Benefits of Reading from Print (Update & Summary of Articles to Date)

We've been tracking the articles and studies on the science behind the benefits of reading from print vs electronic devices.

The science behind this is fascinating. The few different studies coalesce around how the brain treats words read from print differently than words read from screens. Also, the print format has factors that tend to improve comprehension when reading from it. We are in the beginning stages of discovering the effects of electronic devices on learning, but these links below show the research to date.

As many of our users are in education, here's a summary of recent studies and articles.

Key Articles & Studies:

1.) The brain treats letters as 3D objects. Therefore, letters appearing on a sheet of paper improve the data mapping to memory.  See Ferris Jabr's Article- "Reading on Paper vs Screens. Scientific American, April 2013."

2.) Along these lines, readers from a Kindle are missing the sense of visual progress as they read.  In Anne Mangen's study, the Kindle readers scored significantly worse on reconstructing the timeline of events in the story given to both Kindle and paper readers.  See the Guardian Article "Readers Absorb Less on Kindles than Paper, Study Finds" From August 19, 2014.

Other recent articles:

3.) Scrolling is very bad for comprehension, whereas writing is good. Compare the distraction of scrolling to a page online vs the "desirable difficulty" of taking handwritten notes.  Check out this article about the Cleveland Browns going back to handwritten notetaking while the NFL is pushing the Windows Surface on all the teams. From WSJ August 11, 2014.

4.)  "Read  S l o w l y  to Benefit Your Brain and Cut Stress."  WSJ  Sept 14, 2014

5.)  "Why You Might Want To Ditch Your E-reader and Go Back to Printed Books."  Washington Post Aug 21, 2014

6.) "Serious Reading is Taking a Hit From Online Sources, Researchers Say."  Washington Post, April 6, 2014

As we all sort this out, big questions come up when applying these differences to education. For the last 10 years, print has been under siege at every educational institution from the Administration looking to cut costs, and the IT department looking to offer an online solution that makes them look good. But data is out there that these decisions are made without considering the impact on the number one reason why the students are there: Comprehension.

The class of 2015 will be the first class to have gone through college with a handheld electronic device and digital distribution at the forefront of of their reading options. The question is, are there they any better off with the electronic options?

Other than carrying a lighter backpack, probably not.