Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Oh, how I love to read [select one option] (a book on paper) (an ebook)!

Oh, how I love to read [select one option] (a book on paper) (an ebook)!

If you came to my blog today expecting “Miscellaneous Musings on The Business of Writing,” I apologize. I came across this on Twitter, and ended up with today's topic instead.

Looks like the real deal, right?

I decided to see how research actually supported this claim.

So I followed the link:

What I found was a listing of pseudo science claims with no link to the actual study referred to throughout the article.

So, I followed this link to see if I could get actual data.

Again, there was no link to the study mentioned. I did find the basic study design:
The study, presented in Italy at a conference last month and set to be published as a paper, gave 50 readers the same short story by Elizabeth George to read. Half read the 28-page story on a Kindle, and half in a paperback, with readers then tested on aspects of the story including objects, characters and settings.
The study is small, and the author of this post did use this as a tagline of the title: Research suggests that recall of plot after using an e-reader is poorer than with traditional books
Since I like the use of “suggests” rather than proves, I followed yet another link to a website listing one of the researchers cited—turns out the researcher has published lots of articles.

After rummaging through the papers listed, and I think I found the one referenced in the article… Here’s the abstract of the article:
The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of reading medium and a paratext manipulation on aspects of narrative engagement. In a 2 (medium: booklet vs. iPad) by 2 (paratext: fiction vs. nonfiction) between-subjects factorial design, the study combined state oriented measures of narrative engagement and a newly developed measure of interface interference. Results indicated that, independently of prior experience with reading on electronic media, readers in the iPad condition reported dislocation within the text and awkwardness in handling their medium. Also, iPad readers who believed they were reading nonfiction were less likely to report narrative coherence and transportation, while booklet readers who believed they were reading nonfiction were, if anything, more likely to report narrative coherence. Finally, booklet (but not iPad) readers were more likely to report a close association between transportation and empathy. Implications of these findings for cognitive and emotional engagement with textual narratives on paper and tablet are discussed.

But the actual study document wasn’t’ available as of 1/19/15. She has other studies listed on tangential topics…

But I gave up my quest at that point. It appears that from this study of 50 Scandinavian school children that some aspects of reading comprehension and cognition.

Two “takeaways” from my experience:
1.             Just because a posting implies (or even states) that something is supported by science, that doesn’t mean it is. While there might be support for the premise/claim, there might only be a vague reference to some undescribed “research.”
2.            Beware of claims that “science has proven” anything. Legitimate researchers will never claim proof of n hypothesis. Data supports or refutes ideas. Proof is a word that strikes fear into the heart of a researcher—all it takes is one experiment that does not support a hypothesis to disprove it.

Overall, the claim in the tweet was loosely based on data. However, after spending nearly 40 years working with high school and college students, I can say that anecdotal evidence supports that, 
  • “back in the day,” a classroom of students working from printed books were more focused, more often, than in later years. 

More such observational data implies to me that 
  • the most noticeable difference in students of today than in yesteryear is today’s students exhibit a decrease in desire to interact with other students directly as their predecessors.

I cannot provide empirical data in support of either of the above comments. However, I do know that, for a fact, my teaching style changed over time in response to changes I noticed in students.

Bottom line: 
Reading is an excellent way to embed linear thinking patterns into a brain. 
So, read. 
Print or ebook, reading is a good thing!

Next blog: Miscellaneous Musings on The Business of Writing (honest!)
Follow me on Twitter: @CRDowningAuthor and Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CRDowningAuthor

My website is: www.crdowning.com

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