Faster to Read Paper Books Than e-Books, Survey Shows

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Photo by Skippyjon via Flickr CC

The Nielsen Norman Group has conducted a study that shows it is substantially faster to read a paper book than an e-book loaded onto an e-reader. What does this mean -- a slowed market for e-readers? A new wave of tree-cutting as the publishing market experiences a resurgent love for the printed word? A turn around in the prediction for e-readers to be successful tools in school classrooms? A giant uptake in energy consumption as readers slowly trudge through War and Peace on their Kindles? Well....not quite. TG Daily reports that the study consisted of a less-than-scientific sample population of 24 individuals.

"Each participant read a short story by Ernest Hemingway on each of the devices. Nielsen found that those using an iPad were 6.2 percent slower than those reading a standard book, and the Kindle 2 was 10.7 percent slower."

There are a lot of potential reasons for this. For instance, maybe the readers were not used to using the devices and so were slower to navigate. It takes time to get used to a new gadget, and focusing on reading a book while you're also trying to figure out which button turns the page is sure to slow folks down.

Further, the survey showed that readers weren't perfectly content with their e-readers. The participants said the iPad is on the heavy side, and the Kindle's gray-on-gray lettering isn't preferable.

Most people prefer the printed book because it's already associated with relaxation -- we all already know what it feels like to sink into a comfortable chair with a good book. Electronics still hold a feeling of work, or level of engagement requiring more engagement than simply flipping a page to see what a favorite character will do next. That may change as the favorite characters continually end up appearing on a e-paper screen than a paper page.

While the printed word may be preferable in some ways, including reading speed, we do have to recognize that e-readers are creating a strong and undeniable market for themselves. But that doesn't mean the environmental debate over which is better, the paper or the digital book, is anywhere close to being over.

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