The days of radiology residents lugging ten-pound textbooks around the department are over. I too prefer having a list of books to access at any time on my Ipad for pure convenience sake. In fact, I even reviewed and studied my Mettler textbook for nuclear medicine on my Ipad just prior to my recertification ABR examination a few years ago and it worked out just fine. But based upon recent literature, maybe we really should not be giving up on carrying around that 10-pound book… Today I will go through the arguments for and against buying and reading electronic radiology books versus carrying around and reading those unseemly heavy old-fashioned radiology textbooks.
Arguments For Reading Physical Radiology Books
Comprehension Retention Issues
When it specifically comes to reading and retaining knowledge from radiology specific books, I was not able to find much information out there on the web. However, there are significant studies that talk about comparing retention of general information from print materials vs. ereaders. Some of these studies are generally applicable to the radiology resident audience. In addition, logically there are also some other issues that can support the use of printed texts over ereaders.
Back in 2013 in the International Journal of Educational Research, lead author Anne Mangen in an article studied 72 tenth graders and compared reading retention in PDF format on a computer screen and in print. She found that students that read the texts in print had significantly better retention of the material than the students that read the material electronically. In terms of applicability to the radiologist, there are some differences, however. We tend to read images and look at the captions and text. So, perhaps there is some difference when it comes to the radiology resident.
Subjectively, there are also several surveys of readers touting comprehension advantages to printed books. In an article in Scientific American, one survey reported a conclusion that “when it comes to reading a book, even they prefer good, old-fashioned print” and another stated that readers “prefer to read text on paper as opposed to on a screen in order to ‘understand it with clarity'”. So, there is something also to be said about the perception of increased retention with old-fashioned printed texts.
Miscellaneous Other Issues
In addition, you may have difficulty getting to sleep after reading with an electronic device. A study called “Sleep and use of electronic devices in adolescence: results from a large population-based study” concluded that there is a negative relationship between use of technology and sleep. Now, radiology residents are a bit past adolescence for the most part, but I still think you can generalize this information to the insomniac radiology resident, knowing how I feel after reading information on my iPhone just prior to bedtime.
Also, there is the issue of eyestrain and reading eBooks. The information here is a bit more mixed as to the amount of eyestrain using eReaders vs. printed text. But, there was an interesting article presenting some of the issues regarding eye strain called “eReader Vs. Printed Book: Which Is Better For Your Eyesight?” They reported that Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS) is a real entity that can affect readers using electronic readers. However, that argument was somewhat tempered by a discussion of how backlit devices and softer ereaders such as the Nook and Kindle may actually help some readers.
And finally, there is the issue of diversions. When you read a printed textbook, you certainly do not have to worry about important emails popping up, your spouse calling you, or a silly text from your friend, or the thought that you need to click on the most recent exciting blog from radsresident.com! Instead, you can concentrate on the text with much less interruption.
Arguments For Reading Electronic Radiology Texts
Here I think that the first and foremost issue supporting the use of the eReader is sheer convenience and instant availability. The ability to carry 1000 books around in your pocket or in your hand is a wonderful achievement. Furthermore, at any given moment you can easily click on a link from your text and go directly to a source document that you can confirm on your iPhone. You just don’ t have the ability to do these sorts of things in a printed textbook.
There are multiple new ereaders that use different proprietary technologies to reduce eyestrain. In fact, one article reports eInk from the Kindle and the Nook has been reported to be a significant improvement over other ereaders. Also according to the same article, people with poor eyesight tended to read better with a backlit screen than on paper. In addition, for those with poor eyesight, one can easily adjust the size of the text with an ereader allowing the reader to enjoy an electronic text that they may not be able to read in the printed version.
Once you write on a printed text, the text is altered forever. On the other hand, you can highlight or write electronically in the margins of an ebook and not need to worry about destroying the book. Furthermore, you simply cannot write in someone else’s printed book without vandalizing someone else’s property. Another win for the electronic device!!!
This brings me to the next major advantage of eReaders- sharing. It is so easy to share a chapter, phrase, or important point with a fellow ereader. All it takes is the click of the button with a message or email and many people have the same information. Printed text is just not the same when it comes to sharing.
And finally, the issue of bookmarks… Most eReaders automatically bookmark the last page that you look at. If you lose your page on a standard text, there is a good chance that if you come back to it in a while without a bookmark, you will not remember the last page your read. At least, this is a big advantage for me!
So Who Wins This Death Match?
Unfortunately, it is very hard to convince someone about the manner in which to read a radiology book. We all have our set ways and opinions about how to read and what is more effective for us as an individual. And, there are real advantages and disadvantages to both. Although not conclusive, the body of evidence does point to increased retention for paper, but for many it may be outweighed by the significant convenience of e-texts. You can easily share an eBook, but you may have more eyestrain reading the same book. So what do you do in today’s world? I think it depends upon you as an individual and the resources that are available. The bottom line as a radiology resident- just make sure to read a lot regardless of the book type. It will serve as permanent foundation for the rest of your career!
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