Martin Center president tackles eBooks and digital reading

Jenna Robinson’s latest Martin Center column focuses on the challenges linked to electronic reading options.

The cost of college textbooks has increased at an alarming rate. According to the College Board, the average student spends more than $1,200 on books and materials each year. The proposed solution—advocated by universities and reformers alike—is a switch to eBooks and online course materials. But new evidence suggests that we should consider that switch carefully before embracing a wholesale conversion from print to digital materials. …

… But there is a potential problem with this rush to digital resources: new evidence suggests that students’ reading comprehension is often better with print media than its digital equivalent.

“Don’t throw away your printed books: A meta-analysis on the effects of reading media on reading comprehension” will be published in a future issue of Educational Research Review. The article’s authors are Pablo Delgado, Cristina Vargas, and Ladislao Salmerón of the University of Valencia in Spain and Rakefet Ackerman of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology.

The paper “examined research in recent years (2000-2017), comparing the reading of comparable texts on paper and on digital devices” including two different study designs. Both times, researchers found benefits for paper reading over digital reading, with a few nuances. They found that paper-based reading was especially important in time-constrained settings and that the paper-based reading advantage increased over the years.

Mitch Kokai / Senior Political Analyst

Mitch Kokai is senior political analyst for the John Locke Foundation. He joined JLF in December 2005 as director of communications. That followed more than four years as chie...