Better memory from reading paper books

5 Aug

If you haven’t been listening to Mike Pesca’s podcast The Gist you have been missing one of the bright spots in the podcast universe. The July 29th episode is of particular interest to Peakmemory readers.

Pesca interviews Maria Konnikova about the difference between reading text on screens or paper. The bottom line, paper wins. Our best available research suggests that, with current technology, you have better memory for material you read on paper. In her New Yorker post Konnikova writes:

“We read more efficiently when text is arranged in a single column rather than multiple columns or sections. The font, color, and size of text can all act in tandem to make our reading experience easier or more difficult. And while these variables surely exist on paper just as they do on-screen, the range of formats and layouts online is far greater than it is in print. Online, you can find yourself transitioning to entirely new layouts from moment to moment, and, each time you do so, your eyes and your reading approach need to adjust. Each adjustment, in turn, takes mental and physical energy.”

This podcast also includes an account of the recent  Amelia Bedelia imbroglio.



In his comment Pesca speculates that Bedelia might have Asperger’s syndrome.

One Response to “Better memory from reading paper books”


  1. My health and some thoughts on time management | peakmemory - September 24, 2014

    […] Illness is said to focus our thoughts on our mortality. Perhaps, but I have been thinking a lot about time management. Not how much time we have but how well we use the time we have. A few days ago I linked to a post by Tyler Cowen about his time management strategies. Another economist, Austin Frakt, has responded with his, much longer, list. I will be interested in trying his suggestion of listening to podcasts at twice their normal speed. Some of his tips, such as working paper free, involve trade offs. I now read my newspapers entirely on Kindle, but both personal experience and evidence that suggests that material read on paper is better remembered. […]

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