Post: Why reading books in print needs to stay


Advanced technology has changed the world in many ways, especially regarding daily life routines. Many gadgets and systems and programs exist to add speed and convenience to everyday tasks. In fact, people can buy “smart” homes now! Modern living includes many people having almost non-stop schedules. They complain that they don’t have time to do things they want to do—sometimes things as simple as reading a book. 

Readers who say they don’t have time to read books in print anymore may undoubtedly sing praises for the technological advancements that have brought things like audio books and podcasts and e-books to the marketplace. It’s interesting, however, that extensive research has shown that there are distinct benefits to reading books in print that the other formats do not provide. That’s why this post can be considered a little shout out to “books in print,” in the hopes that such books will never become obsolete. 

Research shows college students retain more information from books in print

From 2020 onward, many classroom settings, especially on college campuses throughout the country, changed. There was a shift to online learning. In fact, many students were no longer reading textbooks or printed articles. Their professors were assigning things like “Ted talks” or podcasts instead. From a student’s perspective, this learning style might be more desirable. You can listen to audio books or podcasts while driving, for instance. 

There’s also the money factor. Textbooks are expensive, even when you know where to look for deals. Since doing away with printed material in favor of these other options seems welcomed by many students, they might be surprised to learn that research shows the retention rate for students who listen to audio material rather than read books in print is substantially lower. Researchers say they see a definite pattern where students “hear but don’t listen” to audio material. 

People read faster in digital format but comprehend less

Another benefit of reading books in print has to do with comprehension, otherwise known as “understanding” the material. Numerous studies show that books in print are the most effective learning tool regarding comprehension skills. Researchers say that while people typically read faster when using digital formats, they comprehend less of what they are reading compared to using printed materials. 

A particularly interesting benefit of books in print is that there is a geographical aspect to the text that does not exist in audio books or videos, or even in digital formats. This article explains how a reader’s brain becomes wired to the “location” of text when reading printed books. Think of how many times you have wanted to go back and read something again or find the answer to a question, and you instinctively know where to start looking in the book—in the first chapter or just a few pages back, etc.—this is because your brain tracks the geographical location and layout of the text in a book, which doesn’t happen if you’re listening to an audio or watching a video or scrolling on a screen. 

Writers should be avid readers of books in print

Audio books, videos and e-books are here to stay, and that’s fine. Just don’t let these resources replace your habit of reading books in print. Especially if you’re hoping to become an author, holding a book, turning pages and reading printed materials is good for your brain. Maximizing retention and comprehension skills can help you improve your writing skills, as well.