Remembering E-book Details – Harder Than With Print

I realized I should’ve mentioned earlier that no post would be going up yesterday, since it was Good Friday and a holiday (and wow, I was glad to have a holiday after writing so many history papers!) Instead, I’m putting up a short post today. I came across this article on the other day, discussing how our minds just don’t absorb the details of what we read as well when we read e-books, as when we read the same book in print. And I have to agree, to some extent.

I don’t read too many e-books, but I read (far too many) articles online, and though I usually remember the main idea of the article, I don’t do as well on the details. Sometimes I read the same thing twice before realizing I’ve actually read it a few months before. It’s enough to make me wonder if I actually read to get information, or if this is just a symptom of impending information addiction – an odd condition where the pleasure of finding out something new is, well, incredibly addicting. (On the other hand, I also apply what I read in numerous ways, including on this blog, so hopefully I don’t skate too close to the edge of surfing the ‘net just for the high it gives me. 🙂 )

I also sometimes am assigned textbooks as e-books, and it is sometimes incredibly difficult to absorb the information from them . On the other hand, I love the fact I save money on them, and will always choose textbook available as a free e-book from the library over being gouged on the print version. Another upside is being able to easily search the text for a keyword, or a half-remembered argument you were sure the author made somewhere in the book, rather than endlessly skimming print pages in a fruitless search for a certain quotation.

The argument in the Time article is that people remember things better in the print version by landmarking where they found information, such as remembering it was at the bottom of a page near an end of a chapter, and this was incredibly interesting to me. Sometimes, when writing an exam, I can see exactly where the information I need to know was in my textbook (though it has happened that I still have no idea what the answer is). If only my memory worked like a camera!

And, lastly, this leads to interesting implications for writers of e-books. Maybe intense fantasy tomes with hundreds and hundreds of names, and an incredibly complex invented society, are not the best choices when writing an e-book. Maybe readers are actually looking for a simple story, “light reading,” that’s a pleasant distraction while riding the bus. I wonder if, in the future, authors will write differently if they intend their work to be an e-book, or if they intend it to be released as a print version. It depends how well this e-book craze takes hold. I guess we’ll have to wait and see!


Filed under Bookish Thoughts, Ebooks

2 responses to “Remembering E-book Details – Harder Than With Print

  1. I’m new to ebooks because I just got a Kindle, but I think I would have to disagree with the times article as to why they think the e format is harder to remember.
    I think there’s a big difference in how I read different formats. I skim like crazy when I’m on a computer, especially when it comes to websites. Email I find I have to really focus in order to not skim. But I have one of those ink screen kindles. I read that as if it were a book. I remember details as well as any other book I read on paper. I think if I read an ebook on a computer or from a tablet (iPad or kindle fire type device), the screen’s resemblance to a computer would make me more likely to skim, but since I have an ereader that is just for ereading, I don’t see this as a problem for me.
    That’s how I see it. What device do you use to read your ebooks from? My guess is that people who have ereaders have a better time with ebooks than people who use their computers or tablets to read ebooks.
    Also, Hi Harmamae! *waves*


    • Hi! 🙂
      Yes, your thought about skimming when reading on a computer did cross my mind the first time I read the Time article too. Because that is probably part of my problem with remembering the details, since I do read e-books on my computer and I’m used to reading quickly on the internet. I don’t currently have an e-reader, but I should try one sometime and see if it works better!
      Though I do think the landmarking does help me a little when reading print books, because I tend to remember where in the book I found certain information.


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