Reading Books vs. Reading on a Digital Device

This study by Jakob Nielsen is making some news. It purports to show that reading a story in a printed book is faster than on a digital device like the Kindle or the iPad. From The Guardian,

Each participant read their story using four different devices ā€“ a printed book, a PC, an iPad and a Kindle. While on average the stories took 17 minutes and 20 seconds to read, the Kindle experience was 10.7% slower than print, and the iPad was 6.2% slower.

The readers were also asked to rate their satisfaction of the four experiences on a one-to-seven scale: the iPad was top at 5.8, followed by the Kindle at 5.7 and the printed book at 5.6. The PC came in last, with “an abysmal 3.6”

But before we take these conclusions too seriously, it should be noted that the number of people included in this study was 24. As a statistician would say: “the N is too small.” As a lay person would say: that doesn’t sound like a whole lot of people on which to jump to conclusions.

There wasn’t a breakdown of age or gender either. The story they chose was one by Hemingway, but they don’t say which one. Just out of curiosity, I’d like to know. “Hills Like White Elephants?” “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber?” “The Killers?” “The Snows of Kilimanjaro?”


5 thoughts on “Reading Books vs. Reading on a Digital Device

  1. Wonderfully interesting! I personally would stop reading if I had to read a book from a screen. It’s like subtitles for a movie! A MOVIE! haha
    Besides it would hurt my eyes a lot more reading from a screen.

    • I’ve tried using some of the online readers to read on my Mac, but I find I just can’t focus or the screen seems to bright to me. Or I get lost because I’m so used to pages; knowing where I am in a book.

      Subtitled movies don’t bother me. Dubbed movies bother me way more.

  2. What about concentration? One thing I like the plain old books is that you take them with you, and pretty much all you can do is read them (or not); these modern gadgets is the multi purpose; I admit that I haven’t used any, but I’m afraid that, specially the modern ones, which offer internet access, might be too tempting to interrupt, or switch just a “second to browse a page of two”.
    This would be a nice (dis)analogy of what I mean:

    • Books do allow you to focus in a way a multi-purpose digital device does not. And, once again, XKCD nails it. One of the best web comics out there, if not THE best.

    • Hictio, great comic, and so true. I think that as a society we are so into doing 2 or more things at once, that it seems natural to be switching back and forth. But it’s nice to disconnect, and with a book you can truly unplug!

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