Ok, my title’sÂ not really fair.Â I love Michael Hyattâ€™s blog. He was the CEO of Thomas Nelson (a book publisher), and now heâ€™s an author, speaker, etc., and writes good stuff that makes you think.
But making me think and agreeing with him are sometimes two very different things!
For example, take his latest post, Why the Best reading App Available Today is Not What You Think: 4 Scientific Reasons Paper is Still Superior to the Screen.
I donâ€™t completely agree with his 4 points.Â Here are his pointsÂ with my thoughts added:
1. Memory – Michael claims that â€œwe orient ourselves differently on pages and screensâ€ and provides his experience of remembering where a quote appears in aÂ physical book. His â€œproofâ€ of this is a very interesting article from Scientific American, and his own experience.
The articleâ€™s interesting and makes several good points. But Scientific American isn’t hardcore science – it’s pop science driven by popular culture. Two very different things.
Michael also mentions that he sometimes remembers quotes by rememberingÂ physical aspects of the book. I’d say thatâ€™s just how his brain works. Thinking and learning styles vary greatly.
For example, when I read something, I see a movie in my head (yes, I’m one of those). If I want to remember where something in a book, I need to start thumbing or scrolling through to get context, and then I can quickly find what Iâ€™m looking for. But not by remembering something on a printed page.
2. Comprehension – Michael states that flipping back and forth in a print book helps with comprehension, and that process is harder on a screen. And then he claims that things written for a screen are â€œnot designed for deep, thorough reading.â€
On the one hand, this is apparently a thing. I’d say it’s a thing we’re used to, so we’re really talking about that rough transition from print to digital again. But I’ll agree with him.
On the other hand, the research that Michael links to for this point isn’t as useful as you’d think.Â The researchers compared reading comprehension of 72 10th graders in Norway. Half of them read print texts, and half of them read PDF versions of the texts on a 15â€ computer screen.
For starters, 72 10th graders is not a comprehensive study. Secondly â€¦ PDF files on a small computer screen? What did the PDF files look like? Why didnâ€™t they compare print reading to reading on a tablet or at least an ebook reader? TheyÂ have apparently recentlyÂ done a study using paper texts and iPads, but that research hasnâ€™t yet been published.
Comparing printed texts to a text read on a small computer screen doesn’t seem very comparable to me.
3. Distraction – When reading electronic texts, Michael saysÂ â€œSuddenly, I find myself checking Twitter or Feedly and breaking my concentration.â€ OK, that can be a distraction, and print books donâ€™t have Tweets popping up all the time.
This point speaks more about the individual than any real research, I think. Or maybe the material being read! I know that when Iâ€™m reading something interesting, whether thatâ€™s on a screen or on pulp, Iâ€™m focused. Not a problem.
4. Immersive engagement – This is really a rehash of his 3rd point, with another mention of those 72 Norwegian teens. Heck – trying to get a teen to listen to you for 5 minutes is hard enough. I can’t imagine trying to get them to take an immersive leap into a PDF file!
Remember – just because a popular blogger like Michael Hyatt says something is trueÂ because it’s “scientific,” that doesn’t necessarily make it so.
Two more reallyÂ interesting articles on this topic:
- E-Readers Don’t Cut Down on Reading Comprehension – from the Smithsonian. There’s a LOT more to reading comprehension than whether the words appear on paper or on a screen.
- Don’t Be Misled about Paper Versus Electronic Books – from Psychology Today. Again, the debate is much more nuanced than paper vs electronic. Definitely read this article – the authors make the case that rather than debating the merits of print or electronic, just get people more access to more books so they can read more. And who does that best? A library.
Image of Michael Hyatt from his Twitter account. Go follow him!