The world of literature has been turned upside down in recent years since the creation of digital eBooks. As more and more people invest in gadgets such as tablets, smartphones and ereaders; the number of paper-based book sales is dropping and that’s because everyone wants everything in digital format. You can go online, download a title and have it on your device in a matter of seconds without even having to leave the house, but it raises the question over whether eBooks are actually better – or at least more beneficial – than the traditional books that many still love.
A lot of parents are strongly against the use of eReaders and tablets and the sight of their children using one is enough to drive them insane, pushing them into placing limits on the use of the devices and encouraging them to get back outside and playing. Once children are old enough to understand how to use devices, it’s very difficult to prize them out of their hands and it’s a particularly tough decision to make over whether or not to allow them to read eBooks because of the easy distractions and their addiction to tech.
Whenever children catch onto a trend there are immediately stories in the media trying to warn parents and calling for drastic action before it “ruins their lives”, only in this instance it’s much more difficult because, after all, they are actually reading. The biggest argument over the issue is that various studies have shown that students focus more on the printed text because it’s a much more formal version, making them feel as though they are in school and being encouraged to take note of every single word, whereas eBooks are more relaxed and while they might engage with the child more than the print format, they see it more as a form of play.
A study from the Guardian was quick to push this point, while emphasising that the electronic books are not actually bad for children. In the report they say that “children recalled significantly fewer narrative details than children who read the print version of the same story. Print books were more advantageous for literacy, and eBooks were better for engaging with the children and prompting physical interaction.”
In a different study, this time by Pew Research, it was revealed that 81% of parents still argue that reading print books are vital to a child’s development, and that 81% also preferred print to digital while reading with their own children. The statistics do vary throughout as you may expect, with 71% of those surveyed preferring to use eBooks when on their travels.
Half of the problem here could be as simple as parents still adapting their own styles and methods according to the modern trends that they didn’t have growing up. As you grow up, you tend to implement a lot of what you learn yourself growing up and for parents in 2014 who didn’t have eReaders and tablet computers when they were at school, this is a difficult hurdle to get over. After all, the theory of “I read printed books and they didn’t do me any harm” holds a lot of weight.
Before we jump too quickly into one camp or another, there is one issue that remains relatively overlooked throughout the argument. Are eBooks really that different to pop-up books or those with added sound effects that many of us grew up with? They have text along with visual and audio aids and our parents (and many of us, as parents), swore by them. The issue that it seems many parents and teachers have with digital books is the word ‘digital’. We assume that too much television and too much time spent in front of computer games is bad for our children and the same stance has been adopted with eBooks. Just because they’re on a digital format shouldn’t swing the opinion either way.
The only thing that can be used to make a judgement is whether or not the child wants to read, and if they enjoy it. However they like to read, they should be allowed to do so because by taking one method away, we’re essentially stopping them from reading and developing. If they prefer the print version, fine, if they prefer eBooks, that’s also fine – it’s better than not reading at all, isn’t it?