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How well do you remember your last digital read?

21st April 2019

How well do you remember your last digital read?How well do you remember your last digital read?

There has been a recurring discussion amongst our bookish contacts about how well we remember the title and author of a book that we have been reading on a device rather than turning the pages of a paper book.

This was particularly clear when I was reading a very enthralling book set in Southern France – I could well remember the location because it is integral to the storyline, it is beautifully evoked by the author (and after all, that is in part our raison d’être)… you can smell the hot shrubs and feel the sun beating down on your skin. The pace was good, the characters credible. But, erm.. I have forgotten the title and the author. In this instance it was an ARC that was sent to us, it didn’t yet have a cover to really hook me in and visually anchor my memory cells. But is that really a problem…?

Well, yes, I think it is. Having further explored this theme with anyone of a bookish bent over the last few weeks – and most recently with Nicole Pyles who is looking at the visuality of books on Instagram – there is a consensus in my short and unscientific survey that indicates that digital books don’t register nearly as powerfully on one’s consciousness as paper copies of books do.

One factor for me is that when you pick up a paperback, there is a cover that you glimpse every time you open and close the book. There is often a lot of colour. Even as you place the book to one side you are more than likely to gain a glimpse of the bookcover with a fleeting reminder of title and author. The number of impressions on the subconscious builds up over time and the three factors – the cover, the title and the author’s name together – become linked. Voilà, the book as a whole is more likely to “stick”.

Digital copies – Kindle, Smartphones and the like – are functional. They are lightweight ways of taking a book on a journey, they are easy to use, they save on paper; BUT how often do you glimpse the cover design, the title, the author?  I think it is the lack of the visual cover, combined with title and author’s name – a reminder of what you are reading as you open and close the book – that gradually embeds both title and author into the reader’s unconscious brain. We are after all for the most part visual beings. When we “see’ things we are more likely to connect and remember.

Maybe one can also factor in the tactile element. Books are often soft, nice in the hand. A Kindle is hard and unforgiving (and of course wins hands down in the practical stakes).

We would love to hear your thoughts on this issue!

(And the title and author of the thriller, that was very good, set in Hérault? “The Holiday” by T M Logan. Published on 13 June. One to look out for!)

Tina for the TripFiction Team

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  1. User: Bookertalk

    Posted on: 13/08/2019 at 7:50 pm

    There have been numerous studies which show that we absorb electronic information in a completely different way to printed information. When people are asked to read a piece of text and then asked questions about that text, the amount of info retained is noticeably less if they read it online or on an electronic device.


  2. User: Nicole Pyles

    Posted on: 24/04/2019 at 5:48 pm

    Fantastic insight! And I notice also for me, I tend to re-read print books way more than I am inclined to re-read e-books. Thanks for linking to me by the way! 🙂


  3. User: Allana

    Posted on: 21/04/2019 at 7:01 pm

    I totally agree, as much as I love my Kindle I have the need to read a printed paperback, then a digitised book, then another paperback and so on. My head needs to disassociate from the last digital book or they blur into one.


  4. User: Jane Willis

    Posted on: 21/04/2019 at 12:47 pm

    I so agree – with a physical book, you are constantly reminded of the author and title – even when you aren’t reading, you often catch a glimpse of the book, waiting for you to pick it up again. I do love my Kindle and iBooks, they make travelling so much easier, but they will always be something to use as well as real books, not instead of them.


  5. User: Beth Elliott

    Posted on: 21/04/2019 at 12:43 pm

    So true. I love handling a paper book, being able to refer back to check a detail or savour a passage again as I read. And yes, I retain the story, writing, etc. Whereas an electronic read fades fast.