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Digital vs Print: iBooks Isn't a Panacea for Me

Posted by Grace Lee on Sep 28, 2013 9:30:00 AM

Leaders are Readers, but I've struggled committing fully to the electronic version of books. For physical space and convenience reasons over the last two years I tried converting totally to ebooks, but in some situations and with certain content, I prefer a printed book over a digital iBooks or Kindle book.ibook reader

The spatial context of reading matters when retention is important. For many the e-readers fail to provide the mental connections and tactile feedback that the human brain relies on to remember and relate to the material. The extra mental effort required to relate certain types of information being read on a screen can slow down the learning process and make it less enjoyable.

Have you ever watched those who have taught their minds to quickly retain extraordinarily large amounts of information? Some participate in competitions to demonstrate their unusual ability. These experts in memorization technique are able to associate the data with familiar physical locations, such as their house or workspace. For me that's what is missing from the e-reader--the physical context of the page, the location in which the page is read, physically turning the page, etc. Available research on this subject should influence how each student is expected to make use of ebooks vs printed books.

My reading strategy now is to prefer digital resources for news, partially scanning non-fiction material for research, and for reading fiction books. I prefer printed books or magazines that require high retention, for material that I want to markup and engage with notes, and for airplane take-offs and landings (where electronics must be turned off in the U.S. for unsubstantiated reasons of signal interference).

Sometimes I want to interact with the book, highlight, make notes, challenge statements, connect thoughts. This is hard to do with with iBooks or Kindle even if you highlight with your finger and the app makes note of your interest. What can you do with the notes? I haven't found an easy way to move bookmarks or notes to a mind mapping or note-taking app where it can be combined with other material.

What do you read on a regular basis? My regular news reading sources include:

  • Wall Street Journal, especially the What's News section for a concise summary of important events, decisions, and trends
  • Harvard Business Review for great research and ideas
  • FastCompany magazine to stimulate design thinking and creative ideas
  • EdWeek for current issues in education, opinions, and trends
  • EdSurge provides great connections for blended learning and trends in educational technology
  • FlipBoard is an app that gives me quick access to news within topics of my choice and includes feeds from my Twitter and Facebook accounts

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