The advantages of going digital are obvious. Things like portability, storage, and cost-efficiency, but what’s less obvious is how these new age devices are impacting the quality of reading.

A study published in the Library & Information Science Research Journal in 2014 found that out of 143 10th grade students, e-books were significantly preferred. It also found that boys who didn’t previously care much for reading, were more likely to read with e-readers. This technology is clearly booming and could benefit overall literacy rates through its increasing interest and tech-savvy appeal. Lead author of this study told CBS News that “e-readers have more in common with the electronic devices that young people use all the time, like smartphones or iPads.” And while this may be true, it’s important to explore the ways in which e-readers may remove many valuable qualities that paper books subconsciously provide.

The Guardian reported on an experiment done in Norway where people were given short stories to read on a Kindle or in paper format. They were later quizzed and those who read in paper were more likely to remember plot points in the right order. Lead researcher for this study, Anne Mangen states, “When you read on paper you can sense with your fingers a pile of pages on the left growing, and shrinking on the right. You have a tactile sense of progress.”

A study on adolescent book reading in Australia found that one student described the attitude toward reading paper novels as a preference to “own something (rather) than just use it.”

But there is much more than just the nostalgia factor of holding an actual book and smelling it’s freshly pressed pages. In another study in 2014, the journal PNAS found that reading an e-book before bed decreased melatonin production, a hormone that helps prep the body for sleep. This impacts your alertness for the day ahead.

Reading can help you de-stress in just six minutes as found in a 2009 study but reading on a device may cancel out this effect due to the way our devices are now linked with bombarding notifications, harsh screen lights and unavoidable signals.

The debate is truly up in the air. It would appear that the benefits of e-readers and the ability they have to appeal to younger audiences is empowering young people to read and show interest in literacy. What do you prefer, e-readers or a physical book? We’d love to hear your comments and experiences in the comments below!

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