E-Books May Hinder Learning, but My Pocketbook Still Likes Them

By Emily Pizza

Buying books is expensive, especially when you add it to the ever-increasing cost of tuition here at Kalamazoo College, so I was overjoyed when I saw that two of the books I needed for my literature course had free e-books for the simple click of a button.  Too bad the books weren’t allowed in class.

My professor said that we could have any edition of the book, except the e-book. While this infuriated me at first, since I ended up spending $12 more than expected, his reasoning was grounded in fact, not personal preference.

A Time Magazine article from 2012 showed evidence that e-books really did hinder learning. One of the major points was that remembering details was easier for those who read in print than those who read electronically. These students often had to go back and re-read sections to recall information, which in turn, took more time.

This example has been validated by scientists because knowing the location of a specific event in a book, whether it happened on the left or right, or top or bottom of a page, is essential for the print readers. Therefore, because the electronic readers couldn’t “flip the pages”, they could not recall facts as easily.

That said, there were some results that confused me. It was proven in that study that the size of the screen matters, since those who read on phones lost almost all of  a text’s context compared to those who read on a tablet.

Considering that most of my literature books practically require me to pull out a magnifying glass, wouldn’t you think that being able to zoom in on a Kindle would be more efficient?

Our professors also don’t consider the ability of electronic searching. While they do say that it takes concentration away from comprehension, they do not consider the practical purposes. For example, being able to search for a reoccurring word may enlighten the reader to a theme that they otherwise may have missed.

It is also practical when writing a textual analysis, for example since a quote can be highlighted and saved, so later on it can be easily copied into a word document, without having to painstakingly search through each page of the book.

Overall, I cannot deny the evidence that reading in print is more efficient. However, I can say that for students being efficient is not always as important as saving money. Therefore, I believe that the student should be free to make their own choices regarding the texts they buy, whether that be for print or e-book. While the professor can have a preference, they should not be stagnant one way or the other.

For me? I’ll still read plenty on my Kindle, but I may think twice before buying another e-book for class.

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