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Digital Natives Prefer Print

by on May 21, 2015

Many assumptions have been made about the fate of print books, and how e-books and our increasingly digital world will change the way people read and study. We all love the convenience and space-saving qualities of e-books, as well as the fun devices they live on. However, a Washington Post article from February discussed something unexpected: the fact that most college-aged students, often called “millennials” or “digital natives,” prefer reading print books.[1] This is especially true when reading for pleasure or studying.[2] Despite all the predictions of print being “dead,” it seems the opposite is true. It is no wonder, and I have felt this personally, as some of my past blog posts have covered similar aspects of this topic. While many people do enjoy e-books and audiobooks, there are still many who staunchly prefer print.

Although millennials consume lots of digital and online media, polls have shown that “the highest print readership rates are among those ages 18 to 29, and the same age group is still using public libraries in large numbers.”[3] This is not surprising. There are elements of reading a print book that are lost in the e-book format. The most common mentioned is the act of turning the page, the feel of having a book in your hand, and the ability to highlight and scribble notes in the margins. Much like I described, the article says the act of sitting, feeling, and reading print is much more important than we thought. Another aspect e-books lack is “serendipity and a sense of control.”[4] With e-books, people aren’t able to flip back to a previous page as easily, and people like the ability to do what they want with the text, like writing in notes.[5] It is no wonder then, that college students prefer print. Flipping back and forth between pages and highlighting is a big part of studying. Lastly, a Scientific American article says studies have shown that “by limiting the way people navigate texts, screens impair comprehension.” So, it seems we do not know as much about younger folks’ reading habits as we thought. Have you observed any particular reading habits of digital natives? Let me know in the comments below.

[1] Michael S. Rosenwald, “Why digital natives prefer reading in print. Yes, you read that right,” The Washington Post,  February 22, 2015, http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/why-digital-natives-prefer-reading-in-print-yes-you-read-that-right/2015/02/22/8596ca86-b871-11e4-9423-f3d0a1ec335c_story.html

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ferris Jabr, “The Reading Brain in the Digital Age: The Science of Paper versus Screens,” Scientific American,  April 11, 2013, http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/reading-paper-screens/

[5] Ibid.


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