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The Future of Books: Digital vs Print - Which Is Better for My Child?

Updated: Oct 5, 2018

Tuesday, July 10, 2018


Books have been around for centuries, with swashbuckling adventures and enchanting worlds that humans have created and experienced from one generation to another.


Whether based on history or the imagination, books have a special place in our hearts for the wondrous stories they carry within. The squiggly scribbles and cursive letters that form these things we call words hold so much meaning and depth, if only on fragile sheets derived from the pulp of wood.


Photo: The consumption of digital books may be increasing, but that doesn’t mean that books are going anywhere. (Credit: Designed by Freepik)

However, books do not just exist on pieces of paper we thumb through. Today, we have digital books: books in every sense of the word—with the same text, same pictures… now on glowing screens.


As digital books are gaining popularity, especially with the ever-growing tech-minded population, where then do printed books belong in the digital age?


Let’s delve into what we know about books, specifically children’s books, in both print and digital formats.


Give any child a phone or tablet and you can keep them quiet for hours on end. In just one handheld device, there are hours and hours of entertainment, from games to YouTube videos and more. It’s the magic anecdote for tantrums and meltdowns... most of the time.


Reading has evolved from a primary source of entertainment to predominantly more of an educational activity. For digital natives, of course, having books available on technological devices can be immensely helpful in instilling their love of reading for pleasure.


Digital children’s books save space in your house, are more affordable and more convenient, as you don’t need to lug around heavy hardcover books in your bag to keep them entertained. Plus, you don’t need to deal with smaller ones tearing off the corners or scribbling on them. Nowadays, you can find interactive digital books with all sorts of animations and sound effects that make the reading experience that much more immersive.


A professor at Leiden University in the Netherlands, Adriana Bus, specialises in research dealing with reading and reading problems. Bus and her colleagues observed over 400 children in kindergarten and found that those who read interactive digital books with sounds and special effects had better understanding of the story and learned more words than those who read traditional static books. The enhancements that include music and sound effects are better processed by the child, as written language can be more difficult for children.


See also: Parents -To Digital or Not to Digital?


However, there is something to be said about the charming quality of printed children’s books. We marvel at well-made books for their palpable aesthetic quality and to experience the full visual effect. Both parents and kids can leaf through the glossy pages and take in all the vibrant colours and sublime illustrations etched onto paper. Some children’s books even have touch-and-feel elements on each spread and intricate pop-ups—all of which can never be replaced by the digital counterpart.


Ultimately, digital books won’t replace traditional printed books, just as film didn’t replace radio and television didn’t replace film. They all have a place in this world and can co-exist in harmony. As for if one is better than another, there is no right answer. Instead of choosing digital over print or vice versa for your child, why not have both?

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