Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Generation E-reader

Traditional print versus iPads shows what kids nowadays are missing. But what will the future hold?  ♦ 
In today’s digital age—as a viral video from a few years back illustrated—many children see a paper book or a printed magazine as just a broken iPad. If they can’t type or swipe, they see it as old and outdated. As the newest generation’s lives become more and more digitalized from an ever-earlier age, will there still be room for old fashioned books and the companies which produce and sell them? 

It was 2007 when Amazon launched its first e-reader called the Kindle. It was small, sleek, powerful, and with its E-ink technology, the image appeared to resemble a book. This was the first popular e-reader and was soon followed by others, though with the Kindle holding market dominance. The Kindle held hundreds of books with many books costing as low as 99 cents. When compared to traditional books, the Kindle did most everything better in a more compact and portable package. Many thought e-readers would surpass the sale of traditional books years ago, but traditional books have held their ground as baby boomers, Gen X, and Gen Z have lost the sense of excitement around e-books and have returned to the familiarity of traditional books. Publishers have also invested a great deal of effort to create gorgeous and intricate book covers and design, luring customers back to traditional books according to a recent report. All of this would seem to bode well for the traditional print reading experience as we've known it . . . but the introduction of e-books in school curricula across the nation may change that.

All throughout grade school, I and many others were exposed to traditional books on a daily basis. Trips to the school’s library helped me develop a love for reading and an appreciation for a printed book that has stuck with me throughout the years, and I still prefer a traditional book because of it. Fast forward to the present day, and a student attending my former grade school will not be reading paper books from the library; they will be reading from their iPads. Kids will no longer know the excitement of going to the school library with their class and sitting on plush cushions while the librarian reads them a story, or the eagerness of wanting to go pick out their books to check out for the week. The days of stocked library shelves with the latest releases are gone. Now, each student is required to have their own iPad, which they use for a variety of activities, reading being only one; for these children, their standard format of reading will be through an electronic device, with paper books possibly becoming a thing of the past.

I spoke recently with the parent of two boys currently in the third grade at my former grade school. When I asked whether she agreed with her children growing up with only e-readers, her response was that while the school mandates the kids read on iPads, she buys traditional books for her children to read at home, as she believes her boys should be exposed to traditional books. She said most of the other parents maintain this practice, too. It makes sense why parents might go our of their way to keep print books around; many cognitive-development studies have been conducted on the use of e-readers versus traditional books by children. According to one such study, children were shown to be more engaged when reading a traditional book versus an e-book. The results showed children were more distracted when using an e-reader which led to less understanding of the material. This is a common trend of studies done on the differences in traditional versus e-books. In fact, a study conducted on college students showed similar results, with students having a greater understanding of the material when reading a traditional book versus an e-book. Holding these studies to be true, the benefits of traditional books show why they deserve longevity, even in the digital age.

Still, it will be up to the parents and educators of the youngest generation to keep the tradition of print alive. It is that next generation who will be the next consumers and who'll determine whether print survives into future generations.

  • About the Author
    Evan Pomerance is a senior at Miami University with a major in Economics and a minor in Geography. He is originally from Louisville, KY, and following his graduation in May 2020 he will be moving to Chicago to work in commercial real estate.

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