Print vs Digital: Reading in the Modern Era

Much has changed with the advent of technology and globalization in our societies. This change comes in all kinds of forms, from how we dress and eat to how we study and engage. Reading is an arena where this is very evident. Our reading habits have changed drastically with the inflow of gadgets and technologies that transform the reading experience. It has also affected how we engage with what we are reading, our attention span, and the ability to grasp and recollect the things we read. While many prefer older ways of reading like directly from a book or newspaper, more people are turning to the digitalized spaces to read what they are interested in.

The print versus the digital media has always been an ongoing tug of war. Both have their advantages and disadvantages but as time moves on, one is bound to see a shift in reading habits, when a generation that grew up with technology starts becoming the main consumers of the market. Reading printed copies of books and newspapers are many a time described as a wholesome activity with no ‘modern’ interruptions. It allows the individual to engage with something tactile, a book with pages they can feel, touch, and turn. It also allows one to mark passages with pencil and scribble down notes on the sides. And how can one let go of the sensory experience, the smell of old books, and the satisfaction of putting it down after finishing it or running your hands through the worn pages? Researches also opine that one is prone to remember better when one reads something in print rather than from a screen.

person reading on book
Photo by Oladimeji Ajegbile on

However, with the evolving ways of being and living in a technological era, change is inevitable. Today it is not uncommon to read entire books online or as a pdf on a computer. Books are available in these formats for sale as well as for free on some sites. Gadgets like the Amazon Kindle have furthered this field by offering a digital device that can store a large amount of information and books which you can access at all times. It is like carrying around thousands of books in your pocket and very efficient in that sense. It is also a very convenient and cost-effective investment. Books online tend to be much cheaper than paperbacks or hard copies. So, investing in a kindle and buying and reading books online turn out to be much more economical than spending on printed material. As a betterment from the app, kindle as a device also does not have any screen glare which makes the experience of sight exactly how it is as that of a book.  It also allows you to highlight, bookmark, and add notes. However, the aesthetic experience that paperbacks afford is almost non-existent here.

In the end, it comes down to what you and your preferences are. Older generations tend to prefer reading print, but also a huge part of the current generations lean towards print as well when given a choice between the two because of the experience of holding a book in your hand and reading. However, we should never discount the conveniences that digital reading affords, especially in such a fast-paced world. Understanding the limitations of both while embracing what is best suited to your situation in life, without discounting either completely, is the only way to go about it. Mixing both as and when required in order to gain the most out of it and learn better should be our goal. And one can keep wondering if reading as a phenomenon refers to only the act of reading or if it denotes the entire sensory experience.

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