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Education

In a digital world, kids still prefer their books in print

Girl reading book
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I love reading paper books. The process of perusing bookstore and library shelves. The feeling of turning pages and the way they smell.

A few years ago, my husband bought me a Nook from Barnes and Noble so I could download e-books and have them at my fingertips. But I must admit that after a few uses, it now sits unused on my nightstand.

Why? Because reading books in print gives me an experience reading e-books doesn't.

And I'm not alone. Over half of kids ages 6 to 17 prefer to read in print, according to a recent report from Scholastic.

Scholastic's 2015 Kids and Family Reading report found 65% of children ages 6 to 17 agreed they would always want to read in print, up from 60% in 2012. And 77% of kids who had tried reading e-books said that the majority of the books they read were in print.

Researchers have found that even though young people are digital natives - familiar with computers and the Internet from an early age - they prefer print books for many reasons, including the tactile experience, print books being less distracting than reading on e-readers, tablets and laptops - and yes, even the way books smell.

Susie Harkey is the media coordinator at Park View Elementary School in Mooresville, N.C. She told Education Week:

Our teachers are using digital books more than ever before. Students are very familiar with digital content, but I don't think they equate reading with their iPads. They like to have something in hand.

And this preference isn't limited to kids. Studies show college students also prefer print books for many of the same reasons.

In fact, a study from earlier this year found 92% of college students in the U.S. favored paper books over e-book versions. Researcher Naomi Baron is an American University linguist who studies digital communication. She told the Los Angeles Times:

When I asked what they don't like about reading on a screen — they like to know how far they've gone in the book. You can read at the bottom of the screen what percent you've finished, but it's a totally different feel to know you've read an inch worth and you have another inch and a half to go. There are the aspects of the reading experience that computers just can't replicate - yet.

E-books do have their advantages. There's the convenience of portability and availability of titles; being able to fit hundreds of books on a single device; and the fact that many books are cheaper in digital form than in print.

But for now, I think it's safe to say paper books are safe from extinction for a little while longer. 

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