Despite the initial enthusiasm that greeted the advent of e-books, sales for the UK’s five biggest publishers have started to fall back, according to a report in the Bookseller magazine (dropping 2.4%, to 47.9m units in 2015). Things, however, are different in the corporate training world with a big uptake of e-content which is perceived as innovative, engaging and flexible (particularly if that e-content is mobile friendly).


In 2014, Training Industry Inc and VitalSource carried out a research project to assess the uptake of digital platforms in training delivery, particularly in relation to procedural manuals. Their findings showed that around 60% of organisations contacted were using digital platforms highlighting benefits such as access, reduced cost, ease of use and improved consistency/version control.

But is e-content really what people want and is the fall in sales in the domestic e-book market a sign that, in the corporate training world, we should stick to paper?

Undoubtedly the variety of digital content available (audio, images, video, interactive websites, apps) gives learners multiple opportunities to choose how they will learn but the lack of certain tactile experiences, that are there when reading on paper, has been shown to not only inhibit reading comprehension but also to reduce retention rates.

A time and a place …

According to Maryanne Wolf, developmental psychologist and cognitive scientist at Tufts University, “There is physicality in reading, maybe even more than we want to think about as we lurch into digital reading—as we move forward perhaps with too little reflection. I would like to preserve the absolute best of older forms, but know when to use the new.”

The benefit of e-content for L&D departments is obvious – updating and distributing digital content can be done in hours, not weeks, and without much of the cost associated with amending and distributing printed content. But, the fact remains, people like, and work well with, paper and it may take many years for that to change.