Print Books or eBooks?

by Ernest Armah

I won’t proceed with this piece without admitting the nostalgia it brought. I could vividly picture a much juvenile me wide-eyed and animated at the sight of freshly printed books. Back in Primary school, we had a library period when everyone in the class had an opportunity to read any book of choice. My favorite books at the time were comics and cartoons.

They appealed to me for the reason of their aesthetic properties – the spectacular painting, sketches, drawings, calligraphy and ethereal settings all wrapped in one fascinating content. In general, what entangled into reading is the peculiar aroma of books. I am adjectivally constrained in giving a precise description of what books taste like however. I know most readaholics would share in my predicament. The best things are not easily concretized.

Don’t judge a book by its cover, the adage goes. But this saying makes more sense to adults, not children. Some of us have come far in our reading in terms of speed and comprehension not necessarily because we thirsted for knowledge initially. It was the fun aspect of books through appealing designs and content which got us interested. I am making this statement with no recourse to the innate trait of curiosity.

Now technology has introduced a more portable, less-heavy way of carrying our books to any place we want. Through eBooks. Already, this change has threatened several businesses engaged in the traditional method of book publishing – printing. In the coming years, some of the publishing houses who want to remain in business would be left with no option than to adjust by shifting entirely to electronic publishing or a combination of electronic and print. Whatever happens, the common denominator would be technology.

I shudder to buy the idea that eBooks would and could shove print books into the abyss of extinction.
A study conducted in the United States showed that though Americans are reading more eBooks, they have not completely substituted the former for print books. In the United Kingdom, a survey finds that 62% of 16-24 year olds prefer traditional books over their digital equivalents. The two main reasons that justified their preference were value for money and an emotional connection to physical books.

In our society, I have noticed a growing trend. I’ve observed, and often heard some parents boasting of how their children are doing some amazing stuff on tablets. The unforeseen cost of this fledgling tech-savvy parenting is that they are over-speeding the cognitive development of their children. To put it graphically, they are teaching their children how to run before walk. If we do not tame the urge of joining any bandwagon that crosses our path, we would end up confusing the learning process of children.

In the summary of its findings in a May 16, 2013 article, the National Literacy Trust of the United Kingdom stated,

“For the first time children are reading more on computers and other electronic devices than they are reading books, magazines, newspapers and comics. This is potentially detrimental to children’s reading levels as those who read daily only on-screen are much less likely to be good readers than those who read in print.”

In their formative years, children should be trained to develop an emotional attachment to books. Through print books first. At the crèche and nursery levels, we teach children the alphabets before literature. So it wouldn’t be new to expose them to the flips, notings, markings, underlinings as well as the physical touch and aroma of books.

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