Technology has advanced so much that traditional forms of media such as television, radio, newspapers, newsletters, magazines and other print publications have declined over the years. Print newspapers have especially gone down in popularity, as the vast majority of news companies have gone digital.
This is an unfortunate change, as print media has many benefits over digital media, such as being easier on the eyes. Some studies have even shown that reading on paper increases retention of what is being read.
According to an article on Business Insider, three studies were done to see how students performed when it came to reading on paper and screens. The focus of the studies was on how well the students could understand the material that they were reading. The students were assigned three tasks: to describe the main idea in each of the texts, list specific points in the readings and give other relevant information that they could remember. The texts were different in terms of content, but the results provided some interesting findings on reading pertaining to digital and print media.
The students preferred to read the texts digitally, and reading digitally was faster than reading on paper. The students also believed that their comprehension was better when reading digitally, but the study found that overall comprehension was better with the students reading on paper. There wasn’t too much difference when it came to understanding the broader concepts of the texts, but when very specific questions were asked, the students who read on print showed better comprehension than the students who read digitally.
An article in The Guardian talks about another study presented in Italy at a conference, in which 50 readers were assigned the same 28-page short story to read. One half of the readers read the story on a Kindle while the other half read a paperback version. One of the lead researchers on the study, Anne Mangen of Norway Stavanger University, said, “The Kindle readers performed significantly worse on the plot reconstruction measure, i.e., when they were asked to place 14 events in the correct order.”
Mangen also brought up a paper published in 2013, where 72 Norwegian tenth graders were given print and digital versions of texts to read. The students were given a comprehension test, and the test showed Mangen and other researchers involved that “students who read texts in print scored significantly better on the reading comprehension test than students who read the texts digitally.”
These studies are just two of many that share the same theme of improved retention when reading on paper. Personally, reading on paper is far more accurate than reading digitally. Whenever I have to proofread my own work, or read a fellow classmate’s work, I print it out and make the edits with a pen. Going line by line on a screen is just harder for me than it is on paper. I’ve even noticed that when I read aloud from a screen I make mistakes and trip over my words more often than when I read on paper.
Based on my own experience, as well as the numerous studies, I do think that there should be heavier emphasis on using print instead of digital when it comes to reading, especially for academic purposes. Students would more likely see an improvement in their grades if they studied from physical textbooks instead of digital ones. Even if you aren’t in school you should still give traditional media a chance — you may be surprised by what you find.