Magazine is a broken iPad!? Does screen replace paper? ~雑誌は壊れた!? 紙面が画面に代わる時代はくるのか〜


A video, titled “a magazine is an iPad that does not work”, is a hot topic on the Internet. The footage begins with a one-year-old baby girl who plays with an iPad, taking a swipe at the touch-screen tablet. Her parent takes away the device and gives her a magazine instead. And she keeps patting on its pages. It looks as if a magazine is no more than a broken tablet for her. This video is symbolic of the present day when electronic books are taking over paper books. Will the day really come when e-books completely replace paper books?




The share of e-books in the book mart is surely increasing year after year. A 2013 survey on e-books, released by Impress Innovation Lab, says that annual e-book sales in Japan totaled 72.9 billion yen in 2012, up 15.9% over the year before, accounting for 8% of total book sales in the year. E-books are more popular in the United States, where sales totaled 3,042 million dollars (about 300 billion yen). This means that e-books have taken a market share in excess of 20% in the country.





Many still hesitant to read e-books /依然多い電子書籍への抵抗感

On the other hand, there is another interesting data. According to a poll conducted in October 2013 by Cross Marketing Inc., 99% of the pollees said they know of e-books but only 15% of them replied they regularly read such books. The poll found that 61% of them “know e-books by name, but have no intention to read them”. This indicates that more than hall of Japanese people are still hesitant to accept e-books.




People now have two choices in reading books – paper books and e-books. For convenience’s sake, e-books may have an edge. But which are easier to read? Psychologists and information scientists have written papers after studying the differences between reading “on the paper” and that “on the screen.” Most of them have concluded that paper has advantages over screen as a reading medium.




The human brain treats letters and words as physical objects and perceives the whole sentences as a kind of physical landscape. When people try to locate a particular phrase or scene in a book, they often do so by remembering where it was in the entire text. When they read a paper book, focusing their attention on a particular page, they can always know where in the book they are by feeling the thickness and weight of the pages they have read with one hand and doing the same about the unread pages with the other hand. This gives them a mark that may help them remember a particular passage or scene.




Paper is easier to read /読みやすさで優る紙媒体

With a tablet, people find it harder to keep reading while constantly knowing where they are in the book. They may have an ambiguous feeling. But they cannot get a mark that will help them locate a passage or scene they want to remember. A paper book allows readers to know constantly how many pages they have read. This reduces their perception burden, giving them an extra power to spend on understanding the book’s content.




What is more, a tablet’s display emits light. A prolonged reading on the glossy, light-emitting screen can cause eyestrain, headache and blurred vision. Such physical tiredness blunts the ability to understand. As the tablet screen requires more attentiveness than a paper, people are apt to make less mental effort in the first place. They cannot efficiently read any lengthy sentences, which in turn makes them harder to remember what they have read.




All these may make one dubious if e-books will ever replace paper books. Forecasts say that e-books will carve 50% of the book market in the United States in 2017 and in Japan in 2020. Also, Japan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs & Communications (MIC) Ministry of Public Management is aiming to spread digital textbooks by 2020. When the girl with a broken iPad is grown up, will she witness magazines not working any more?





Written By: Yuxi Luo