Science Shows Print Books Make You Smarter

Typically I try to avoid picking fights with readers. Whether you read e-books, print books or listen to audiobooks, it is all the same to me. I am a firm believer in the “just get the information in your brain” school of thought. But a recent article from Real Simple has released some evidence that reading print books can actually be more beneficial to your brain than e-books or audio books.

A study from the University of Texas has shown reading from a screen can decrease your speed significantly: “Evidence suggests a performance deficit of between 20% and 30% when reading from a screen.”  Considering how little time we have to sit down and read, the speed at which we read is rather important.

Fatigue is another problem readers face. It’s a terrible feeling when you finally have some time to read but you simply cannot keep your eyes open. Unfortunately for e-book readers, reading from a lit screen can cause you to get tired faster. The study shows that, “performance levels may be more difficult to sustain over time when reading from an average quality screen.” The good news is as technology gets better hopefully the quality of electronic screens will increase. But for now, you may be getting more tired because you are reading from a kindle.

Reading from a print book also helps the mind retain information. Studies from Scientific American shows that while reading a physical book “we construct a mental representation of the text in which meaning is anchored to structure.” The most significant thing that e-books and audiobooks lack are reference points. Without them, we lose a sense of structure that comes with print material.

One thing I do like about e-books is the ability to search for specific words throughout the book. Audiobooks are luxurious, compared to print books, because you can ‘read’ while doing other things, like walking. But there will always be something special about reading from print. Putting aside that there’s some scientific proof behind the benefits of reading print, nothing beats the relationship a reader builds with a physical book in hand.


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