Intergraf, the Brussels based organisation representing Europe’s print associations, has called on the European Commission and EU member states to promote reading on paper in schools.
This follows publication of the Stavanger Declaration earlier this year which reported that the experience of reading and understanding is different between digital and paper. The E Read report is a meta study of 54 experiments across 19 countries involving more than 170,000 participants over four years. Its conclusion is that “the transition from paper to digital is not neutral”.
In short, even the digital native generation does not understand the meaning of long texts when read in digital form as when printed. What concerns Intergraf is that schools across Europe are promoting the use of digital technology, pushing out print. The longer term risk from this is that there will be a generation that is not as well educated nor as well equipped as a pre digital generation. There are severe long term consequences of the headlong rush into digital reading.
Intergraf is therefore calling on schools to prioritise print over digital reading. Print on paper is vital for “cognitive achievement across all ages”. It sets out an action plan for the European Commission, EU Member states and social partners.
Intergraf’s membership is drawn from the employer federations across Europe’s printing industry, and includes the BPIF. Membership is not restricted to EU member countries, though the key purpose of Intergraf is to represent Europe’s printing industry in Brussels and to influence policy makers. Brexit need not therefore affect UK membership.
This is the intention of the position paper published last week. It calls on the European Commission to recognise that digital is not always best, to promote the use of print in schools, to support further research into the impact of reading from a screen, to create guidelines for the implementation of digital technology, to support national implementations and to foster greater communication between academics, schools and those responsible for setting policy.
Intergraf points out that while the difference in understanding between reading from paper and from screen is well known in academic circles, it is not understood more widely where the transition to digital is considered to be progress. It suggests setting aside a time when only printed books are used and that national governments “motivate schools to used and for students to read, paper books”.
However, it faces a tough fight. Academic publishers have been using digital to create new products as well as to replace paper versions. Pearson, for example, has announced that college text books in the US would no longer be available to buy in print form, but only to rent in digital formats.
By Gareth Ward