by Kaleigh Steigman
Avid readers have turned towards the trusty printed pages of books for years, but now, with the creation of electronic novels, many are going digital. Monticello High School is as divided as the rest of the world on this topic.
Electronic books, or ebooks, have become increasingly popular with the development of portable technology. This new form of novel is cheaper, and more accessible than its well-loved ancestor, the printed book. Despite this, some readers are still fighting for the paper side.
For many, the decision is as simple as convenience. “I choose whether to read an ebook or print book based on what the library has. To me, there isn’t a big difference between ebooks and paper books,” said Ms. Michelle Kessler, a librarian at the high school.
For others, ebooks just don’t cut it. “I don’t like ebooks. I let my students read them because they are accessible, but I need a hard copy in front of me. There is a value to be able to hold it and see it; to see where the words are on the page, to feel it,” said Ms. Katie Brady, an English teacher at Monticello.
Claims that print books are easier to comprehend than electronic books are very common, and backed up by scientific study.
In a study featured by The Guardian, researcher Anne Mangen of Norway’s Stavanger University, conducted a study on children’s understanding of literature when it was presented to them in electronic and print version.
“Students who read texts in print scored significantly better on the reading comprehension test than students who read the texts digitally,” Mangen said. “When you read on paper you can sense with your fingers a pile of pages on the left growing, and shrinking on the right. You have the tactile sense of progress, in addition to the visual the differences for Kindle readers might have something to do with the fact that the fixity of a text on paper, and this very gradual unfolding of paper as you progress through a story, is some kind of sensory offload, supporting the visual sense of progress when you’re reading. Perhaps this somehow aids the reader, providing more fixity and solidity to the reader’s sense of unfolding and progress of the text, and hence the story.”
Ebooks offer many options to make them more useful to readers that can sometimes have the opposite effect. “With my tablet, there’s the case of screen brightness. Also, you can look up words easily, and highlight phrases,” said an avid reader and Monticello freshman.
The connection between feeling and seeing is also lost. “For me, whenever I’m reading a book, and I want to go back to a certain place, part of remembering where something happened is remembering where it was on the page. I just can’t do that with an ebook,” said Brady.
Despite this, many readers feel differently. “Some of my students are able to grasp ebooks more easily,” said Brady.
A Monticello freshman doesn’t let her preference block her reading habits. She said, “I use both, but if I were to choose one over another I would rather read a hardcover book.”
Kessler would even go as far as saying she enjoys ebooks. “I don’t have an ereader of my own because I would be afraid of buying too many books!”
In classrooms, ebooks are in use, but haven’t taken the spotlight. “We have silent reading everyday at the beginning of class, and two or three of my students read ebooks,” said Brady.
Digital books could be used more often in classrooms if different resources were provided to students and teachers. “I think teachers aren’t using ebooks because it’s complicated. Students have computers, but they aren’t the ideal resource for reading,” Kessler speculated.
The cost of electronic books is considerably cheaper than print books, but only for the individual. When a library has collected books for a long period of time, simply going digital isn’t a cheap option.
“There is a significantly greater use of print books than ebooks in our school. We would like to have popular novels in ebook form for kids, but we can’t buy ten copies of everything,” said Kessler.
Electronic books may become more available in the future though. “The library has a few nooks that we are looking to start checking out to students, we just have to decide how we are going to do that, “ Kessler continued.
Regardless of the multiple disagreements about books, all readers can agree that a story, no matter the form, is priceless.
“I really love the thinking that reading makes you do,” said Brady, “I know everybody says that they like to go into a separate world and everything, but for me it’s more understanding the nuances of what happened, and trying to figure out how the author was able to capture that. I find it very fascinating.”