As mentioned in the introductory post about our literature reviews, the Books Right Here Right Now project has been looking at various key themes to inform our work. One of the themes explored readers’ preferences for online and printed texts.
The results of this research were mixed with some students preferring print for its ease of use – or their fondness for the physical feel of a book – while others preferred electronic access for the convenience and search functionality that it offers. Studies recognise that new forms of reading behaviour are occurring with electronic content, with the process of reading on screen being cognitively different to the process of reading on paper. Further research on the technological, behavioural, societal and neurological aspects of online reading is required but new forms of non-traditional reading behaviour include concepts such as ‘power-browsing’ through titles and readers following the ‘path-of-least-resistance’ to find the information they are looking for as quickly as possible. It is also acknowledged that the technological infrastructure for online reading is a work in progress. Problems such as eye fatigue from reading on screen are common, possibly putting major academic publishers off investing in e-readers for the time being.