printed books to read with their children as it makes the story telling a shared activity.

And just to put the boot in further, it seems that eBooks can negatively impact your sleep – according to a study at Harvard University.

Last of all, there is that great excuse of those who can’t focus on one thing at a time (“I can multi-task”).  People who read digital books invariably find themselves engaged in far more multi-tasking than those who read printed text – often engaging in three times as much multi-tasking.

The problem with that is that although many people believe they can multitask quite happily, what all the scientific surveys show is that multi-tasking is a myth.  All one does is complete two tasks half as well as when working on a single task.

Of course that scientific finding which has been replicated over and over doesn’t stop people believing in multi-tasking – nothing is going to do that – but it helps explain why whatever one reads on an eBook sinks in far less.

Thus I set my worries aside.  The Admiral storage facilities which hold books will be holding books for some time to come.

You can find more information about our facilities on our website at Alternatively, you can call us on 0800 7839 516.

Admiral Self Storage Ltd
Bloxwich Lane
Tel: 0800 810 1125


FB Twitter

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *