Since the introduction of digital books into mainstream culture, many have questioned the likelihood of survival for traditional print literature. Some claim that, because of the increased accessibility and interactivity found within most e-books, print books are slowly becoming outdated.
But others argue that the print format is a key aspect of literary history and cannot be adequately replicated on a device. There are few places where this ongoing debate is more prevalent than the college campus, where both reading and technology are commonplace in our daily lives.
Although it would be natural to think that college students would generally prefer digital books to print, that might not necessarily be the case. According to a newly released survey, 92 percent of university students indicated that they preferred to read books on paper rather than on a screen.
This particular study was conducted by American University Professor of Linguistics Naomi S. Baron between 2010 and 2013, in which more than 420 students from the United States, Slovakia, Japan and Germany were polled for their preferred reading platform. Though the results of the study may not account for the technological advancements of e-books within the last few years, it still presents a surprising new image of the relationship between university students and literature.
Clearly, we cannot consider print books to be a dying platform, and yet it’s still far too early to call e-books a passing fad. Even though it was only years ago that scholars and social critics alike were claiming that the end was nigh for books as we knew them, print books are evidently still quite relevant in the university setting.
There may be trends in reading platforms that periodically arise, but the truth is that nothing about the subject of reading technology is absolutely certain. And now we need to ask: Should one method of reading really be considered superior to the other? When both print and digital have proven that they have staying power among college students, and both have their own advantages and disadvantages, is there any merit in choosing one as “better” than the other?
Consider, for example, the textbook — one of the most common forms of e-books used by college students. Digital textbooks are usually equipped with many tools for easier reading, allowing for students to resize text, make temporary notes and access additional information and resources through hyperlinks.
But reading on a screen can often lead to eye strain, an issue not found in reading from a print textbook. Additionally, print books are often praised for their simplicity by those who find the extra features of the e-book as distractions. These are but a few of the arguments in the debate of print and digital literature, but the point is that either format can be effective depending on the student’s needs. Take time to consider how you read, and how each format might be able to better develop your abilities as a student.
Ultimately, it is our responsibility to make the necessary choices on reading platforms. How we read should not be influenced by perceptions of what form is more popular or what form might be more prominent in the future, but rather by our personal preferences — the way we are best able to connect with a given text.