Why Our Human Senses Love to Read in Print

“When we read from paper, we try to read every word and search for a narrative or story,” says Sappi North America’s Daniel Dejan. “We read for content, which leads us to have a better understanding of the content.”

Dejan was speaking to the audience at last week’s ACT 8 Experience, hosted by the Magazine Innovation Center at the Meek School of Journalism and New Media, and offer some compelling reasons why we love to read in print. 

As Dejan explained, it’s the complete sensory involvement that helps to make the print reading experience much richer in many ways.

“When reading from print, four senses are activated: sight, haptics (touch), smell and sound. We see the layout and page design,” writes Leah Davis about the event. “Each print medium has a different type of paper that is used and a different texture that readers feel. Sound comes in the smallest, minute detail of the crinkling and turning of the pages in our books. All these senses are activated when we are reading from print.”

That sensory input adds a layer of communication between us and the medium that renders the experience more human and therefore more relatable. And our body responds in kind, as Dejan notes. When reading on paper, he explains, “our heart rate and blood pressure decreases, which allows us to stop and enjoy what we’re reading.” 

That enjoyment leads to better overall comprehension and proven health benefits. On digital devices, on the other hand, we go into what Dejan calls “skim mode,” as we search for keywords and imagery instead of going deep into the content.

Dejan’s company, Sappi North America, is an industry star at extolling the benefits of print, including a stunning report they released last year on the neuroscience of touch.

It’s a beautiful take on a scientific subject that continues to evolve as we get better at understanding our brains. The book is highly relevant to modern marketing best practices and the importance of engaging the senses in the customer journey. And for those of us who love good design, the imagery makes this one sing.

Dejan was just one of the speakers at the ACT 8 Experience, this year themed “Print Proud, Digital Smart” per Samir “Mr. Magazine” Husni, founder and director of the Magazine Innovation Center. As more brands embrace the “print proud, digital smart” mantra, it’s evident that when brands understand why readers love print, their bottom line responds beautifully too.