Is paper book technology superior to ebook technology? Yes, when you take the long view. Paper books can last a thousand years, aren’t encrypted with DRM, and don’t depend on the largess of corporations which are more focused on short term profits than long-term archives.
What is the purpose of a book? That’s the question we should be answering when comparing different forms of books, like the recently announced iBook by Apple compared to a paper-based book. My simple take on a book’s purpose is: Books enable learning. So, which type of book is more effective?
On the heels of Appleâ€™s e-textbook announcement in New York City this week, publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt announced the results of its â€œHMC Fuse: Algebra Iâ€ pilot program at Ameila Earhart Middle School in Californiaâ€™s Riverside Unified School District. The Algebra I digital textbook is touted as the worldâ€™s first full-curriculum algebra application developed exclusively for Appleâ€™s iPad.
In its test run, the â€œHMH Fuseâ€ application helped more than 78 percent of students score â€œProficientâ€ or â€œAdvancedâ€ on the spring 2011 California Standards Test. That was significantly higher than the 59 percent of peers who used traditional textbooks.
I prefer reading a paper-based book. There’s a special feel of it. I’m not merely referring to the feel of paper, but actual ink printed on paper seems to me more permanent, more heavy, than digital bits. That feeling helps me engage more deeply. I am more focused. My mind is tasked to envision environments, draw diagrams and three dimensional objects. But I tick a particular way and it seems for the younger generation a fuller sensory experience coupled with interactivity might well be the more effective method for learning.