The Paperback vs. the eBook

Recently I’ve become a big podcast listener and this week’s New Tech City concerned an interesting topic: reading eBooks versus print editions. They interviewed several people who have done research the impacts before meeting with the author of Brain Pickings.

The interesting detail here is that Brain Pickings is a condensed version of a book into a single post at an incredible pace. Posting three times a day about three different books is a lot of reading, and to compile it requires a lot of retention.

New Tech City referred to this as the “The ‘Bi-literate’ Brain.” I think it’s an interesting concept, reading both the long form book for retention of the sequence of events and the short form BuzzFeed article.

Ultimately, the thought I had was, is this 2 separate skills? In abandoning the physical book, we lose a spatial representation of time - as we read the book we see that we’re half way through it visually. Simplistically this makes for an easy gage of time and what happens when. In a web page we have the idea of just how far we’ve scrolled for our progress. The different mediums - the glass and the paper - have their own mechanisms for tracking our progress.

My curiosity erupts around these changes breaking recollection of the eBook. If I’m “flipping” the page in the eBook, is that more like when I change tabs in Chrome than when I turn the page of my paperback? Am I now thinking about this as a new page and thus topic?

For all the talk of eye movement being more erratic with the eBook, I have to wonder if it’s just that when we’re comparing the things we’re not comparing the best of each form.