Reading on paper faster than on reading devices

This was interesting, I copied the article verbatim from the Scope Newsletter from Knowledge Speak:

Reading on paper faster than on reading devices, says Nielsen Norman study – 06 Jul 2010

Product development consultancy Nielsen Norman Group, US, recently conducted a study, according to which it takes longer to read a book on an iPad or Kindle than on the printed page.

For the study, Dr. Jakob Nielsen compared the reading times of 24 users on the iPad using the iBooks application, the Kindle 2, a PC monitor and the paper. It was found that reading on an electronic tablet was up to 10.7 percent slower than reading a printed book. However, Nielsen found that users preferred reading books on a tablet device compared to the paper book despite the slower reading times. Meanwhile, the PC monitor was universally unaccepted as a reading platform among all test subjects.

In addition, Nielsen’s results show that reading on the iPad is significantly faster compared to the Kindle 2. The reading speeds between the two devices were, however, ‘not statistically significant.’ The difference between reading times on the devises is so small that it wouldn’t be a reason to buy one over the other.

The study asked each user to rate how they liked each format on a scale of 1-7. The iPad, Kindle 2 and printed book were nearly tied at 5.8, 5.7 and 5.6 respectively, while the PC monitor ranked last at 3.6 points. The test subjects said that reading on the PC felt too much like being at work, while they found it more relaxing to read a printed book than on an electronic device.

Regardless of how fast people can read on an electronic device, the e-reader is becoming popular every year. According to estimates by the Association of American Publishers, e-book sales are currently growing at a rate of 217.3 percent versus 2009.

This is not the first study about this issue, and the others came to the same conclusion, in fact the first time I heard about this was in 1989.

I am not sure how accurate the “being at work” reason is, why should someone read any differently while at work than not at work. If the material is the same then the reading speed should be the same.

I think there are two things going on here. One, which has been identified as an issue (back in 1989), is that the resolution has an impact on reading speed and retention. Print has a much higher resolution than screen and thus is easier for us to read (note the hoopla about retinal displays.) And this is something I certainly notice. The other thing is that there are multiple distractions accessible on a computer (email, IM, feedreader, etc…) which are not accessible when reading a book.

Speaking for myself I tend to print stuff out on paper, head to my reading chair, and read there.



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