April 21, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

In Praise of Print Books | SLJ Summit 2013

 Keynote by Annie Murphy Paul

The very limitations of the book are its strengths, according to journalist and author Annie Murphy Paul, speaking at School Library Journal’s 2013 Leadership Summit in Austin, TX.

Annie Murphy Paul (left) speaks with attendees at the 2013 SLJ Summit in Austin, TX.

In the below four-minute clip, Murphy Paul weighs the digital versus print reading experience, in responding to audience questions following her September 28 keynote (clip below).

Some evidence supports that a paper book does facilitate the reading experience, she says. But that could be due to adults who have grown up with the traditional medium, while younger readers may develop their own strategies for ‘mental marking.’

“More worrisome to me, says Murphy Paul, “is research suggesting that reading on a device that links out to the Internet is very distracting,” with the appearance of hyperlinks, in particular, presenting external choices that can disturb a reader’s focus.

“I always like to refer to the tale of Odysseus,” who ties himself to the mast to avoid temptation as his ship sails past the Sirens, she says. I consider reading a book “tying ourselves to the mast.”

“The only thing that you can do with a book is sit there and read it,” says Murphy Paul. “And that’s the wonderful thing that we all love about them.”

Here’s her complete keynote address:




Kathy Ishizuka About Kathy Ishizuka

Kathy Ishizuka (kishizuka@mediasourceinc.com@kishizuka on Twitter) is the Executive Editor of  School Library Journal.



  1. Nick Carr, in my opinion one of the savviest observers of the digital revolution, argues that the original Kindle, on which you could only read books and therefore weren’t subject to the kinds of distractions Murphy Paul talks about, was a “Trojan horse,” designed to get readers to try ebooks. The Kindle fire, he says, is a qualitative leap into new territory, one in which the book is part of a multi-application computer and reading is essentially just one app among many. The change in the nature of the reading experience is dramatic. Pithy quote:

    “If the technology of the page provided a barrier against the distractions of everyday life, encouraging the focus that is the essence of deep reading, the computer screen does the opposite. It inundates us with distractions, encourages the division of attention. It fights deep reading rather than promoting it.”

    E-reading after the e-reader

    • Steve Maricic says:

      There is an interesting article entitled “Why the brain prefers paper” in the latest issue of Scientific American. Studies done over the past two decades apparently show that people in general understand written material better if they read it on paper (as opposed to on a screen). In addition, they remember the material for a longer period of time.
      These findings are especially important for schools with special ed students, many of whom have trouble reading.