To e-read or not to e-read?

Post by Jill Broom

… That is the question. Well, at least, it’s a question that’s come up a lot recently during my conversations with fellow book lovers.

A few years back, there was a flurry of excitement when it seemed everybody I knew, including me, got their first e-reader. Wasn’t it great how we could take it anywhere? It was cheaper (not great news for my chosen profession). It might be better for the environment (jury’s still out on this one). And – hooray – when we all eventually get arthritis, we’ll still be able to read without having to negotiate a cumbersome tome …

Yes, this did actually cross my mind. And, yes, I’m only in my 30s.

However, after all that initial gushing, we seem to have got over our devotion and more and more of us are delving back into a paperback or – shock-horror (and even more devil-may-care) a hardback. There are actually only a few folk that I know nowadays who rely completely on their e-readers. We all tend to move happily between the two forms.

Why do we still like print?

Well, there are a whole load of reasons for this. And good ones for your health too …

In an era when our online usage has skyrocketed, a good old-fashioned book gives us the opportunity to disconnect and switch off from the white noise, and it allows us to rest our eyes properly. There’s even some evidence to suggest that reading in print supports better comprehension and retention of the subject matter. And this brings me on to something else I noticed.

For me, there will never be anything like the smell of a new book … Secret shame: I don’t always go into a bookshop to buy; sometimes I just pop in for the aroma.

The scent of all those books is an instant comfort to me, and it’s this sensory impact that got me thinking about the other ways I use my senses when reading.

A ‘sense’-ible assessment?

I recently proofread a textbook written for teenagers that contained helpful tips about HOW to learn. Everyone is, of course, different – some are auditory learners, some visual learners and some simply learn from doing – kinaesthetic learners. Having never really thought about it before, it was while working on this book that I realised that I am, primarily, a visual learner.

This means that I’m good at visualising where on a page I might have seen a particular name, reference, fact, or part of the story. And this helps me remember it. Not exactly a photographic memory, but handy all the same.

Coupled with the ability to recall where roughly in the book I saw something by the thickness of the pages already read and those still to go (i.e. by touch) – I find e-readers are not my particular friend if I want to go back and check something.

The personal preference factor

So it seems I’m better off reading a hard copy, particularly if I’m reading something big and meaty. Or when I’m having a tired spell and reread the same three pages over and over again each night before falling asleep onto my e-reader, inadvertently pressing the touch screen, flying forward hundreds of pages and losing my ‘location’.

Just me? Maybe.

But that’s the point. I think it’s always going to be different strokes for different folks. And what suits them one day might not the next. So, it would be reasonable to conclude that both options are very much here to stay … and that we editorial types should always keep our options open.

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Jill is a copywriter, proofreader and copy-editor, but her biggest job is being mum to three small children, which has helped her to sharpen one of her key writing and editorial skills … adaptability!