Submitted: The Two Sides Team August 14, 2019
Wired article reveals some drawbacks of “digital-first” textbooks
In a recent Wired article, “The Radical Transformation of the Textbook,” writer Brian Barrett reports that digital textbooks cost less than their physical counterparts, take up less space, and get more frequent updates. However, when it comes to retention and comprehension, traditional paper textbooks still produce better results for students. As the article points out, digital-only is not necessarily the best choice for many students. For example, the digital divide means that students in low-income and rural households may have less access to reliable internet and fewer connected devices. Digital-first textbooks may create challenges for these students.
According to the article: “We are finding that even though undergraduates prefer to read digitally, these preferences aren’t showing positive or even equalness in terms of the effect on comprehension,” says Lauren Singer Trakhman, a reading comprehension researcher at the University of Maryland’s Disciplined and Learning Research Laboratory.
Two Sides NA’s comprehensive fact sheets have also explored the growing body of research showing the critical role that print and paper plays in literacy and learning. For instance, studies that compare the efficiency and effectiveness of print vs. paperless reading find that print has key advantages to readers. Results show that they:
- “Read more quickly”
- “Experience less mental fatigue”
- “Report significantly lower levels of eye fatigue following reading”
- “Find it easier to concentrate”
- “Retain more of what they read” 
- “Score better on reading comprehension tests”
In addition, research on learning from paper vs. learning from screens reveal that although the current generation of students prefers new technology, nearly all students surveyed expressed a preference for paper, usually saying they felt they performed better when reading on paper rather than a screen. From learning to comprehension to retention—print and paper deliver proven benefits and continue to play an essential role in education and development.
For more the role print plays in learning and literacy, check out our fact sheet.
Read more in the Wired article: “The Radical Transformation of the Textbook”
 Christensen, 2013. http://sciencenordic.com/paper-beats-computer-screens