On the subway, you probably noticed that 90% of people are glued to their smart phones like they grew an extra limb. In general, we connect more socially on our social media accounts, then we do in person, whether it’s because we posted a picture on Instagram of a trip to the Bahamas, created a Facebook event, or tweeted to 876 Twitter followers about what you’re reading.
Strangely, the same young people who are planning their next Instagram photo are the same people who actually value print more—a recent study found that teenagers between the ages of 12 to 17 prefer print, radio, and TV ads to online ads (Print in the Mix, U.S. Teens Prefer Offline Ads to Online.) Surprisingly, most college students prefer having a hard copy text, rather than an ebook. According to John Richard Schrock, a professor of Biological Studies at Emporia State University, ebook materials are only used by 2% of college students.
In a particularly extensive study, “Student Reading Practices in Print and Electronic Media,” by Nancy M. Foasberg, forthcoming from College & Research Libraries in September 2014, researchers discovered several surprising facts, after tracking the reading habits of students at the City College of New York:
–Students rely on print for academic materials; many students found the embedded links distracting.
-Interacting with an ebook is much more difficult, thus inhibits proper study skills, such as highlighting, note-taking. As such, many students would print out the material, nullifying the entire existence of an e-book.
In “Why the Brain Prefers Print,” an article published in the November 2013 issue of Scientific American by Ferris Jabr, the author argues that the brain processes words like physical objects, thus allowing the placement on a page to be more tangible and “real,” than a never-ending screen. As such, reading on a screen does not provoke as much brain activity, which makes the experience less memorable, thus impossible to truly understand.
Schrock also states that researchers found “volunteers using paper scored about 10% points higher…students using paper approached the exam with a more studious attitude than their screen-reading peers.” Again, screens seem to be more of a distraction, as they promote browsing at the same time—a type of multitasking that is disruptive of cognitive thought.
In a recent article from Brown University’s The Brown Daily Herald, only .5% of their bookstore revenue result from ebooks. Steven Souza, the bookstore’s director stated students have “zero interest” in ebooks, especially as textbook rental services make the medium irrelevant. A current student, Brandon Montell said it best, “I like flipping through a textbook.”
For the next generation, it’s hard to predict what their preference will be—perhaps print is inherently intrinsic to academia, with libraries serving as the vital organ pumping knowledge into the brains of our youth, with digital media as a supplement. Or perhaps the future generations simply adapt to digital media, making it second nature?