Myth Three: Material in ebooks is more difficult to absorb than material in paper books

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Our rebuttals:

1. Knowledgeable users of phones and tablets know how to turn off distractions such as social media. Furthermore, via software, parents can restrict access to Facebook and the like.

2. In a related vein, most researchers don’t explore the ebook literacy factor. With proper training, students and others can avoid or greatly mitigate problems from the F pattern of scanning and give the content the time and attention it deserves. Without training, even experienced ebook readers may rely too much on digital page-flipping and not enough on digital searches to get a sense of what they are reading. With a good ebook reader or app, you can key in the name of a character in a long Russian novel and find a list of occurrences of the name with surrounding text snippets—including the crucial first mention. No problem tracking down who the character is!

3. Many subjects in comprehension studies tend to have more experience reading books from paper than from screens, including those of the specific devices they are using.

4. Often, comprehension studies ignore the customization possibilities of digital media. We worry endlessly about children outfitted for just the right eyeglasses. Shouldn’t they also benefit from the optimal fonts for them as well as other typography for maximum comprehension and enjoyment of books? Without this optimization to take advantage of unique strengths, ebooks are hobbled and the comparisons with paper books are invalid. Be especially wary of studies where the subjects read files in the PDF format without customization opportunities that documents in ePub and other “reflowable” formats can offer.

5. Ebooks offer the ability to make notes and highlight, and with improved voice recognition, note-taking will become easier than ever. People who retain more through handwritten can scribble with their styluses if using the right software. Or they can simply take notes on paper. Some experts believe handwritten notes are better for absorption of content than are typed notes. Update, November 2022: Amazon is coming out with the Scribe, offering convenient handwritten notes.

6. While ebooks are not tangible objects, they can be augmented in a number of ways—for example, posters or podcasts or, in the case of young children, interaction with parents who ask them questions about the books to engage them. Parental engagement counts far more than the medium used.

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