A recent study by the UK National Literacy Trust found that those children who read only e-books on a daily basis are less likely to be strong readers than those who read in print. The report recognised the advantages of technology but called for a healthier balance in using technological devices and books.
The UK National Literacy Trust did research with 34,910 young people, ages 8 to 16. The influence of this technology on children’s reading abilities and their enjoyment of reading were examined. It found those who read daily only on-screen are nearly twice less likely to be above average readers than those who read daily in print or in print and on-screen (15.5% vs. 26%). Those who read only on-screen are also more than three times less likely to enjoy reading very much (12% vs. 51%) and a third less likely to have a favourite book (59% vs. 77%).
Such studies do bring cause for thought: as children move closer and closer to getting their own e-readers which replace collections of traditional print books – how is it affecting their communication and reading skills? How does it affect their enjoyment of the reading experience, as opposed to just scanning or learning facts? Can any patterns in the types of books being selected for publication be discerned now that the market is increasingly being dominated by a couple of companies.
Bookshops are disappearing from communities as consumers opt more and more for e-books. Borders disappeared in 2011, and gradually a pattern is emerging with consumers going for e-books over paper copies. How long has it been since you stepped into a local bookshop to browse and buy a book for yourself or your children? It used to be more common than it is today. Talking about books with a local supplier, getting a book autographed, meeting an author, flipping back and forth through a favourite book, attending a book festival with friends, browsing shelves and finding a treasured hard copy book are all fast becoming a thing of the past. Big online companies have come to dominate the market, squeezing out small publishers with potentially worthwhile books.
What does this mean for books and literature? This is the first in a series of articles highlighting the loss of traditional bookshops, the increasing use of e-books and other trends in the world of literature.
A former children’s librarian, Jane Fagan is currently a full-time mother of two.