Is Remembering Harder With eBooks?

Cinderella’s untimely episode of pedal edema.

Previous posts have presented the pros and cons of eBooks versus print books, with particular emphasis on the eBook needs of medical students.

Another consideration has arisen.  Does reading on an eBook interfere with the remembering of what was read?

Some studies suggest that remembering may be harder with eBook reading (see Healthland and The eBook Skeptic) than with print books.  The associations one makes with landmarks in print reading (the relative positioning the text and figures, whether the information was at the top or middle of the page, on a left or right-hand page or column, etc.) is not set with eBook reading when there is shifting of text flow with resizing of the page or font size.  This relates to a memory technique called the Memory Palace (the method of loci) discussed in a previous post, where the context of the information, such as the surrounding visual landmarks, plays a role in memory ( also see Brier Dudley’s Blog).  Ebooks that have text reflow have fewer such landmarks, and  remembering may be more difficult.

Another issue is whether reading may be slower with eBooks than print books.  Some of the earlier studies suggested this, but were done years ago when the computer screen had lower resolution, so it is unclear whether this is still a source of concern.  It is also a question as to whether  linking all over the place slows down reading and makes it difficult for the reader to keep track of all the links.

The issues of remembering and reading speed with eBooks require more study.  If you have used eBooks, do you have any personal observations regarding your ability to remember, or reading speed with eBooks?  Do you prefer eBooks or print books?

Posted on April 2, 2012, in eBooks vs Print Books and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. In my opinion,it has to do with the state of mind.We can condition our mind to read faster and to remember with easy on tablets,ipad or kindle.

    The distribution of content has changed in the today’s world.Amazon,apple wants anyone on the surface of the earth to have access to content as long as they have internet.The game has changed and will keep changing positively.

    As soon as medmaster is available on kindle version,it going viral.It will reach us,your consumers without any intervention.I know that pretty cool.

  2. Medical knowladge should not be based on where in the page the diagram was located. If you understand it, it should not make a difference where and how your read it.

    Unless it’s anatomy, that’s a different story…

  3. so what’s the conclusion? is mrs series ever coming on kindle?

  4. Presently, Medmaster is experimenting with some of its titles in ebook format. It is not as simple a matter as would first appear. Books that are purely text are easier to prepare as ebooks than those with many illustrations and charts. The technology is not quite there yet. Also, there is continual change in the terms offered to publishers by distributors such as Apple (iPad) and Amazon (Kindle), which Medmaster is trying to work out. We are seeing a rapid evolution of techniques for the preparation of ebooks as well as the terms to publishers. When this settles out a little more, I think we should see a rise in the publication of more Medmaster titles as ebooks.

    As I see it with our present information, students differ in their preferences for ebooks vs print books. Older students may be more inclined toward print books. Younger students, who have grown up in the computer age, may be more attuned to the idea of ebooks, but opinions are split here. Some students prefer ebooks because of their convenience in carrying around and generally lower costs. This is particularly true of students outside the US, who find it difficult to obtain print books from the US due to the high costs of shipping. Also, ebooks can be a great help to visually impaired students, since the font size can be adjusted. Other students, though, prefer print books because of the problems alluded to in some of the Medmaster posts (see category of eBooks vs Print Books), including screen glare, fatigue on reading for a long time on a screen, and other factors.

    Probably, the best solution will be to offer books in both ebook and print format, so that they can fit the needs of all students.

  5. I’ll be your first client when that happens. Can’t wait.

  6. Regarding reading speed and comprehension, an important factor is the length of the line. The human eye functions best at line lengths about 12 words or less. When there are more words per line, the reader can get lost in tracking the lines, searching for the next line. That is why large books, e.g. 8.5″ x 11″, typically break the page into more than one column, as is the case for newspapers. Lines that are too short can also impede reading, especially when the font size is large, in which case there are many hyphenated words at the ends of the lines, which also may slow down reading and comprehension. The line and font sizes are important considerations in ebook preparation, where there is text reflow and the ability to alter the font size.

  7. There is a lot to be said about reading books on paper. Understanding the material is definitely not impaired but I believe remembering is. The organization of information is very well coded in the brain with the spacial orientation of the book. For example if you read the same book a few times and really know it well it takes only a few seconds for you to find that relevant information even if the book is hundreds of pages long. With ebooks you simply don’t have that option. I know the FIND option is great for ebooks but that doesn’t serve your memory very well. There are benefits to ebooks as in I can find certain topics very rapidly if I’m not very familiar with the text yet.

    All in all I know there is no argument that can made which will slow down the rate of ebooks or increase printed books. What I do see is that ebook makers need to come up with ways that will allow some sort of spatial orientation when reading ebooks so that we can maximize the benefits and minimize the negative effects.

    For those reading ebooks currently I highly recommend the use of simple mind mapping techniques that will allow you to at least organize the information in your brain and I believe that future ebooks (especially those for learning i.e. textbooks) should come with a spatial orientation supplement which can be printed or accessed easily within the ebook. This can be a simple animation, flow chart, mind map etc.

  8. The Find function in an eBook has certain advantages over an Index in a print book for its speed and completeness. However, sometimes this completeness can be a disadvantage when there are so many occurrences of the search term as to make it cumbersome to find the most pertinent ones. A well-designed Index can just list the key occurrences of the search term, leaving out the less important ones.

  1. Pingback: Ebooks Or Print Books? Which Should You Use? « MedMaster

  2. Pingback: E-readers vs. Print Books « Fantasy Works

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