A new survey suggests that eReaders are helping the British read more often and read more widely. So does this mean we should all change our reading habits to reading on eReaders? As usual, it’s not quite as simple as that.
The fascinating survey, conducted by Quick Reads, which produces short books by well-known authors for those who are less confident when it comes to reading, shows that the average British reader is now spending about six hours a week reading. A third of respondents also said that thanks to eReaders they read for longer periods of time, with over 65s being the group using the most eReaders–19% compared to 12% of 18-24 year olds who, interestingly, were the lowest users of eReaders.
The survey also showed that eReaders might be broadening our taste in books. With the amount of free ebooks available, and the ease with which they can be accessed, around 62% of respondents said that they would read books they wouldn’t have otherwise read.
Why might this be? The survey really identifies a couple of reasons and they’re not that surprising. Among adult readers, 41% said that being able to simply touch the screen to look up words or phrases that were unfamiliar to them meant that reading using an electronic device was easier. Just more than half (51%) of respondents said that being able to increase text size also meant they favored eReaders.
All that said, paperback or hardback books remain the most favored vehicle for reading with (61%) of people choosing physical books compared to 15% using an eReader.
The Quick Reads survey wasn’t all positive though. On wider topics of reading habits it found that one in five adults don’t read for pleasure (22%), while men read less than women. Moreover, more than a third (37%) of 18-24 year-olds say they don’t read for pleasure at all. That’s terribly sad.
Yet, the people behind Quick Reads believe that eReaders create an ideal opportunity for those who haven’t read much in the past, have difficulty reading, or who are still learning English. Cathy Rentzenbrink, project director of Quick Reads, is quoted as saying: “The potential impact of technology on less confident readers is tremendous… [E-reading] allows adult learners to engage with books on their own terms, aiding their learning and boosting their confidence too.”
To be clear, this is a small and non-scientific survey, but the reasons why people may prefer eReaders have cropped up in scientific literature. For instance, there have been studies that have demonstrated that, for those with dyslexia, eReaders can make reading much easier because of the ability to customize the reading experience, such as by widening the spacing between text. Other studies have shown that eReaders may help those with Attention Deficit Disorder because, again, they can customize their reading experiences.
That’s not to say that all studies into eReaders have been positive. There is some research to say that print may still be best for comprehension, though that might be a generational thing as we’re still in a transitional phase between people that grew up with paperback verses people who are now growing up with easy access to digital eReaders. There’s also the fact that eReaders still cannot compete with paper or hardback books for those who enjoy the feel of a good book between their fingers.
Still, for a long time now there’s been a kind of battle going on between the two mediums and we might feel the pressure to pick a side: eReaders or physical books. Yet there’s something here that we can all agree on. Books are wonderful. It doesn’t matter the format so long as people are reading, because studies show that reading makes us better people. So, an eReader might not make you a better book lover, but it could provide someone who previously didn’t enjoy books the opportunity to fall in love with literature, which for my money is a gift beyond measure.
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