Traditional books vs. e-books. Who wins?

This YouTube video attracted almost three million hits and shows a one-year-old girl trying to play with a magazine like it's an iPad. Find a link to the video with Social Life at — Photo courtesy of UserExperiencesWorks

Social media may be a mystery to you, but it’s a mystery that fascinates and engages millions. And, it’s not so mysterious. It’s really just what we share with friends over a cup of coffee, but relocated to the World Wide Web. Social Life is a bi-monthly column about Martha’s Vineyard’s virtual social life and other digital topics.

When a YouTube video goes viral, it really goes viral. It starts popping up on Twitter feed over and over again, and it even becomes a conversation starter, “Hey, did you see that cute video of this baby animal sleeping?”

Last week, one video caught my attention, “A magazine is an iPad that does not work.”

Just as the title suggests, a magazine is an iPad that doesn’t quite work. Who knew?

The video shows a confused little girl who navigates the iPad screen flawlessly, but when she sits down in front of a magazine, she doesn’t understand why her finger swipe won’t make the perfume in the ad move.

I thought, “Is this what we are up against now?”

First, newspapers faced the threat. Now magazines and books, and next up most likely movies and television shows.

E-readers have attracted a large following since handheld reading devices debuted. From iPads to Kindles, both authors and readers seem to gravitate toward downloadable books that can be stored in (on?) iCloud.

I’m a huge fan of my Kindle. I bought mine in college. I decided to make the big purchase because I didn’t want to spend more than $300 on textbooks.

I always conducted a thorough research before ordering textbooks. My international relations classes always required expensive fiction and nonfiction, and as a poor college student, every penny mattered.

When I saw that one book I needed, “All the Shah’s Men” by Stephen Kinzer, went for $9.99 for the Kindle edition and $11.99 + shipping for the print edition, the decision was made for me.

Since, I’ve fallen in love. No more carrying 20 heavy books to the library. No more realizing I’ve forgotten a book when I got to class. No more hardcovers weighing down my purse.

Still, I have memories of thumbing through old encyclopedia for my research papers. I still have a large collection of my favorite books, in paper, neatly on my bookshelf. Heck, I still own a library card. Is that still a “thing” these days?

But what will happen five, 10, 15 years from now?

The baby in that video had no clue why she couldn’t drag the graphic from the top of the page to the bottom. She may have figured out that turning the page brings her new content, but she’s still unhappy about the static photo.

I asked on the MV Times’ Facebook page, what readers think about this. Do they give their kids reading apps? Or do they stick with traditional paperbacks?

One reader said, “We have iPhones, computers and an iPad, but our two-year old has very limited use of any of them. He enjoys them a little too much and gets very upset when they are taken away, so we find it best to avoid altogether. Besides, he is crazy about books, and that is a much more interactive activity.”

While I am happy to hear this child is crazy about books, I have to ask, how many kids out there truly appreciate traditional books?

Boston Globe reported in an article, “Trying to Gauge the Impact of Growing Digital,” according to a 2010 survey from the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sasame Workshop, at least two-thirds of 4- to 7-year-olds have used an iPhone or iPod.

Smartphones and reading devices do offer educational apps, and I am hoping these are what the kids do when they hold their parents’ iPhones, not playing Angry Birds or downloading pop music.

The American Museum of Natural History takes you on a virtual tour of the galaxy. Google Earth pinpoints the location, the history and the photographs of the Seven Wonders of the World. WorldCat tells you how to find the book you need in a nearby library.

Sound like pretty helpful and fun learning experiences to me. How about the idea of “interactivity” then?

Reading books with mom or dad lets the child interact with his or her parents. They can read out loud. They can follow along with their index finger. They can ask questions.

On the other hand, when the screen zooms into a star and gives you a 360˚ view of the moon, that’s interactivity as well. Perhaps a cooler, more fun interaction.

Clearly both paper and cloth books and e-books have positives. Then what’s the negative?

According to Research Unit Media Convergence of Johannes Gutenberg University, Mainz, nothing.

Mashable recently wrote an article, “E-books or Printed Books: Which are Better For You?

The answer, neither. Both let you take in the same amount of information, and there is “no reading culture clash.”

It depends on your preference, because you still retain the same amount of information, and your brain reacts the same way.

When it simply comes down to individual, I must say, kids will choose e-books. Colorful photos, animations, video clips – what’s not to like?

Especially for five-year-olds. Between a static page with one photo and a paragraph and a screen that they can control with finger swipes, kids will go for the latter.

This is a scary change for education. Libraries now lend Kindles. Classroom materials come on iPads. What’s next?

Will books retire and will every single child in a classroom sit with an iPad and videochat with their peers and teachers?

It might be an inevitable transformation. We might have to just accept it. I don’t know how you can fight this when research tells you how much you learn remains the same, while e-books offer the convenience of carrying one device capable of storing thousands of books.

At least all the classics are preserved in the e-book format, and they will undoubtedly stay on those dreaded mandatory summer reading lists.

Yoojin Cho is web coordinator at The Martha’s Vineyard Times. Follow her and The Times on Twitter, @theMVTimes and @Yooj812, and “Like” us on Facebook. Social Life began on October 12. Find its first appearance here.