At school I often find myself printing twenty pages at a time so that I can look at something other than a screen. I have tried buying digital copies of assigned novels for convenience, only to walk to the bookstore and purchase a print version a few hours later.
There is something almost dissociating about clicking and dragging to highlight a paragraph or having the capability of searching an entire book for every occurrence of a character or phrase in my opinion. (Though it definitely comes in handy at 3am when I am writing a paper on a novel I haven’t retained, it is essentially the reason I haven’t retained it in the first place.)
I have about the attention span of a goldfish, and I almost feel jealous of computers for being such phenomenal multitaskers. With all of their abilities and potential, I am almost obligated to utilize these functions. So really, it is my moral duty while reading e-media to also scroll tumblr, and shop for sandals, and message friends, and take a buzzfeed quiz, and read up on current events. (At least it feels that way.)
Reading the article, I found I am hardly unique in this feeling: in her surveys, Baron writes that she found “jaw-dropping” results to the question of whether students were more likely to multitask in hard copy (1 percent) vs. reading on-screen (90 percent).
Her students described how print reading allowed them to create a mental map of the text. I thought this part of the article was particularly interesting, mostly because it rings so true. It explained that research has shown readers "remember the location of information simply by page and text layout — that, say, the key piece of dialogue was on that page early in the book with that one long paragraph and a smudge on the corner. Researchers think this plays a key role in comprehension." This then proves a problem for digital versions, offering less mental markers with its single uniform location.
As a brief “P.S” of sorts, this article reminded me of one of my favorite speeches. Even though Susan Orlean's particular focus is writing, I really think it can be related to any career path: especially what she voices about this digital vs. print debate. Her key message is that the work isn’t changing, just the packaging; that the technology is more a preference than a revolution. And even in a broader spectrum: conditions may change but our work doesn’t. The path that gets us there is strange and testing, but if we remain focused on our ultimate goal, how that path looks doesn't effect what we are able to achieve. So, when there are so many people seeking information, they choose how they'd like to consume it. There really is neither a debate nor threat of extinction: one doesn't have to replace the other, they work together to communicate a message.