Just the other day, Jasper and I were discussing buying Amiibos, those character figurines with NFC chips built-in that give little unique boosts in select Nintendo games.
“I don’t want to end up with a bunch of plastic figurines at home.” He was vehemently against them for both lifestyle and economic reasons.
“Why not?” I asked: “even though you want to build a library?” A library, full of real, tangible books made of tree pulp.
If you know anything about me, you know I mostly prefer electronic books over paper. Yet I didn’t find the idea of owning a shelf of plastic figures conflicting. But why is that?
The conversation got me curious: what are the real differences between a digital display and analog book? And in general, how do we psychologically perceive the ownership and consumption of intangible digital goods as opposed to tangible analog goods?
The Battle of E-Books vs Paper Books
When Borders declared bankruptcy in 2011 after e-book sales soared 1,260% between 2008 and 2010, the industry genuinely feared the digital apocalypse. 6 years later, the mere vitality of paper books in 2017 would probably come as a puzzling surprise to the digital advocates at the advent of digital book revolution. Why didn’t paper books go the way of CDs and vinyl?
In a Scientific American journal titled The Reading Brain in the Digital Age: The Science of Paper versus Screens, Ferris Jabr writes:
…evidence from laboratory experiments, polls and consumer reports indicates that modern screens and e-readers fail to adequately recreate certain tactile experiences of reading on paper that many people miss and, more importantly, prevent people from navigating long texts in an intuitive and satisfying way.
I was intrigued by the studies the article quoted. What exactly is missing in e-books? Are we losing inherent signals in e-books that aid our learning and understanding, or can we just write it off as a case of nostalgia? I bugged a friend of mine to pull out the research papers from some psychology database and took a deep dive into them myself.
Continue reading “On Digital and Analog”