|Kindle, a photo by ...-Wink-... on Flickr.|
I was surprised by this, especially since (in my opinion) many eBook editions are too pricey - I have even seen paperback versions of a book on sale in Amazon for a lower price than the eBook. How does that make sense?
While this was still fizzing around the back of my mind, I came across this blog: Why Books Are Better than e-Books for Children. The article asserts that if parents read eBooks with their children, it "...may actually impede our child’s ability to learn". If true, this would be worrying. The post referred to research from Temple University: Traditional books provide more positive parent-child interaction according to Temple, Erickson researchers. (It is worth noting that while the blog post is dated 28 December 2011, the research is dated 2006 - and five years is a very long time in the world of tech!)
Despite it's age, a couple of the points the research raises are interesting. One of its findings is related to the way eBooks can read the text to you:
'"It turned out that reading electronic books became a behaviorally oriented, slightly coercive parent-child interaction as opposed to talking about the story, relating it to the their child's life, or even talking about the book's pictures or text," Parish-Morris said. "Parents were under the impression that when you are sitting down with a book, you are supposed to read it," she added. "But what was happening with the e-books is that reading was not even part of the process, probably because these books literally read the story to the child. So parents are not needed. The book makes commands and tells the child what to do; it encourages them to play games and reads to the child, so parents are essentially replaced by this battery-operated machine."'This is an important point but it seems to me that this is no different from the story tapes we used to play for our children. They were not, of course, a substitute for reading to our children but they were a supplement. For example, it was while reading to my children at bedtime that I discovered Mr Tumnus has an Irish accent and (later on) that Aragorn sounds a bit like Clint Eastwood! But there were times when story tapes were invaluable, for example when we were going long journeys in a car. So I would argue that the problem here is not eBooks per se, but rather the way they are used.
The New York Times blog goes on to suggest, "Readers with an e-reader were focused on the device, not the story." I can see this would be an issue but probably only while the devices were new and novel. I remember having to teach people how to use the back button and hyperlinks on the first web browser but now the focus is on how to use the information accessed rather than the means of accessing it. If it is true that eBooks are outselling paper books, I think we can safely say that that we are well past they days of them being novel (pun intended) devices.
I am less than concerned therefore by the issues raised in the New York Times blog. It seems to me like another example that shows the truth of the phrase "It's not the tech, it's the teach". If the focus is on the reading and the parent child interaction, I suspect it makes no nevermind whether you use an eBook or a pBook!
I suspect though that this is worth further investigation. I must have a look for some more up-to-date research.