OFF TOPIC: Digital Ebooks versus Print

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Donovan R. Palmer | Forum Activity | Posted: Sun, May 6 2018 4:46 AM

I am just curious what users out there think about some of the stuff that has come out on ebooks versus print. I know this stuff swings in seasons/fads and according to some reports, ebook sales are contracting a bit from their previous growth trends.

Let me first say before I pose a couple of points of enquiry about this subject, I am 'all in' on digital forms of reading. I do all my Bible Study on Logos and another Bible software product. In addition to Logos and Faithlife ebooks, I have an iPad Pro, with Kindle, Libby and Adobe Editions of e-reader software installed. For browsing I try to scan books from our local online library and Open Library first, then if I buy a book my preferred platform is Logos so that it integrates into my study workflow.  (As a sidenote, I also get the London Times Newspaper epaper, use Apple News, Flipboard and Feedly with a bunch of RSS feeds that interest me)  So I rarely pick up a paper copy of anything if it is available in digital form.

The benefits are obvious.  Searching, portability, note taking, etc... all the stuff you can read about in Logos and other digital medium promotionals. However, there are two elements of concern that I would like to hear other's views on.

1. The backlights of devices can disrupt your melatonin levels -

2. A study conducted by a university in Norway indicates that in some cases readers retain more information in a paper medium

Personally, I don't see these as a big factor.  My iPad Pro has a 'night shift' mode and I tend to switch my e-reader software to the light text on black background to minimise the amount of light I am looking into in the evenings.  I don't perceive it impacts my sleep patterns, but I could be unaware of the effects.

Also, I made the switch some years ago to go digital, doing complete university courses with nothing but digital resources, I did have to adjust at the time, but I don't perceive my retention levels are affected now that I am use to the digital medium.  

To test this belief, I am currently reading a book in digital and paper forms, alternating from one medium to the other chapter by chapter and I am not convinced I see a big difference. The main downside is that I am not sure if I am as fast on an e-device particularly because marking up a book with a pen is faster, but the benefits of having my markups (and clippings) in electronic form are worth it. 

So I would be interested in what you all think. Do you have concerns about backlights and retention?  Are there instances you go 'paper' for these or other reasons?

BTW, I saw a solution for an iPhone recently which gives you a charger with an e-ink reader screen to use with your device. It looks like it needs refinement, but it is an interesting concept to give you the best of all worlds without having to pack around a second device. -

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Mark Barnes | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, May 6 2018 4:58 AM

Donovan R. Palmer:
So I would be interested in what think. Do you have concerns about backlights and retention?  Are there instances you go 'paper' for these or other reasons?

I have zero concern about backlights. The only study I'm aware of that's linked backlights with lack of sleep was done with subjects reading a device in the dark, with maximum brightness, for one hour before sleep. I'm not surprised that affected sleep patterns. Nightshift mode (especially on Apple devices), and minimum brightness, is fine for me. A Kindle Paperwhite, even better.

As for retention, because I highlight eBooks but not paper books, my retention is slightly higher with eBooks, and as I can re-read my highlights quickly, then I have more tools with which to further increase retention.

This is my personal Faithlife account. On 1 March 2022, I started working for Faithlife, and have a new 'official' user account. Posts on this account shouldn't be taken as official Faithlife views!

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Robert M. Warren | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, May 6 2018 6:23 AM

Thanks for a thoughtful post.

In my case, the decision has been made for me: vision problems make it very impractical for me to read paper editions of anything. As a result, I haven't purchased a print edition in many years. If we buy a new appliance (or similar) that old folks can't figure out intuitively, I find the PDF manual on the internet, rather than waste time with paper docs and their uneven quality with regard to text size and contrast..

Regarding night-mode, I always use this on Logos Bible and Kindle on Android devices. It's just easier for me to read, irrespective of time of day. I have Negative Screen (thanks to Forum friends for the alert) installed on two personal, and one work, Windows machines, but I usually invoke it only when I'm having a bad-eye day.

With regard to paper vs digital information retention, my unscientific, intuitional hypothesis is that readers accustomed to paper books and business-related reports don't take screen-read information and reports as seriously because in their inner-psyche, they don't really believe a number or set of information is real until it has been committed to a piece of paper and they can hold it in their hands. Whereas, in my work as a municipal budget analyst, in addition to my summary (in an Excel file), I always provide the underlying data as an option, because in my inner-psyche, once data has been presented to someone on printed paper, that's all it will ever be; it will never grow up to be a man. It's telling that in the Norway experiment, only two of the test subjects were regular e-reader users. I wonder how many tech-averse (I didn't use the L-word), auto-contrarians have used this one to make a point.

Regarding market share, it seems to me natural that after the first few years of introduction, e-book sales growth would flatten a bit, as those who are library-builders (particularly in systems like Logos) have their libraries where they need them and incremental purchases will be at a lower level.

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DMB | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, May 6 2018 8:24 AM

I agree, sleep-ability not a factor, nor retension. 

Regarding the article, they didn't discuss price. For me, Kindle's been moving up a bunch. And serious books, higher than print.  And older books, print only.

I notice at our library, battling over the checkout machines. Hurry up! 

"God will save his fallen angels and their broken wings He'll mend."

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Robert M. Warren | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, May 6 2018 9:13 AM

they didn't discuss price. For me, Kindle's been moving up a bunch.

It's interesting that the sales article (in the main text, at least) didn't mention if they are talking units or $/pounds. (Maybe in publisher industry parlance, it's tacitly understood as one or the other.) In the context of year-over-year e-book sales, the distinction is very important. I can recall 4-5 years ago, there was a large number of very-low-cost or free Kindle book sales in my area of interest (Reformed theology) offered sporadically. That seemed to have lasted about a year, then happened less and less frequently. I built a decent Kindle library in that period and was able to voodoo most of them into Logos.

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, May 6 2018 4:47 PM

I am not "all in" on digital reading. According to information in the alumni bulletin, most of the students at my alma mater are not either - they use digital in class and dead-tree to study. Whether due to some physical differences or mere habit, I read faster and retain content better in physical form; I know this is partially because it is easier to jump back when I think I missed something. Perhaps it is like the 2 spaces after a period - one's eye movement is smoother if it is retained in electronic forms but whether or not smoother eye movement "means" anything more is subject to what study you chose to believe.

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

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Lee | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, May 6 2018 5:02 PM

Donovan R. Palmer:

2. A study conducted by a university in Norway indicates that in some cases readers retain more information in a paper medium

Tactility, or haptic response, may be a factor. Although I think "flipping" though a screen may mimic a similar reinforcing stimulus. It would be interesting to repeat this experiment with the young ones growing up with smart phones.

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Rosie Perera | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, May 6 2018 7:52 PM

From the time I first started dabbling in reading digital books (bought my first Kindle book in 2007, read my first Logos edition book all the way through in 2011, read my first Kindle book all the way through in 2012), I moved to almost exclusively digital reading during 2013-2015. I've ratcheted back to a mix. I've found that it is good for me to get away from a screen now and then and read print form, with the tactile experience.

I've noticed that the number of books I read each year in general has declined since digital reading became a large part of my diet. That is distressing to me. In 2010, the last year that I read only print books, I read 26 books. That was probably an average. I've read as many as 48 (substantial) books in one year before. But in 2016 I read only 7, in 2017 I read only 11 (and 4 of those were children's books, two of which I was rereading). 2018 is off to a slightly better start. I've read 5 already in the first 4 months.

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Eric Back | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, May 6 2018 9:44 PM

I have shifted my library, incrementally, to a digital one. I recently hit the tipping point where I mostly rely on digital and feel like I'm accustomed enough to work with it. Dead tree readings are still more pleasant but I can't argue with the searchability, and portability, of a digital library. My wife is happy that I'm able to cull books from the bookshelf for donation as we'll have less of a burden next time we move though I'm saving certain collectable, signed, and unavailable-in-logos volumes, I would now find it very tedious to have a Bible, a lexicon, an encyclopedia, and several commentaries strewn around the room

My glasses have a blue filter that I believe helps for longer sessions in front of the screen, and I don't notice any change in my fitbit, sleep reports. 

I do wonder if I retained more however when I reflected on just a couple of hard copy volumes.

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Donovan R. Palmer | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, May 7 2018 3:46 AM

Interesting thoughts everyone.  Thanks.

When I made the switch to digital, the hard part for me was that the more I engaged a book, the more part of my memory of the material was where it was physically in the book.  I missed this in digital and it was like driving down the road without your headlights on. This was particularly the case for my paper Bible and why at the time even switching to a new paper Bible was so hard.

To compensate for this, I take time at the beginning of reading a book to visualise mentally the entire book in conjunction with the flow of the material, scanning the table of contents and even flipping through the material from front to back quickly, taking note of the slider or progress bar that often is part of many e-reader software packages. Highlighting and notes I think also make a huge difference in terms of mental imprint.  These practices of course can be employed for paper books as well, but I found them even more essential with the digital form.

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Darrell Tan | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, May 7 2018 5:21 AM

Thanks for the discussion. Good points.

I tend to do my Bible reading with a paper one. I prefer the physicality of a page, but the portability and space savings of e-books has made them the first choice for reference works such as commentaries. Having a miniature library in my pocket means I can take my Bible study with me anywhere.

In terms of screens and sleep, I think I'd still be using a screen to type out notes if doing prep with physical books. Would need to be disciplined with my unwinding and sleep time.

Good point about the recall. I think I only enjoy the location memory for my main Bible and for a couple of printed books I frequently reference.

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Armin | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, May 7 2018 5:21 AM

I love real books made of paper. You can easily find them in your library. You are reminded to read them because you get optical cues. It is easier to again find something as you have a sense where the book is on your shelf and where in the book the passage was. Research clearly shows that retention of information read in real books is significantly higher. And real books will last (nearly) forever. My daughter loves reading the books that I read as a child.

But: After five international moves, I have no option but to switch to digital books. Moving real books is expensive. So I have to put up with the disadvantages. Having said this: I love having all my books with me wherever I travel. For instance, sitting in a plane on a long flight and having the entire library available, it a huge advantage. 

Unfortunately, whenever I buy more books, there is one nagging question in my mind: Will this library in which I invested so much money, still work in 30 years?

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Bruce Roth | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, May 7 2018 10:52 AM

I too, have made the move as much as I can to all digital.  I have vision issues that make reading paper material less enjoyable and more of a challenge.  I even find that I have to put my PC in a reverse video, so I have white text on black background most of the time.  I have most of my reading apps on my ipad/iphone set to "night" mode. 

I have even gone so far as to have about 200 of my paper books digitized using one of the outfits that will scan your paper book into a PDF and then shred it.  I have various apps that I use to read them in and one of them is a great indexing app as it indexes the documents like logos does for the ability to search across all the pdf files.

At times I miss the paper books as I can sometimes visualize where something is is a book, but with my feeble memory these days it is far easier to search for text in a book or library to find something that I remember was somewhere.  It has been a while since I last bought a paper book for myself.

I think one of the challenges with electronic libraries on devices is that you have to much content at your fingertips that it is hard to sit still with a focus on a single book.  It would be like doing all your reading at the library and having that itch to pick up a book and going down a rabbit hole time after time when you should focus on the single book your are trying to read. 

The other drawback to electronic books is the ease of purchase.  One or two clicks and it is immediately in your hand.  It can be to easy and addictive to constantly find sales and know that you can have that book in a few seconds.

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Keep Smiling 4 Jesus :) | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, May 7 2018 12:23 PM

Personally have adapted to digital having words appear on screen in different places so focus on what's written (useful when searching internet for technical troubleshooting of computers). Also like faster read aloud speed with words on screen (for multi-sensory input).

Thankful for visual filter highlighting so can "see" range of original language expression plus topical repetition (precept) => more inductive symbols

My quirkiness is writing notes during a sermon (interact with what is being said) followed by recycling paper (church bulletin). Thankful for Sunday morning message yesterday that included brief synopsis of letters to seven churches in Revelation (praise, anguish, what to improve) followed by speaker's observation about that church plus group prayer. Looking forward to Rejoicing as God answers prayer requests.

Keep Smiling Smile

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Bruce Dunning | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, May 7 2018 2:24 PM

I've been reflecting on this for a few days and now am ready for a response. I too have almost completely migrated from paper books to digital and mostly within Logos. I spend many hours in front of a screen on an average day both at work and personally but I have never noticed it interfering with my sleep patterns for which I am thankful. I'm so thankful for being able to start to read on my computer and then to begin where I left off using my phone. Isn't technology amazing!

Rosie Perera:
I've noticed that the number of books I read each year in general has declined since digital reading became a large part of my diet.

I find this quite interesting Rosie because I have found the exact opposite to be true for me. Perhaps it is a phase in your life rather than a result of going digital?

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