back to article iPad, Kindle as readable as print... almost

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 …


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  1. Tom_


    I guess we can ignore that then.

  2. FARfetched

    It's subjective

    Comprehension and enjoyment aside, I find the Kindle to be easier on my eyes than the iPad, at least when there's enough ambient light to read by.

  3. DrXym Silver badge

    Kindle page turning

    e-ink devices might be very readable, but god the page turning is annoying. I would not be surprised if the ugly flashing transition caused that caused brain farts that slowed people down. The iPad probably looks far slicker but doubtless suffers its own issues due to the screen backlight and reflective glare.

    Best of the two worlds IMO would be something equipped with a Pixel QI screen which allows a responsive and readable display and some kind of resistive touch sensing over the top. Resistive would be far better for note taking, tactile response etc even if its not as sexy as capacitive.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    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.

    1. J 3


      Of course it is subjective -- but that's all that matters when it comes to perceptions...

  5. Anonymous Coward


    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.

    1. Steve Todd Silver badge

      Thats odd

      I travel on a mix of London busses, trains, tube and DLR on a daily basis (depending on what is working and what is quicker at any given time). I've had no problems holding an iPad either way round (portrait or landscape). How big do you think they are? We're talking about a screen with a 10" diagonal here, not a 17" laptop (and even one of those is narrower than a tube seat).

      If all you want is a book then by all means buy a book. If, on the other hand, you want to browse the net, read and write mails, listen to music, watch video, play a game AND read a book on the move, all in one device, and without having to squint at a tiny phone screen, then the iPad is a neat solution.

      1. ChrisB 2

        A title is required


        FWIW I find the iPad easy to read in all the circumstances I've tried it - even in the recent bright sunlight. OK, the reflective screen is a bit of a pain but since I retain, even at my great age, the power of mobility then adjusting to suit isn't a problem.

        If the aforementioned blighter on the Tube can't even use an iPad then presumably he won't be needing to ride the Tube to work for much longer?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        Stop it, you're using logic and personal experience and that is destroying the poster's opinion based on anecdotal evidence of 1.<wry grin>

        Obviously the original poster is anti-Apple, and this article simply provided a good excuse to decry the device.

  6. MrT


    "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."

    So, the 'shiny new toy' factor makes people feel better.

    Did Nielsen factor in the wallet-crunching cost of buying the tablets in the first place? Maybe remind the folk that they could spend a small amount on Amazon to buy the treeware version of the book, or a not-very-small amount on the viewer and possibly still have to spend a small amount on the text anyway.

    Bound to account for more than 0.2 marks if they actually had to buy the things first. Yay! Books win... again.

    1. ThomH Silver badge

      As Nielsen and the report says

      The difference between book, iPad and Kindle was statistically insignificant. There is absolutely no grounds on which to conclude that "the 'shiny new toy' factor makes people feel better". The conclusion the study raws is that people are able to enjoy text just as much from an electronic screen in their hand, whatever the manufacturer or technology, as from the printed page.

      Draw your own conclusions as to the validity of the study.

      1. MrT


        ... that bit was a joke refering to the geek factor, tongue in cheek, since the numbers make the entire survey statistically irrelevant anyway.

        And judging by the reactions of iPad owners and fans generally I'd say the halo effect is real. I know several owners, plus a couple of developers who were almost delirious when given the chance to try out the iPad weeks before the official release date. Nielsen's scale means that anything less than 0.3 difference is too fine to split one person from the rest, let alone draw any sensible conclusion. 'Shiny new toy' definitely will affect normal, sensible lab rats, and one person swayed by new hotness vs old and busted is enough in this survey to swing the entire data set.

        All things being equal, I reckon that fans of books would veer towards Kindle (despite limitations) if they absolutely had to use an eReader over trad books.

  7. Lusty

    2 things

    How long did they read for to measure comfort? I suspect the iPad after 6 hours may be less enjoyable than eInk.

    Would anyone else like to see an A4 size eInk screen for use with a PC? I don't think it would need much logic in, just a screen and probably USB connection so that it could be used for reading documents at the desk.

    This could also be extended to have a pen input and enough memory to use as a notepad in meetings.

  8. Daniel 1

    I cannot help myself...

    I feel compelled to observe, that it is whimsical, that the author of, feels qualified to comment on what is, or isn't, a pleasant reading experience (although I cannot claim to be all that surprised).

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    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.

  10. ArmanX

    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.

  11. h 6

    I'd feel uncomfortable

    I'd feel uncomfortable reading on a PC because I use a Mac at work.

  12. Kanhef

    PC speed?

    Would be nice if they said how long it takes to read the same text on a desktop computer. If that takes only 10-15% longer than the paper version, these handhelds may not be all they're cracked up to be.

  13. Efros

    Over 18 months

    with an Ectaco Jetbook and I would say I am reading more and faster. I think a lot if it is to do with familiarity. I use mine on a daily basis and am quite happy to use it for extended periods. It's also good to have in the pub whilst waiting for the crawl to kick off!

  14. Adam Williamson 1

    O rly?

    "We've all done it: printed out material becuase it's easier to read on paper than on a computer screen."

    No, we haven't. I never have. Only things I ever print out are things I actually need to present a physical copy of to some official body or other, and recipes. Not because they're easier to read but because it's much cheaper to spill milk on a sheet of paper than a $2k laptop.

    So, yeah, speak for yourself.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Printing stuff out

      So you've never printed stuff out because it's easier to read, but have you ever read a novel from a computer screen?

      I haven't. There are a few things that I started to read on the computer, but I never finished them. Perhaps the books just weren't that good, but I think the fact that I was reading them from a computer screen played a role. There's only one Gutenberg Project novel that I finished reading, and that was the one I printed out on paper.

      I'm not sure whether the visual properties of the paper or screen make that much difference. "Cheap" and "light" are the major factors for me as there are young children in the house. I can follow them around with a stapled-together print-out in my hand and if I need to forcibly intervene I can just drop the print-out on the floor and grab the offending child. I couldn't do that with any electronic device that I know of.

      1. Adam Williamson 1

        No, but...

        No, but that has nothing to do with the screen technology. I don't read books sitting bolt upright in a chair in front of my desk, while looking _at my computer_ (which is full of juicy distractions).

        I have read a lot of novels on an LCD screen, the one in my janky Chinese 7" tablet I got to replace my Sony Reader. And that works fine. It's not quite as nice as the screen in the Reader, but I suspect that's more to do with the slightly dodgy font rendering than e-Ink vs. LCD.

        I went in expecting it to be horrible, as I'd loved the Sony's screen, but actually I find it not a problem at all.

  15. tanj666
    Thumb Up

    e-ink is good

    I have a sony prs-505. An old model now but still very good. I find that I enjoy reading my novels more on this device now than paper as it often weighs less than the paper version!

    I also echo the finding s of the report, reading anything is a chore on the computer screen, be it a laptop or monitor. Thats just one of the reasons why I hate online learning so much

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    iPad is faster?

    The Reg wrote: "Nielsen wouldn't state which of the two gadgets saw the faster reading experience."

    Nielsen wrote: "The iPad measured at 6.2% lower reading speed than the printed book, whereas the Kindle measured at 10.7% slower than print."

    However, as The Register point out, Nielsen acknowledges the statistical insignificance of this difference.

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