What is so special about the printed media?

September 2016

Imagine that you are sitting with a book in your hand. You feel the book’s weight. You enjoy the smell of it. You know how it looks. You recognize the font and size. You turn page after page when your eyes have reached the last word in the last sentence. You can see and feel how far you are. You may remember a particularly good section and the place of that section in the book. Perhaps you have a bookmark just there so you can always return. You might have underlined a good quote or written a note in the margin. You might be waiting to grab the book for a long time: being on the waiting list at the library, waiting for the next book from your favourite author or the next issue of your favourite magazine. When you are done reading, you close the book and put it on the shelf next to the books previously read. And you have a special relationship with.


Now, imagine yourself sitting with a tablet in your hands and reading an e-book or an online magazine. How does it feel?

Maybe not as good. Not if you believe several studies showing that people prefer to read in a printed media rather than an e-book. This is despite earlier predictions that e-books would eradicate paper books. Publishers around the world have for years feared digitization, but a recent study made by APP, an American publisher, shows that the paper book is in progress, while sales of e-books fall.

What’s the reason here? Why are there so many who still prefer reading printed books or magazines rather than read on a screen?

Reading comprehension, reading experience and contemplation

There are several reasons for this. Some of them were already mapped out in the introduction to this blog entry. Other reasons have to do with text comprehension, reading experience and contemplation.

You get a better text comprehension by reading paper books instead of e-books, and it is easier to remember what you have read. This is what an innovative study from the University of Stavanger carried out in 2015 showed. This is explained by the fact that the reader gets a sense of how far he is in the text and the brain needs to form a mental map of the text. It can be done, for example, by being able to feel how thick the book is, and how many pages you’ve already read. It’s also about getting a spacious feeling of the text; for example, a paper book makes you better remember on which page and how far in the book you’ve read a specific section.

Secondly, there is great difference when it comes to reading experience. Reading on a screen can be tiring for our eyes. According to a Swedish study, reading on a screen requires higher cognitive workload in comparison to reading on paper, and it can lead to headaches. Moreover, there is a tendency to sleep less if you read on a screen instead of paper before going to bed.

Thirdly, the printed media is in direct connection with contemplation. While you are sitting with a tablet, your messages, emails and notifications will pop up while you read. When you read a paper book, you can put other devices away and only be disturbed if you choose this. You can also take a paper book with you wherever you go, as stated by Gitte Balling, Associate Professor of Royal School of Library and Information Science at the University of Copenhagen. It can be read in the sun or in the train, you can pass it on to a friend; it can be unfolded or you can also mark the page you have reached. It never runs out of power.


Overall, reading in a printed media gives you a completely different experience. Therefore, next time you want to read your favourite magazine, you should consider going to the kiosk rather than finding your iPad.


Written by: Louise Akselsen.