By Anagha Rao
Distance learning has had a profound impact on everyone’s learning methods, including adaptations to video lectures instead of face-to-face interaction, taking online notes instead of writing on paper, and reading materials online rather than manually turning the pages of an old-fashioned book. However, is reading an e-book more advantageous than reading a paper book? Studies have demonstrated that our brain still prefers paper reading because digital devices prevent our brain from processing long chunks of text and may inhibit reading comprehension. This is partially attributed to the fact that reading on a screen drains more of our mental resources and we are less likely to remember the information we read. Also, the majority of activity done online is for fun or entertainment, so our brain is less likely to be focused and ready to learn when we are learning through screens. Many people prefer to study notes on paper since they can highlight, annotate, and perform tactile exercises that enable them to learn better and retain the information. When we read on screens we cannot recreate the tactile experience created by paper books. In one experiment, scientists found that the reading circuits of the brain are active when people write letters by hand but that they aren’t active when typing on a keyboard. Our brain also perceives the text similar to a physical landscape, and it constructs a mental representation of the text. People even report mentally imagining where a passage is located to retain information, and an open book's corners act as landmarks that make memories stronger. Additionally, reading a physical book and seeing the pages you have read is more gratifying and motivating than watching a progress bar on an eBook. The satisfaction of turning a page or the option to mark a page with your fingers is simply irreplaceable.
Another reason why the brain prefers paper is because books are easier to navigate, and being able to switch from the beginning, middle, and end rather than scrolling through a pdf makes it less cognitively taxing and allows readers to compare sections more conveniently. Some researchers believe that screen-based reading is more mentally and physically daunting than reading a book. Spending 2 hours staring at a screen can cause headaches, eyestrain, blurred vision, and terrible posture. The blue light from screens can make it harder to fall asleep and reduce the quality of sleep, so reading from a screen for too long can be harmful for your health.
Additionally, one of the main differences between people who read a physical book and people who read an eBook is the way they remember information. People reading an electronic book tend to remember only the information itself, which is a relatively weak form of memory, and people reading a physical book relied on remembering and knowing the information.
When children are reading a book, the parent often pauses to discuss certain topics or make connections to the child’s life. When using an interactive online book, kids tend to be fascinated by the other distractions and embellishments of the story and lose focus of the story itself. Numerous studies have found that reading electronically increases the chance that people might be distracted. Paper doesn't offer the distractions that electronic devices offer, and paper reading is recommended for academic purposes or absorption of information. When we read a book, we can look at the thickness and immediately assess whether it is a difficult book or a simple book. With an online book, it has no shape and people rarely pay attention to the cover. Although many companies have attempted to stimulate the traditional book experience, nothing can replace the smell of a new book or the satisfaction of closing one when you are finished reading.
However, there are also many advantages to online reading. First, typing in a keyword on Google is more convenient than searching through a library of books. For those with poor vision, technology offers many accessible tools to alleviate the stress of reading and allows the readers to digest information more efficiently. Also, an e-reader weighs less to carry, and it is more portable than carrying heavy books.
Even though there are many pros and cons to both paper reading and online reading, studies have come to the undeniable conclusion that paper reading is far more effective for learning material or for other academic purposes. In essence, paper offers various benefits that cannot be recreated by reading a book online.
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Does the brain prefer paper reading or online reading?
Even though there are many pros and cons to paper and online reading, studies have come to the undeniable conclusion that paper reading is far more effective for learning material or for other academic purposes. Paper offers various benefits that cannot be recreated by reading a book online.
What are some advantages to online reading?
Typing in a keyword on Google is easier than searching through a library of books and struggling to find the information you are looking for. For people with poor vision, technology offers many accessibility tools to alleviate the stress of reading and allows the readers to digest information more efficiently. Also, an e-reader tends to weigh less to carry, and it is more portable than carrying heavy books.