iPad, Kindle as readable as print... almost
Only a page width between them
We've all done it: printed out material because it's easier to read on paper than on a computer screen. But are tablets and e-book readers changing this behaviour pattern? Early research suggests they might well be.
A study of 24 highly literate individuals' reading experience with books, the iPad, Amazon's Kindle and a PC carried out by US usability guru Jakob Nielsen found that while most people still read more quickly when they have a paper book in front of them, electronic media aren't far behind.
Nielsen's results found that reading a set text - a short story by Ernest Hemingway - on an iPad or Kindle took 6-11 per cent longer than it did on paper. Speed was cross-checked against comprehension to weed out those who scanned a story quickly but didn't really take it in.
Nielsen wouldn't state which of the two gadgets saw the faster reading experience. The last thing he wants is abuse from each device's respective fanbase, but more particularly, he found that "the difference between the two devices was not statistically significant because of the data's fairly high variability".
The upshot: "The difference would be so small that it wouldn't be a reason to buy one over the other."
But if the iPad and the Kindle aren't quite on the same ease-of-use level as a paper book, they're way ahead of the PC. While Nielsen doesn't provide relative PC reading speeds, he did ask participants to rate how much they enjoyed the experience on a scale of 1-7.
With seven as the best possible score, the PC scored, on average, 3.6, compared to 5.6 for the paper book, 5.7 for the Kindle and 5.8 for the iPad.
The last three are so close as to warrant picking winners, but it's clear that even if a work takes slightly longer to read and comprehend on, say, an iPad's screen over print, it's still way ahead of a monitor.
"Users felt that reading the printed book was more relaxing than using electronic devices," notes Nielsen. "And they felt uncomfortable with the PC because it reminded them of work."
Nielsen's write-up can be found here. ®
Printing out material becuase it's easier to read on paper than on a computer screen
That's not the only reason. I can also scribble on it, circle relevant bits, fold it over to the relevant page (yeah i know they do bookmarks) tear out several relevant pages and organise them on my desk so i can jump between them constantly.
For linear reading i generally keep things on screen, but printing out specs etc can be invaluable.
I saw a man (it would have to be a male) on the Tube trying to read a book on his iPhad the other day. It was too wide to hold in landscape format (silly London trains with their narrow seats), and for some reason portrait didn't seem to work for him. Still he kept trying to switch between the two.
Meanwhile the person next to him thumbed effortlessly through his well-worn paperback, which had a price tag in pre-decimal currency. Will e-books in any format last 40 years? You'd have to suspect not.
I still have yet to be fully informed as what the iPhad is actually supposed to do, but I can report that reading books on the London Underground isn't one of them.
I read this study... it's pretty much worthless.
This study was over 24 individuals, only lasted about 17 minutes, and the individuals were not familiar with the iPad or Kindle. All this really tells you is that books are slightly easier to figure out than electronics; no surprise there. Now, if the study included 100-1000 individuals, all with at least a day or two of using the Kindle/iPad/etc. to get a handle on how they work, and at least an hour of reading (the more the better), then you could make something of it. This study, though, wasn't worth the paper it was printed on. Or, y'know, emailed to...
Note: I love books, and refuse to get an iPad/Kindle/whatever. However, I hate bad studies.
I cannot help myself...
I feel compelled to observe, that it is whimsical, that the author of http://www.useit.com/, feels qualified to comment on what is, or isn't, a pleasant reading experience (although I cannot claim to be all that surprised).
The trouble is, if people are preferring paper over a PC because the PC "reminded them of work", then this study is measuring something that is highly subjective.
Perhaps it would be interesting to try comparing people's reading experience when the devices or media are attached to a wall with just the screen or paper visible and no interaction with the device. This could be tried in different lighting conditions as a way of comparing just the display technology without looking at user interface aspects and random subjective associations.