In an article for the New York Times technology blog, Bits, journalist Nick Bilton discusses his decision to return to reading print books after a years-long hiatus—motivated in large part by his dog, Pixel.

When Bilton used a digital device to read, Pixel was distracted by reflections from the screen. And by distracted, I mean that she tried to chase the reflections, which created even greater distractions for her owner. When the situation became unbearable, Pixel’s human tried reading print books, more out of desperation than preference.

But a funny thing happened on the way to a placated Pixel. Bilton rekindled his own fondness for reading printed books, and now prefers them to digital.

Naturally, there are pros and cons to both digital and print. They have been outlined on this blog in the past. Print helps the reader stay focused by virtue of the fact that it serves a single function. No emails, texts, or social media notifications coming in just when you start to become lost in the story. No dog jumping on your lap, trying to chase the glint from the screen that you maybe moved half an inch, just when you get to the good part.

Digital’s pros are also compelling. It’s hard to argue with the convenience of carrying hundreds of titles in a device that’s smaller and lighter than a single paperback book. The appeal of a built-in dictionary is also tempting. How often do you run across a word you don’t know but forget to look it up? Social sharing is another important function of digital reading. Show your fellow readers that turn of phrase that you find so clever!

When you choose which format—or formats—to use for your association’s continuing education classes, remember why your learners are reading in the first place. Comprehension and retention matter a great deal, and by many accounts, print is the best choice. According a report cited in Bilton’s article, readers of print books had significantly higher scores on a test that measured understanding, compared to students who read from a screen.

If a learner can’t remember what was taught in a continuing education course when they return to their jobs, will it matter that providing only digital content saved your association a little money? In other words, is your goal to be an educational resource to members of your association, or to spend less than you did last year?

You may be in a position where you’re asked to do both, and that’s tough. Keep in mind, though, that your educational mission is what sets you apart from all of the free webinars and MOOCs online. Your association’s high-quality content, delivered face-to-face by talented instructors, are what makes your association’s continuing education courses the best in the business.

Follow that by providing content in the format proven to improve retention—that is, print—with supplemental materials and other content delivered digitally, and your association will earn the reputation of doing what’s best for learners at every step.

Omnipress can help your association establish itself as an educational leader in the field. When you leave print, fulfillment, online training materials, and inventory management to us, you’ll have the time you need to focus on improving and expanding your course offerings. We will provide high-quality printed course books that your learners can use to read deeply and internalize the content your instructors present, which creates a better learning experience for everyone.

About Omnipress

Omnipress delivers educational content for associations and other organizations. Digital and print solutions for in-person, virtual, and hybrid conferences and training programs.

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