Print books have an undeniable appeal for many book lovers. Here’s why.

The Science Behind Why You Might Prefer Print
Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

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In these cold winter months, there’s nothing quite as relaxing as snuggling up in bed with a good book and a warm cup of cocoa/tea/coffee. But for many of us, that book is either or a hardcover or paperback. Despite the fact that ebooks are more convenient and take up less space, there’s something about the experience of holding a physical book that people find satisfying. Perhaps it’s the smell of fresh or older pages, the texture of the binding, cover, or book jacket.

Perhaps it’s something neurological.

The Science Behind Why You Might Prefer Print

When we read, our brains treat text like separate objects. We attach abstract meanings to words and weave them together into a mental picture. According to Scientific American, this is much like drawing a map. (Speaking of which, if you want to brush up on your map reading skills, check out this article by Authorized Boots.)

How many times have you flipped through a book looking for a line that you knew was on the top right-hand side? Or perhaps the middle of the left page?

If you’re reading a printed book, you have a lot of spacial and tactile references for this internal story-map. There’s the thickness of the book; signposts like chapter numbers can be found easily by referencing how close they are to the back or front cover of the book. But with ebooks, everything shows up in the same-sized window, and spacial references are entirely theoretical.

And, of course, there’s the eyestrain. Screens glow at us (although there are some e-readers such as the Kindle Paperwhite that work to reduce this problem).

The Science Behind Why You Might Prefer Print

Photo by James Tarbotton on Unsplash

And many of us come to screens subconsciously primed to be distracted. We use screens for so many different tasks involving varied apps, emotions, and the need for immediate gratification. Sometimes our reading comprehension gets entangled with these other things and interrupts our concentration. Especially if you read ebooks on a phone like I do. (*Hangs head in semi-shame*)

Additionally, studies have shown that people who read printed text have stronger long-term memory of the material compared to people who learn via text on a screen.

And if you were born back when libraries still had card catalogs, like me, there may be another factor at play. (I will add here that this particular bit is my own opinion and not based on any studies, so do take it with a bit of skepticism. I adore thought experiments.) Many of us were raised on printed books and only started reading on screens later on in life. It will be interesting to see how younger generations, who’ve had access to screen-based reading their entire lives, will adapt. Perhaps in the future, human brains will change and be primed to read digital text over paper text. Maybe stories will be wired directly into our brains. Who knows?

But if you ever get the feeling that there’s something about reading a physical book over an e-reader remember: it’s all in your head. And you’re not alone.

Other sources:

New Republic

Huff Post

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