Printed books hold value over electronic versions

By Emelie Gulde

About two years ago, I bought a Kindle. Like most people, I thought it could save me some time, money and space. So, why is it gathering dust in a corner of my room right now? Ereaders certainly have their advantages. They’re light, portable, and can store more than one book at a time, for a lower price than paper books. What if I told you that the disadvantages of reading from a screen outnumbered the advantages?

People, and even books themselves, talk about a time when the bound story will be dead. Logically, it makes sense. In a time where technology is booming, I understand why people could say books will be gone within the century. However, research says otherwise. Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston made the groundbreaking discovery that artificial light before bed disrupts sleep patterns. Artificial light from screens, LED’s and florescent lighting suppresses the production of melatonin, a hormone that controls someone’s sleep and wake cycles. Granted, this only applies in that small amount of time that you are reading before you fall asleep. In addition, artificial lights in tablets, computers, Kindles, Nooks, and smartphones not only make it harder to sleep, but cause you to feel drowsier in the morning. And you know you want to be awake during that chem test.

Reading on an electronic device doesn’t just mess with your beauty sleep. A common argument ebook lovers store in their arsenal is that reading ebooks saves trees. Not that I don’t care for the environment, but can holding a 6 ounce metal and glass rectangle really replace the nostalgia of a bonafide paperback? Not exactly, because according to a test run by (bear with me) The University of Texas, subjects who read off a screen read slower and find it harder to recall the exact order of events in the story.

Now we can talk about Kindles in the classroom. In my experience, English teachers discourage the use of Kindles in their classrooms. While it’s true that ebooks are cheaper and maybe even free on an ereader, they are not the best choice. On a tablet, there is no fail-safe way to keep track of where you are in the book. Sure, you can bookmark and skip to the chapter through the index, but there’s nothing like flipping through pages to reach the bookmark. Plus, there is no easy way to annotate. During literature circles or group discussions, it’s extremely hard to keep up when everyone else is flipping through their Half Price Books copy.

Anne Mangen of Norway’s Stavanger University concluded that the, “Feedback of a Kindle does not provide the same support for mental reconstruction of a story as a printed pocket book does.” As the human brain was not originally wired for reading, it took decades and a series of evolutionary process to develop the physical ability to recognize letters. The reading brain reconstructs the book inside your mind, noting where the page is inside it, and the words on the page. Ereaders, not having pages, tamper with the brains method of reading.

You could compare paper books with “old fashioned” items: CDs, along with vinyl records, pagers, and VCRs. But books have been around longer, and have a history. They have made their way to the 21st century all the way from ancient Egypt. In my opinion, books are tangible and satisfying. You can see the ink, feel the paper, and feel the weight of words. I’m not counting on books going vintage anytime soon.