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Books better than e-readers: a possible reason

A study by Anne Mangen of Norway’s Stavanger University suggests that print books are better than electronic forms of the same books, with a few theories as to why: haptic feedback, the separation of processes enabling the mind to breathe and integrate the story…. my personal thought is that it has to do with the actual physical aspect of the reading as well.

From the Guardian, in Readers absorb less on Kindles than on paper, study finds:

“When you read on paper you can sense with your fingers a pile of pages on the left growing, and shrinking on the right,” said Mangen. “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.”

Maybe they’re right. I think that for me it’s largely a matter of the fact that the medium is the same, every time. When I read on a Kindle, or a Nook, or – more commonly – my Surface 3, every book’s container is the same.

If you’re wondering, my common reading application is Nook for PC. The Kindle application is really pretty nice as well, but at present the Amazon cloud won’t let me read my uploaded content on the Surface – and I resent that.

Every book I’ve read on the Nook has the visual appearance of every other book on the Nook (and I’m no crook.) I can’t think “Oh, that’s the doorstopper with the silver cover and the wolf on the front,” because the feel of every book is exactly the same.

It’s anecdotal, to be sure – but I think I could tell you which books I read on which device without thinking too hard about it.


I love print books, honestly – but I’m trying to phase them out as much as I can. I already have a wall full of books, and that’s after cruelly purging twice as many books as I still have. I think every one of my physical books could easily fit in any of my e-readers, and there’s no comparison when it comes to transporting the data and flexibility.

Moving to an e-reader is doing a lot to help preserve my sanity.

But it’d be nice if there were more variability in the electronic books – something like how web sites have unique looks and feels, something to give the books an individual stamp – because the e-readers themselves strip away that uniqueness, and my personal feeling is that the books need that uniqueness to stand out in our minds – and that would improve how much we retain what we read.

I’m going to turn on the publisher’s preferences in my e-reader – just to see if that helps. I don’t think it will, though, because most publishers use the same formatting for every book they create.

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