For 'serious reading,' 92% of college students want to use physical books

'There really is a physical, tactile, kinesthetic component to reading'

Ninety-two percent of college students prefer reading a traditional book rather than an e-book, according to a new study.

The findings come as campus libraries seek to adjust to the digital age, cut costs, and optimize space—some are even going bookless.

For an upcoming book on reading in the digital age, American University linguistics professor Naomi Baron led a survey of about 300 college students from the United States, Japan, Germany, and Slovakia about "serious reading" preferences.

Students reported fewer distractions when reading a paper book, and fewer incidents of eye strain and headaches that often come from staring at a screen.

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"There really is a physical, tactile, kinesthetic component to reading," Baron says. Among the Slovakian responses, 10% noted they liked the smell of books.

Reading a physical copy of a book also makes it easier to see how far they've gotten in the reading, retain information by remembering where on the page the information was, and check things such as the author, according to the study.

However, e-books do run a bit cheaper than their physical counterparts. And some digital textbooks include interactive sections, but not all students understand how to leverage that technology in the best way, writes Arizona State University student Steven Hernandez in a campus paper op-ed (Hernandez, State Press, 2/4; Schaub, "Jacket Copy," Los Angeles Times, 2/8; Chang, Digital Trends, 2/7).

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