Researchers asked more than 420 university students from the U.S., Slovakia, Japan and Germany in 2010 and 2013. They found that 92 percent preferred paper books instead of e-books. The survey was part of the book research from American University's linguistics professor Naomi Baron who penned Words Onscreen: The Fate of Reading in a Digital World.

In 2010, the team found that 92 percent of college students in the U.S. favored the paper book version over the e-book version. About 95 percent of German students and 77 percent of Japanese student said the same.

The team also found that the main reason why students used e-books was because they were cheaper than the traditional paper book versions. It wasn't always because it was easier to use or lighter to carry but some of the survey's open answers included space saving reasons and convenience. When it comes to preference, paper trumps the screen.

The team got the same figures in its 2013 survey. Researchers found that if paper books and e-books for leisure cost the same. About 80 percent across the three countries (U.S., Japan and Germany) will still prefer the paper book variant. As for the academic paper books and e-books, about 94 percent of university students in Germany would go for the paper version if the prices are the same.

Those who preferred the digital versions said they were concerned about the environmental consequences that paper books carry, for instance, cutting down trees for the books' raw materials. In 2010, 21 percent of the participants said being eco-friendly was their main reason for getting the digital version.

Baron's new book looks into technology's impact on reading and learning habits around the world. In her interview with New Republic, reporter Alice Robb asked her why she thinks young people still prefer paper books when this demographic is the most adapted to doing things on screen.

Baron said young people are resistant to e-books because they say they are distracted and they had to deal with headaches and physical discomfort such as eyestrain when reading e-book versions of college books.

When her team surveyed Slovakian students, one out of ten said they enjoyed the smell of books when reading in hard copy. There were also other student show said they get this sense of accomplishment when they finish reading a paper book and they want to see it on the bookshelf.

"There really is a physical, tactile, kinesthetic component to reading," said Baron during the New Republic interview.

When it comes to light reading, such as news and other feature articles wherein visual components cover most of the pages, reading on screen seems to be the better choice. However, when it comes to reading best sellers or academic books for school papers, traditional paper text books still rule.

Photo: Francisco Osorio | Flickr

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