Paper Matters Blog
Printed Textbooks vs. eBooks

Today is September 1, which marks the beginning of National Learning and Development month. Observed annually, this day reminds us all of the importance of supporting education and learning in each stage of life. Education is critical to human progress, especially in young students, but that progress can be furthered or hindered by how you learn. Textbooks are one of the best supplies of knowledge at our disposal—transportable and translatable, they’re one of our most useful sources of education. The rise of eBooks has made information even more attainable, but it’s also raised the question, textbooks or eBooks? Below, we break down the debate and provide three reasons why print reading should have the edge.

Printed Textbooks Improve Comprehension

It’s time to make the case for paper, particularly when it comes to printed textbooks vs. eBooks.

Sad as it may be, children are reading less than ever. While this provides an opportunity for schools to emphasize reading in the classroom, studies show that institutions are prioritzing digital resources, particularly post-pandemic.

Cost is a driving factor for many districts, but it should only be one part of the equation. Educators also need to evaluate whether students learn better with printed textbooks or ebooks and decide if more effective learning practices are worth the spend. Many organizations have conducted research on this topic, and the results show that students comprehend at a higher level with paper.

There are many reasons printed textbooks lead to better comprehension—one is that students read at a slower pace when reading from a printed textbook vs. ebooks, which gives the material more time to sink in. Skimming can help students prepare to study, but it isn’t an effective replacement for careful reading. Another reason is that it’s less disruptive to turn a page than to scroll down on a tablet or a screen, so your concentration level is higher with text. Finally, not only does the research show better levels of learning with printed textbooks, but students themselves also see a difference.

Students Prefer Printed Textbooks

Dr. Naomi Baron, a professor of linguistics at American University and a former Guggenheim and Fulbright fellow, studied the relationship between students and their educational materials in her book, “Words Onscreen: The Fate of Reading in a Digital World.” She found that four out of five students prefer reading from print for lengthy texts, and 94 percent of students say they concentrate better when reading in print.

The Paper and Packaging Board’s Third Annual Back-to-School Report aligns with that research, reporting that “93 percent  of college students and 87 percent of 7-12th grade students agree that paper is an essential part of being able to achieve their educational goals.” Clearly, print is alive and well — and more important than ever when it comes to learning

This is Your Chance to Prevent Screen Fatigue

Technological advancements have made it easier than ever to communicate, entertain ourselves and browse through resources with the swipe of a finger, but that same tech is also taking a toll on our brains. Screen fatigue is a real concern, especially since the advent of Covid-19, and any opportunity that young learners can use to take a break from screens should be seized upon. Our devices aren’t going anywhere, and we aren’t arguing that they should be, but moderation should be practiced and learning is an excellent way to work in a time out.

For more on the benefits of paper, subscribe to the Paper Matters Podcast or visit our gallery for inspiration.

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