I spoke to the newsroom staff of The Daily Gamecock on Friday, and learned a surprising thing: While older folks (alumni and parents) tend to read the online version, most actual students don’t. They prefer to read it on paper.
In a couple of ways that makes sense — the students can pick up the paper for free as they go into and come out of classes, so it’s just convenient to pick one up and peruse it. Meanwhile, alumni and parents don’t have such easy access to the print version.
But it still surprised me. I mean, I have easy access to The State and The Wall Street Journal, as I get both at home. But I almost never read them on paper. I prefer the iPad apps. It’s just easier to flip through the paper on a tablet while sitting at the breakfast table than to unfold the paper, turn the pages, try to fold it back into a convenient size and shape for continued reading, and so forth. And it always seems like the section you want has walked away somewhere. That doesn’t happen with a tablet.
And I never see the print version of The Washington Post, to which I also subscribe, at all.
So what’s with these wacky kids today?
I learned of this seeming anomaly from Sarah Scarborough, the advertising manager for Student Media. She told me about it before I met the news staff. Then it came up again while I was talking with the students, as they asked whether I had any ideas for making the online version more appealing to their fellow students.
But this is not just a USC phenomenon. One of the things I read on my Washington Post app this morning was this:
Why digital natives prefer reading in print. Yes, you read that right.
Frank Schembari loves books — printed books. He loves how they smell. He loves scribbling in the margins, underlining interesting sentences, folding a page corner to mark his place.
Schembari is not a retiree who sips tea at Politics and Prose or some other bookstore. He is 20, a junior at American University, and paging through a thick history of Israel between classes, he is evidence of a peculiar irony of the Internet age: Digital natives prefer reading in print.
“I like the feeling of it,” Schembari said, reading under natural light in a campus atrium, his smartphone next to him. “I like holding it. It’s not going off. It’s not making sounds.”
Textbook makers, bookstore owners and college student surveys all say millennials still strongly prefer print for pleasure and learning, a bias that surprises reading experts given the same group’s proclivity to consume most other content digitally. A University of Washington pilot study of digital textbooks found that a quarter of students still bought print versions of e-textbooks that they were given for free.
“These are people who aren’t supposed to remember what it’s like to even smell books,” said Naomi S. Baron, an American University linguist who studies digital communication. “It’s quite astounding.”…
Anyone else find this surprising?