Do you feel as though you forget most of what you read online or on your Kindle or iPad? You may not be alone. A fascinating article delves into research revealing the differences between the way we process information from differing platforms – chiefly physical books vs information from screens.
I certainly feel that I forget the characters, plots and endings of novels read on my Kindle much more quickly (and completely) than for physical books, and the anecdotal evidence from my book group friends suggests that this is a common experience for them, too.
Does this phenomenon have a part to play in how successfully students and researchers assimilate information into their own written work? This isn’t specifically mentioned in the article – but ‘reading between the lines’ I think it may well be worth considering. When you are reading around a topic – perhaps to help you to develop ideas for research, or to deepen your background knowledge or, more specifically, to build up the content of your literature review – would you benefit from reading ‘real’ physical books and journals in your university’s library, rather than dipping in and out of a wide range of online sources? The information you read electronically may just not have the mental impact of information gleaned from paper pages – because of all those tactile and spatial aspects which onscreen sources lack.
I also wonder if simply printing your online sources out and filing them (on recycled paper from sustainable sources, of course!) might go at least some way towards helping to fix the information more firmly in your mind (perhaps helpful for exam revision, too?). I have a feeling that, even if you don’t look at it again, the fact that it exists physically in your workspace may have psychological benefits.
I’d be really interested to know your experiences and thoughts on this – so do send me your comments.