E-readers: Quick with Apps, Slow for Brains

A new study by Web usability researcher Jakob Nielsen, meant to compare reading comprehension across various media has found that iPads and Kindles are slowing readers down. For the study, twenty-four subjects read a short story by Ernest Hemingway on an iPad, a Kindle, a PC, and in a good old-fashioned book. Nielsen found that all of the participants had the same level of comprehension of the text at the end, but that the iPad and Kindle users both read the story more slowly than the ones reading from books. (The full study is detailed here.)

What, if anything, this will mean for newspapers and magazines looking to build their own mobile editions is yet to be seen. One thing we do know is that reclining in a comfortable chair with a handheld tablet screen is sure to be more enjoyable than sitting at a desk with a PC and a scroll-button mouse. Nielsen asked his users to rate their satisfaction on a scale of one to seven, with seven being the best score:

iPad, Kindle, and the printed book all scored fairly high at 5.8, 5.7, and 5.6, respectively. The PC, however, scored an abysmal 3.6…. Users felt that reading the printed book was more relaxing than using electronic devices. And they felt uncomfortable with the PC because it reminded them of work.

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Lauren Kirchner is a freelance writer covering digital security for CJR. Find her on Twitter at @lkirchner