Notes on: Comprehension and Paper vs. Digital Reading

Some professors and critics of change denounce various e-readers as the enemy. 

In what I would deem a misguided, ill-informed move, some syllabi will “prohibit” students from reading books for said classes on a Kindle, iPad, or similar device. Discussions about the ableism of such policies are important, too. 

A syllabus might say or suggest that retention decreases without a traditional hard copy, for example. Some studies support such notions, but such research is also inherently biased against ereaders. Using an e-reader takes time and adjustment. It took me six or seven years before I was fully comfortable reading books on my iPad using the Kindle App. When studies of retention are done, the researchers assume (in some ways) that reading on paper is a level playing field with not reading on paper. When people participate in studies of comparative comprehension, of course they are going to recall printed material better if that is exclusively what they are accustomed to. It will be decades before any kind of thorough scientific comparison can be completed. 

All forms of reading take life-long practice and training.

And questions about reading comprehension, digitally or analog, are mute insomuch as all reading requires active reading, if retention is the goal.

When professors “prohibit” students from reading on their devices, they are making broad generalizations. Why should it matter how students read, if they are reading and learning? Additionally, such a prohibition is not enforceable; therefore, it simply serves as an exercise in authority, authority people increasingly find disrespectful and irrelevant.

We should focus our attention of increasing the number of readers, not attacking how people read. I saw an article earlier today that suggested 25 percent of adults in the U.S. did not even touch a book last year.

Dr. Andrew Joseph Pegoda 

Categories: Thoughts and Perspectives

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8 replies

  1. 25% haven’t picked up a book in the past year? That’s making my inner bookworm rock back and forth in the fetal position and suck it’s thumb. Yikes.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Yeah, that last paragraph really surprised me, too (#MeTooKindle). However, back to adjusting to a Kindle, did you, Dr. Pegoda, read many pdfs before you got a Kindle? Most of my reading today is reading online, so I cannot quite grasp how long it took you to adjust to reading a Kindle, other than having to change pages differently, or getting used to a smaller screen, which would drive me nuts. I can’t stand reading things on my phone for that reason.

    Liked by 1 person

    • For a long time, I printed out almost all PDFs.

      I use the Kindle App on my iPad. The actual Kindle is something I could never grow used to for a number of reasons. Now, I prefer reading in the iPad and read more than ever. It has more and more settings all the time to control formatting, lighting, etc. it’s really great. Now, I never use paper and pen for anything, since the Apple Pencil came along.

      I do some reading on my iPhone X, and it’s not too bad.

      If I had used the iPad more consistently at the very start, I think I would have gotten used to it quicker. But too a number of features that were added about a year ago contributed to my making the full switch.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I have a friend who is a philosophy professor and he reads everything digitally on an ereader with a program that converts the letters to make it easier for him, as someone with dyslexia, to process. It looks odd, the letters are weighted to keep them from flipping when he sees them. Reading a paper document is much slower and more difficult.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Oh, wow! I had no idea that iPad had figured out how to appeal to the dyslexic reader, and to keep the letters from flipping. That is truly amazing.
    Thanks for your explanation, Dr. Pegoda. I read pdfs on my desktop, so in the end, it is like a non-mobile iPad, but with even larger screen. The size of the screen may be what you needed, and, obviously all the tweaks that the iPad can give you.
    Those tweaks may finally succeed in mainstreaming all dyslexic kids!!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Am using your post with our “group” tomorrow where the discussion is on accepting change; it might be interesting as to how we seniors weigh in on the issue. TTY about it later.


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