Digital media proves to have lower comprehension rate than print media

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Studies show that reading comprehension lags with digital media — potentially dampening the allure of the Kindle for students.

Developing technology has allowed easier access to resources for students around the globe. Computers  and laptops with an internet access  let students look up information  from anywhere with internet access,  and with the late 2000s boom of
eReaders, students have experienced  more freedom than ever in accessing  materials otherwise unavailable to  them or inconvenient to access in print  form. However, as convenient a tool as  computers and eReaders seem to be for students, studies are showing that they  may not be as helpful as they seem.

A 2012 study from the University of Stavanger found that students who read materials on a computer screen  experienced significantly lower levels  of reading comprehension compared to  students who read materials in print.

Despite this information, however,  the technological world is chugging on.  Another study published in October  2013 found that 67 percent of US  children between the ages of 2 and 13  are now reading eBooks.

First-year Molly Uher finds  the results of the study completely  unsurprising. “I feel lost with  technology,” Uher says. “I have a really  visual memory … In eighth grade I had  this 200-page PDF of a book I wanted  to read, and I just printed it out in the  library.”

Uher says that reading on a digital  platform is disorientating for her.

“In Germany, there’s this cathedral with like 500 spiraling steps, and it has no  landings and no way to tell how far  you’ve gone. It’s a horrible spiraling  abyss. And that’s how I feel reading  with technology is like.”

Despite the difficulties associated  with reading digitally, the benefits  still outweigh the negatives for many  students who feel that the ease of  access, portability and monetary  savings of digital files make them more  worthwhile than sticking to print.

“EReaders are way more convenient than regular books when I am looking  for something specific or when I want  something right away,” second-year Elisif Winters said. “They’re also much  easier to travel with, which is important to me because I live out of state.”

Thesis student Anthony Serifsoy,  like most students, gets his information  through a combination of digital and  print resources.

“Like 60 to 70 percent  of my thesis information is digital,”  Serifsoy said. “Print is physically easier  to read on, but digital files are easier  to manage and mark up.” If given the  option, Serifsoy said, “I’d prefer print if  it were accessible.”

Accessibility is key. For many  students, reading digital material is the  only means of realistically accessing  essays or books they need for class, when  the material is otherwise too expensive  or difficult to get ahold of, such as when  reading out of print books.

With the ever expanding  marketplace for eReaders and other  digital media, whether or not print  media is better for comprehension  seems irrelevant to those who are  making a decision between the two, and  in the academic world, digital media is already firmly entrenched. It is up to  students and professors to decide what  trade offs they are willing to make in  their academic pursuits.

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