Recently my daughter gave me a book by Naomi S. Baron titled Words on Screen – The Fate of Reading in a Digital World (2015 Oxford). Naomi Baron is Professor of Linguistics at American University in Washington, D.C.
In the U.S.A in 2013, 30% of the books sold were eBooks – page 207.
Professor Baron states “for romance, erotic fiction and mysteries or thrillers, eBooks were strongly preferred over print”. Page 232.
Baron argues that careful reading and careful thinking are the hallmark of higher education, and that such reading and thinking is better done in print. Baron states “the biggest reason print is so often preferred is that compared with reading onscreen, print tends to limit distraction. As a result, it encourages mental focus.” Also eyestrain and legibility can be problems with reading digitally – page 169.
There appears to be a strong preference for print by readers of long non-fiction.
My granddaughter Amy Appleby is entering her senior year at Dalhousie University in Halifax. She is an English major. Amy reports that for short assignments of less than 20 pages her classmates read both in print and online about half and half. Amy says that for longer assignments she and most of her classmates prefer paper. She says paper allows her to make notes that she can review later.
Professor Baron notes that the ease of reading eBooks has steadily improved. The Kindle and the iPad with their steady improvements tends to make ereading easier and more attractive.
Baron notes that at universities journal articles have migrated from library stacks to digital access – page 210. Similarly case law access has migrated to digital access. Subscriptions to print volumes of case law have decreased dramatically since the advent of the Internet. Case law online is a popular resource for students and researchers.
Access to information such as word definitions are best found by using digital dictionaries. Also searching for a legal citation is best performed digitally. But the editing of a judicial decision and the drafting a headnote for a decision is best performed from print and not from a screen. Here at Maritime Law Book our editors invariably read and edit from print when reading a case and preparing a headnote.
Professor Baron does not address the long term storage problems of digital material. These problems are the subject of a book by Robert Darnton, titled The Case of Books (2009 PublicAffairs).