Print isn’t dead yet.

Paper kills trees and produces a lot more environmental pollutants than most people think and yet — AND YET — it’s difficult to completely let go of printed books.

Some German researchers published a report comparing the efficiency of people reading E-ink readers, tablet PCs, and paper books:

The studied observed an increase in ease of comprehension in readers when a tablet PC was used versus an E-ink reader or a book. Older readers also had faster reading times when using a tablet PC. However, this was not observed in readers from younger age groups. No discernible difference in reading performance was noted when comparing an E-ink reader to a book, showing electrophoretic ink devices to be a worthy mimic.

The most interesting aspect of the study, however, came in the subjective portion of the study, which aimed to identify the readers’ individual preferences apart from scientific data. Readers overwhelmingly said they preferred to read a book in lieu of an electronic book device. Dr. Matthias Schlesewsky, who designed the study, said: “Almost all of the participants stated that they liked reading a printed book best. This was the dominant subjective response, but it does not match the data obtained from the study.”

Print is not dead?

book burning

So it seems while tablets allow for easier comprehension for some (older) readers, most people would still prefer reading a paper book.

And why not? Paper books does not merely provide a visual stimulus to the reader. Turning the pages allow for an aural and tactile experience that cannot be replicated by an electronic reader. A heavy doorstopper puts a comfortable weight to one’s lap. And for many people, like me, nothing beats the smell of paper: either from a new book that is freshly opened, or from a well-thumbed book from a second-hand bin.

Reading an old-fashioned paper book is a multi-sensory experience which is missing from electronic books. And when the time comes when printed copies will finally become obsolete, we will lose a subtly beautiful form of entertainment, indeed.