Print or digital

In the discussion of ebooks or paper books, it’s once been said that “Digital is best for accessing, and print is better for reading”. But, tools like Smart Pen, Next Gen Digital Book, and Paper Tab, seem to have blurred the distinction between digital and print technologies.

Livescribe Smart Pen

Livescribe Smart Pen, for instance, makes print and digital platforms interoperable (producing both print and digital text simultaneously using wifi).

The next generation digital books

The next gen digital book blends the physical with the virtual, incorporating other senses into the act of reading.


Paper Tab

Paper Tab, likewise, arms the paper design with digital capabilities, giving users the touch and feel of a paper while allowing for digital conveniences such as storage, accessibility and searchability.

Perhaps the question is no longer whether paper or digital texts are better, given that we can no longer draw a clear distinction between print and digital technologies. We should instead evaluate the merits of the individual tools.

Take the next gen ebook as an example: one of the drawbacks of this tool is that reading should involve thinking and imagining, not just the senses.

Tony Bates (2005) pointed out that print favors abstraction and may have “the advantages for dealing with logical and rational thinking”(p.70). Satisfying the five senses in the reading process doesn’t necessarily enhance reading if it does not provoke thoughts. The next gen ebook, as presented in the Ted Talk, has lots of potential, but the designers will need to harness the key advantage of print and, thus, focus on stimulating thoughts, not senses.

Bates, A. W. (2005). Technology, E-learning and Distance Education, 2nd Ed. New YOrk: Routledge.



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