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July 7, 2010

Study says people read e-books slower than print

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by Darren Allan

The debate over e-reading versus traditional printed material continues to rage on. Many folks seem to be of the view that reading on a screen just isn’t the same experience as relaxing with a book.

Yet change always comes eventually, and others ask whether the success of the iPad might help cement the status of the e-book market. Sony certainly thinks that the printed word is on the way out, and in five years time, e-books will be more prevalent.

However, the latest research conducted into e-bookery may give folks further pause for thought. Or indeed, pause for reading.

According to the Nielsen Norman Group, people enjoying a book on an e-reader – he tested both the iPad and Kindle 2 – read more slowly than those devouring a traditional book.

Using the iPad they read 6% slower, and with the Kindle, 10% slower. Dr Jakob Nielsen, who wrote up the report, pointed out that “the difference between the two devices was not statistically significant because of the data’s fairly high variability”.

But whichever way you dice it, the study claims that reading from a hardware device is a slightly lengthier process than imbibing the words from a book.

The study participants also rated the satisfaction of the reading experience, where interestingly, the iPad and Kindle sneaked ahead of the printed medium, although there was little in it.

The iPad scored 5.8 out of 7, the Kindle 5.7 and the printed book 5.6. A PC was also included in the e-reading tests, and that was the only medium which came out with a low satisfaction rating of 3.6.

The monitor screen definitely isn’t the place people want to enjoy a good novel on – reading on a PC reminded people of work – but it seems the iPad and Kindle certainly equal the book in terms of satisfaction.

Nielsen concludes: “This study is promising for the future of e-readers and tablet computers. We can expect higher quality screens in the future, as indicated by the recent release of the iPhone 4 with a 326 dpi display. But even the current generation is almost as good as print in formal performance metrics – and actually scores slightly higher in user satisfaction.”

However, the participants still indicated that they felt reading a book was a more relaxing experience than using an electronic device.

There is always likely to be a hardcore audience who won’t switch from the printed page for some time yet, and whether that’s as soon as five years time as Sony is predicting, we’re not so sure.

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  1. I have had an e-reader for nearly 12 months and most definitley read books faster on the e-reader than I did papaerback - I will not be moving back to paperback, my e-reader is the best thing I have ever had. Although I will say it is a proper e-reader and not an iPad which I would not enjoy reading from.

    Comment by Charlotte — July 7, 2010 @ 7:57 am

  2. I test a e-reader an found that I read quicker than a normal paper book.
    I wonder what other variables were taken into account during this experiment.
    Consider the Ipad only just been release it could not of been a very detail study or a wide ranging study.
    Sony prediction will be right but only if the price of the e-reader drops to below 50 pounds.

    Comment by David — July 8, 2010 @ 12:26 pm

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