Science Proves Choosing Print Books over e-Books Improves our Well-Being

Want to sleep better? Have a closer relationship with your kids? You might want to look at your reading habits.

Digital books and the bad night’s sleep

According to a recent Harvard study, viewing content on a lit screen at night is really bad for you. Penn Collins, writing in Good, cites several studies that show that screen’s light is “messing with melatonin, circadian cycles, and the like, which all lead to you feeling tired when you wake up.”

“We found the body’s natural circadian rhythms were interrupted by the short-wavelength enriched light, otherwise known as blue light, from these electronic devices,” said Anne-Marie Chang, part of the team of neuroscientists behind the study, according to Harvard Medical School.

Print books make for better parenting

It’s not just sleep that is affected by screen time, Collins notes. Children learning to read can be significantly hampered by learning on e-books.

“A 2013 study found that kids age 3-5 had a lower comprehension when they were read to from an e-reader than a physical book,” Collins notes.  “There could be a few reasons for the discrepancy, but the prevailing notion was that both the child and the adult reading focused more attention on the device and its settings than they did on the story and explaining it.”

Better sleep and enhanced comprehension aren’t the only benefits of reading print books. Sharing a physical book with a child can actually make you a better parent – or aunt, uncle, grandparent or big sister.

“Video observations of shared reading sessions of 24 sets of British mothers and their kids, ages seven to nine—sometimes with the child reading and at others with the mother reading—revealed that physical book sessions were more lively and loving than shared tablet reading,” writes Ephrat Livni in Quartz.

“The interactions of parent and child were found to be different in the…video observation of the study. When they read from paper rather than a screen, there was a significant increase in the warmth of the parent/child interactions: more laughter, more smiling, more shows of affection,” Livni notes.

This could be due to the position of the readers – with a tablet, heads are down perhaps making it harder to snuggle and making the experience feel like a solo activity, the research suggests.

Hardcover unit sales overtake e-books

The publishing industry is feeling the pinch of all of this. In a keynote to open the recent Digital Book World conference in NYC, Jonathan Stolper of Nielsen Book reported on the continuing fall-off of e-book sales.

According to Jim Milliot writing in Publisher’s Weekly, “Nielsen found that e-book unit sales from reporting publishers were down 16% in 2016 from 2015.

“Units fell the most in the juvenile fiction segment, where e-book sales dropped 28% in the year and accounted for 10% of total category unit sales in 2016, down from 14%. (E-books have never been a big factor in juvenile nonfiction and accounted for 1% of units sold in 2016.),” Milliot continued.

Stolper cited pricing as one likely reason for the decline, as many publishers pushed up e-book prices over the past couple of years. Secondly, the drop in tablet sales means less enthusiastic consumers for the format. Whatever the reason, “unit sales of hardcovers overtook unit sales of e–books,” Milliot reports.

“With hardcover units up 5% in 2016 over 2015, hardcover’s 188 million units sold topped that of e-books for the first time since Borders closed in 2012,” Milliot continues.

Do e-books have their place? Sure they do. Are they poised to replace print? Not at all, for both scientific and good old human reasons.