The Impact of eBooks

eBooks, also known as electronic books, are here to stay. Nowadays, many reads can fall under the category of an eBook. When we say “eBook” we simply refer to any text that you can read on your computer, tablet or phone. Many of us still prefer physical books, but we can admit that there are many known advantages of digital reading. We at Daastan had Damon re-visit us on Instagram to talk about the Impact of eBooks. Continue reading to find out what he said.

eBooks are Commonplace in Higher Education

Many universities and libraries worldwide are adopting “e-first” policies. This ensures that they take great advantage of the benefits that “ejournals” and eBooks may provide. Indeed, no one complains about having 24/7 access to resources and people do not have to fight for books at the library ever since eBooks have become available in greater quantities. Additionally, functions including highlighting, annotation of text, and searching can become enhanced when done digitally. If you have a sentence in mind and cannot find it on paper, you can surely dig it up instantly after a quick search online. Moreover, eBooks may be considered to offer greener and more sustainable solutions…

So, there are clearly many benefits of using eBooks, we get it. Considering that most people own smartphones today as well as seeing children play on their iPhones instead of Tamagotchis makes us wonder: how can we utilize the evolution of technology to benefit literacy instead of making it worse? 

Electronic Versus Printed Picture Books For Children

Well, research has taught us that children’s vocabulary expands with exposure to picture books during the early years of life. To teach toddlers novel words print picture books have been used. Children of only 15 months of age have shown that they can learn novel labels from picture books after just one reading session. Children of only 18 months of age know how generalize the labels that they learn from their picture books to corresponding real-world embodiments. This means that they are able to transfer what they learn from print picturebooks and know how apply it to their real-world knowledge, with great ease. Researchers have therefore questioned whether this transferability operates as smoothly in the context of eBooks. There is reason to predict that children’s learning might vary with electronic versus print format due to the difference of reading experience. 

Transferring Knowledge From eBooks to Real Life

To continue the discussion presented above, a research team conducted a study in order to investigate whether screen media is suitable for learning and transfer of learned information relative to printed book reading. A picture book (with identical features) in print and electronic format was created. This enabled the researchers to make direct comparisons between word learning from physical pages versus word learning from screen media. The mission was to repeatedly expose children to novel objects to warrant them to form an understanding of the labeled novel object. Thus, the goal was to enable generalization and transfer of the newly learned object to real-world exemplars. 73 toddlers, aged 1.5-2 years, were recruited for this study.

After being read either a print book or an electronic book, it could be seen that toddlers in both conditions would learn the label as presented in the book. However, only those reading the traditional book would generalize and transfer the learnt label to real-world contexts. Conversely, contrasting findings were attained when they applied the same research design on an older group of toddlers (aged 2-2.5 years). This time, the toddlers did present generalization and transferability skills from the electronic book. This study thereby concluded that age might be an important variable in relation to the impact of eBooks on learning.

Still, it is worth mentioning that across all ages it could be seen that those children who had more technological experience as part of their households growing up, were capable of transferring more from the electronic books than those without media exposure. So perhaps it could be argued that familiarity of technology plays an important role in learning outcomes amongst young children.

Parent-Toddler Dynamic When Reading eBooks

Despite the basis of the aforementioned research, information is still lacking regarding the behaviors and language that normally occur when adults read eBooks with their toddlers and infants. This gap in the literature inspired the same research team to carry out a similar study as the ones before. This time, however, they tried examining differences in child and parent language-use and behavior when reading eBooks versus physical versions of the same books. Parents of toddlers aged between 1.5-2 were instructed to read either two print format books or two electronic books. After reading, children were asked to identify one of the animals that they had seen in the books. They essentially had to identify the animal in separate pictures and when it was presented as a real-life toy format. 

The results of this study generated positive feedback for the use electronic books. Toddlers with electronic books would make themselves more accessible for reading, pay better attention, and produce more reflectional comments during reading than those who had their parents read print versions of the books. Toddlers were also able to correctly identify the peculiar animals labeled in the book more often when they had read the electronic books. This learning outcome could be resulted from the increased level of attention and engagement that eBooks may potentially provide. However, more research is still needed to dictate the detriments and advantages of eBook formats among very young children. 

Should Schools Be Offering More Electronic Books?

A clear connection has yet to be established between electronic books and youngster’s skills and reading motivation. Although, an evaluation study conducted by the National Literacy Trust looked at the Impact of eBooks and found that electronic books elevated pupils’ reading motivation and skills. This finding especially rang true for boys who demonstrated low levels of reading enjoyment. 

In fact, girls usually outperform boys when literacy achievement is measured. This gender gap is encountered irrespective of geographical location and is persistent over developmental time. Therefore, It has been proposed that by devising eBooks with interactive features boys can become more engaged in readings.  

Encouraging Reluctant Readers

Compelling case studies reveal that ebooks could potentially be instigated to encourage individuals who are reluctant readers to read. Electronic books might serve to close the gender gap making boys more motivated to read, seeing that children today are especially engaged by technology. Still, expectations must be kept realistic. A screen cannot magically in itself mutate a disinclined reader to become a bookworm just like that. Moreover, interactive features of electronic books could negatively impact younger boys’ already weak self-regulation skills; and consequently, this can impede literacy achievement. 

Overall, it could be argued that technology does not have to be harmful by itself. Perhaps the importance resides in the context in which it is used. Synchronized interactions between child, parent, and technological features are essential. The broad social context in which learning and teaching interactions are embedded plays a vital role. It will be interesting to see the Impact of eBooks on future generations. 

Protect Your Eyes and Sleep Like a Baby

Reading on your phone, tablet or computer with maximum screen brightness right before bedtime is bad. We have all probably heard this advice before and it can be tiring to hear it again and again. According to science, however, the brain’s melatonin production is suppressed by electronic readers, thus making it hard to fall asleep. So even if you are an eBook-lover, it might be best to employ paper books for your nighttime reading. 

Watch Damon’s presentation about the Impact of eBooks here. Otherwise we recommend that you watch Damon’s previous live sessions about “Mind Wandering during Reading“, “Bibliotherapy“, and “Reading for Empathy“.

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