Studies in the past two decades indicate that people often understand and remember text on paper better than on a screen. Screens may inhibit comprehension by preventing people from intuitively navigating and mentally mapping long texts. … In general, screens are also more cognitively and physically taxing than paper. Scrolling demands constant conscious effort, and LCD screens on tablets and laptops can strain the eyes and cause headaches by shining light directly on people 's faces. … Preliminary research suggests that even so-called digital natives are more likely to recall the gist of a story when they read it on paper because enhanced e-books and e-readers themselves are too distracting. Paper's greatest strength may be its simplicity.
We need to read and to be readers now more than ever. ... We overschedule our days and complain constantly about being too busy. We shop endlessly for stuff we don’t need and then feel oppressed by the clutter that surrounds us. We rarely sleep well or enough. We compare our bodies to the artificial ones we see in magazines and our lives to the exaggerated ones we see on television. We watch cooking shows and then eat fast food. We worry ourselves sick and join gyms we don’t visit. We keep up with hundreds of acquaintances but rarely see our best friends. We bombard ourselves with video clips and emails and instant messages. We even interrupt our interruptions. ... And at the heart of it, for so many, is fear—fear that we are missing out on something. Wherever we are, someone somewhere is doing or seeing or eating or listening to something better. ... Books are uniquely suited to helping us change our relationship to the rhythms and habits of daily life in this world of endless connectivity. We can’t interrupt books; we can only interrupt ourselves while reading them.
The invention of parchment is traditionally ascribed to King Eumenes II of Pergamon, ruler from 197 to 159 BCE of a Greek city-state located in what is now northwestern Turkey. Pergamon comprised only the city itself and a few local towns when Eumenes was crowned as king, but at his death thirty-eight years later it had been transformed into a political, martial, and cultural powerhouse. Chief among his achievements was the founding of a great library to rival that of Alexandria, and Eumenes’s institution boasted some 200,000 volumes at its peak. The Pergamenes’ book-collecting mania was so notorious that citizens of the nearby town of Scepsis, having inherited Aristotle’s library from one of the late philosopher’s students, took the extraordinary step of burying its literary treasure to stop it falling into the hands of their acquisitive neighbors. ... Writing in the first century CE, Pliny says that King Ptolemy of Egypt—the same Ptolemy, presumably, whom Eumenes had goaded with his importunate headhunting—was so incensed by the rise of Pergamon’s library that he banned exports of the papyrus on which it depended. Eumenes responded to the embargo by directing his subjects to find an alternative writing surface; thus, parchment was invented, and Eumenes got the credit. ... Parchment’s origins were a good deal more ancient, and its road to prominence much bloodier, than Pliny knew.