The paper versus e-book debate


Printing PressThere is an ongoing debate about the merits of paper versus ebooks in which some people seem to feel the need to establish an absolute winner at the expense of any merit on the part of the loser. This seems uneccesary given that we can have both paper and ebooks and choose which we use based on their relative merits in particular situations.

A lot of people take great pleasure from handling an antique volume with cream-coloured pages that smells of dust and has notes in the margin, written by a hand long in the grave. Many of the same people might often opt for the convenience of the screen on their phone or tablet that fits more easily into their pocket or bag and on which they can store and get easy access to far more of their favourite books than they could get into the largest suitcase.

An important issue that is raised during these debates, though, is that paper is better for concentration and the absorption of complex information. Given the variety of ways in which we absorb information, it's not enough to simply assert that paper is better for this purpose based on purely personal experience. It is necessary to back the claim up with some kind of reasonable, ideally researched, evidience.

However, the 'scientific' evidence cited in support of the argument seems unconvincing and any effect that we have seen noted could be explained by the habit of skimming web-based information that people have picked up through the practice of 'surfing', literally skimming the surface.

Such habits are easily changed and people do so all the time. In fact most 'connected' people, i.e. more and more of us, are changing these habits on an ongoing basis as the nature of our engagement with the digital world evolves over time.

We can't see any value in being dogmatic about this issue. Maybe we're in a transitional phase, who knows. We use both for a variety of reasons and Read Listen Learn's service is digital because being digital brings benefits by providing a flexible means of engaging with our graded readers and by enabling us to provide other services that enhance the ways in which they help people learn English.

It would make us very happy if we played a part in encouraging people to take up reading books in English as a result of gaining confidence in their reading in the language and an awareness of how much pleasure they could get from doing so. Whether they do so using paper or a digital format doesn't seem to matter much....