Did you know that millennials really really like to read deadtree books?

RASHMEE ROSHAN LALL February 24, 2015

Millennials-300x192Millennials like to read deadtree books, reports The Washington Post, a declaration that is likely to have a lot of people doing double-takes.

Can this really be true considering they’re generally seen on their iPhones, iPads and Macs?

Yes, apparently, at least if you go by those who publish textbooks, own bookstores and conduct college student surveys. “All say millennials still strongly prefer print for pleasure and learning,” according to The Post. It quotes a pilot study of digital textbooks by the University of Washington, which found that a quarter of students still bought print versions of e-textbooks that they were given for free. Pew studies apparently also show that the highest print readership rates are among those ages 18 to 29.

According to Naomi S. Baron, an American University linguist who studies digital communication and published Words Onscreen: The Fate of Reading in a Digital World earlier this month, young people are conscious of the very different reading experience that comes from print versus digital words. She says that milennials know – and, crucially, do not like – the fact that onscreen reading leads to distraction and lower levels of comprehension. The Post quotes Ms Baron to distil her findings from years of student surveys about what they liked least about reading in print. Her favorite response: “It takes me longer because I read more carefully.”

This is an astonishing finding and it reveals an unsuspected sophistication about the choices that millennials make. We should not be surprised that they are hugely discerning. Just that they are very clear they prefer print over digital – in some key ways, at any rate.