There is a definite rise in e-reading as indicated by The Pew Research Center, yet the debate over “e-reading vs. regular reading” is still very lively. Many bloggers have cited studies that were more than five years to show how e-reading is lesser, but we all know how technology can change rapidly within just a few months. One 2011 survey seems to come up quite frequently as evidence of how paper reading is still far more effective for comprehension. The graduate students in this survey reported that while they used the convenience of e-reading tools for research, they still printed out copies for further reading. However, these students in the survey may have printed paper copies due to more specific reasons such as, out of behavioral or cultural habit, lack of a proper reading tablet, the convenience of paper weight, etc. Contrary to some who believe that in-depth reading can only happen with paper, a recent study revealed that the presentation format did not have an impact on reading comprehension. Personally, when I read books at home I still prefer the paper format. Mainly because I don’t like to expose myself to EMF for long periods of time and it is more convenient to carry around the house. It also feels more leisurely since I am in front of a computer a lot for work-related tasks. However, when I travel I definitely use my tablet because I can read multiple books and magazines without worrying about carryon weight. I think we should embrace the choices we have and not try to choose one over the other.
One of the major complaints about using a tablet in art and writing is lack of tactility. In reading, tactility appears to be an important ingredient for our brain to create mental maps. While many people are able to relocate somewhat precisely where in their paper book a particular passage was written, it is difficult to relocate a passage when using a tablet (well, unless you use search tool and have the machine do it for you). “The implicit feel of where you are in a physical book turns out to be more important than we realized,” says Abigail Sellen of Microsoft Research Cambridge in England and co-author of The Myth of the Paperless Office. The feeling of having physical, detailed control of what you are engaged in helps our brain not understand the material better but remember the reading experience better.
Well, we may just be able to have that experience of turning a page and thumbing through multiple pages with a tablet. It’s called a Smart E-Book Interface and Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) and it mimics the paper-reading experience. KAIST showed this prototype more than a year ago, and I don’t really know how much of it is in use or developed. But I think this is pretty neat. Check it out!