iPads and eReaders are all the rage these days because people love the thoughts of being able to read on the go with the electronic devices - no turning pages, no losing your place, and no carrying multiple books around when you know you're going to have lots of time on your hands. Seems convenient, right? But according to a recent study by Dr. Jakob Nielson of the Nielsen Norman Group, a product development consultancy, reading on an iPad or a Kindle is a lot more time-consuming than reading good old fashioned ink and paper.
The study compared 24 users' reading times using Kindle 2, iPad's iBooks application, and an actual book. For the most part, reading on either of the electronic gadgets took almost 11% longer than reading a regularly printed book. But despite the increase in time taken, those who participated said they preferred the electronic devices to books. The study also looked at reading books on a regular PC monitor - something that was given all around negative reviews from participants.
The participants were people who describe themselves as people who like to read and read often. They read short stories by Ernest Hemingway on the four different platforms. Their reading speeds were measured, as was reading comprehension. It took each user an average of 17 minutes and 20 seconds to read each story on all four platforms and their reading comprehension was not affected by the platform used.
Statistics for the PC monitor weren't released by Nielsen but the numbers for the other platforms stacked up like this: compared to the paper books, readers read 6.2% slower on the iPad and even slower on the Kindle 2 at 10.7%. Sort of ironic considering the Kindle 2 is designed specifically for reading. But Nielsen dismissed the difference in time between the iPad and Kindle, saying the difference was not significant and shouldn't be considered when consumers are shopping for new gadgets.
Participants were also asked to rate how much they liked reading on each platform. They were given a scale of 1 to 7 with 7 being the greatest. The iPad was rated 5.8, Kindle 5.7 and printed book 5.6 - not a whole lot of difference there. But the PC monitor ranked at just 3.6. Reasons for disliking the PC monitor included that it was not as relaxing as the other gadgets and that users felt like they were at work when using it.
So what does this mean? In the long run, nothing. PC World asks what would happen if the study had looked ages. Would people in their 20's, who have been using digital screens for their entire life, prefer the Kindle or iPad, or read faster on it? Would people in their 60's be more set in their ways and prefer the printed page? Also, the study only included 24 participants - that's a pretty small group and not really representative of the general public.
One thing is for sure. digital books and eReaders are becoming more and more popular in the last couple of years. This year, eBook sales have grown at a rate of 217% from last year. But in my opinion, you still can't beat a good old-fashioned book.
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