Suspend Your Disbelief

Shop Talk |

If you were reading this on paper, you'd be finished by now.

image credit: - goXunuReviews

image credit: - goXunuReviews

Perhaps our recent posts on e-books have you jonesing for an iPad or a Kindle. Or maybe they’ve made you nostalgic for a good old print hardback. Either way, here’s something else to consider: reading on paper is faster than reading on a screen.

The Nielsen Norman group (no, that Nielsen) found that reading in electronic format was up to 10.7% slower than reading a paper book. Reports Macworld:

Nielsen’s findings were based on the performance of 24 users who “like reading and frequently read books.” The subjects each read different short stories by Ernest Hemingway on all four platforms, and were measured for their reading speeds and story comprehension. Overall, it took each user an average of 17 minutes and 20 seconds to read a story regardless of the platform and comprehension levels were virtually identical on all four reading formats. However, Nielsen says the printed book was the clear winner in terms of speed. Users were reading 6.2 percent slower on an iPad compared to paper, and 10.7 percent slower on the Kindle 2.

Moreover, the subjective experience of reading in different formats also varied:

The study also 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.

The full study is here. But I wonder how much these findings depend on what people are used to. In 10 years, if e-readers continue to proliferate, will we get used to reading digitally—and will we enjoy it more?


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