Ebooks and Memory

I was just reading a couple of articles about how people seem to be having a harder time remembering content when reading from an ebook device. Some of the anecdotal and other research seems shows it is hard to retain facts and information when reading an e-book – there were issues of remembering elements such as characters from the stories. One scientist put this down as being an issue of screen size - that it is easier to remember from large than small - that this would have a notable impact when reading from a cell phone. Another reason put forth was that the effect may be associated by how ebooks provide fewer spatial landmarks than print.

 I do think that the spatial element could be impactful along with the screen size. I do wonder though about some of the other “studys” – if students are learning the device as well as learning content you have to contend with cognitive load.  For many it will take a good amount of time to become as familiar with etext reading as they are with printed text. I now always think back to Malcolm Gladwell's Blink, and his supposition that it takes about 10,000 hours of focused work to become expert at something. I know that when I started reading books on handhelds, cell phones and such that it took practice to get used to a new format. My suggestion for all new ereaders is that they start with a book that they have already read and like - and re-read it again with their device. That way they have less of a cognitive impact - they don't have to learn about using the device while they are trying to learn the content of what they are reading - also if they like the book it can provide a positive experience memory/emotion while reading. People forget just how long it took to get comfortable reading print - for most it is just something that you do, you don't remember how much work it took to get to where you are now.

Time Healthland 3/14/2012 http://healthland.time.com/2012/03/14/do-e-books-impair-memory/?xid=newsletter-healthland
Smart Planet | Smart Takes 3/18/2012: http://www.smartplanet.com/blog/smart-takes/are-e-books-bad-for-long-term-memory/24360