Paper Isn’t Dead

What is the most influential invention in history? Some might argue that it is paper, which affects every aspect of human activity from the arts to education to business to living. We even use it to clean up after ourselves.

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The evolution of digital resources has many claiming that the printed book is obsolete. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, some for-profit colleges are moving exclusively to e-textbooks. However, a Pew study notes that college students continue to prefer printed textbooks to electronic ones by wide margins. Students prefer the “feel” of physical books, and printed books still account for almost ¾ of total books sales in the U.S.

A recent Norwegian study of high school students revealed that people comprehend print text far better than reading the same text on a computer screen. It seems that reading is a mind/body experience and handling the physical print book in some way increases comprehension. The physical experience is nearly absent when reading on a screen. According to this study, paper also seems to affect our emotions more than a computer screen does. Our brains do not work like computers; our minds perceive things, not symbols. Researchers are trying to understand how reading is a bodily activity.

There are some definite advantages to eBooks: portability, text searching, currency, links to other sources, cost, and no more heavy backpacks. But reading the printed book is a mind/body experience that will endure.

“Creativity is intelligence having fun.” –Albert Einstein

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