Are e-books bad for long-term memory?

Some research to let you rethink – should you throw out all those books that are cluttering up your  post-modern minimalist space yet – your “pad” – once hip before it acquired  an “i-” and “kindle” was something you did to a fire. From Smart Planet by Amy Kraft

As the world becomes more and more digital, Kindles and Nooks are replacing classroom textbooks as learning aids. But new research shows that students should hold onto their hardcovers if they want to remember what they read.

Studies show that people have a harder time remembering facts and recalling the names of characters and details when reading an e-book. Researchers think this has to do with the way we evolved to remember things.

In one study by Kate Garland, a psychology lecturer at the University of Leicester in England, participants got a crash course in economics–a subject nobody understood. Those who were instructed to learn on an e-book required more repetition of the information before they could retain it. Participants learning on a hard book were able to understand the material more fully, meaning they were able to know the material so well that it just came to them.

Researchers think the problem with e-books could have to do with the lack of physical landmarks or associations that a person’s memory can use to help recall information. After all, it is just a blank screen with words that you read down. There is no right or left side of the page and some e-books don’t even have page numbers.

A recent article in Time magazine reports, “This seems irrelevant at first, but spatial context may be particularly important because evolution may have shaped the mind to easily recall location cues so we can find our way around. That’s why great memorizers since antiquity have used a trick called the ‘method of loci’ to associate facts they want to remember with places in spaces they already know, like rooms in their childhood home.”

Other studies by Jakob Nielsen, Web usability consultant and principal of the Nielsen Norman Group, show that smaller screens make reading material less memorable and typing or scrolling back to search for something is more distracting than turning the page. Nielsen told Time magazine: “Human short-term memory is extremely volatile and weak. That’s why there’s a huge benefit from being able to glance [across a page or two] and see [everything] simultaneously.”

Further studies are needed to show the types of learning material best suited for digital books. But it does make me wonder if an e-book called Improve Your Memory actually works


Amazon Shoppers Becoming E-Bookworms

The end of books as we know them or market hype?

By Erika Morphy E-Commerce Times

Amazon Shoppers Becoming E-Bookworms

The e-book era has arrived, according to Amazon, which is selling more Kindle books than hardcover books and paperbacks combined. “People are feeling more and more comfortable reading on digital displays,” said Azita Arvani of the Arvani Group. “That — combined with all the advantages of not having to carry a heavy load, paying relatively lower prices and instant access — has made e-books very popular.”

mazon (Nasdaq: AMZN) has reached a momentum milestone: Its customers are purchasing more Kindle books than print books — hardcover and paperback combined. This day was clearly coming. In July 2010, Kindle book sales surpassed hardcover sales. By December of that year, Kindle books overtook paperback books, becoming the most popular format on Amazon.

The company backed up its assertion with some numbers — although, as usual, not all the numbers necessary to do a deep dive into this trend. For instance, since April 1, it has sold 105 Kindle books for every 100 print books sold, including hardcover and paperback books that offer no Kindle version.

A more telling comparison would be sales revenues by category, which Amazon did not provide, although it did specify that its units-sold figures do not include free e-books.

Amazon did not respond to the E-Commerce Times’ request for comment.

Read full report  here