Reading on the iPad, Kindle may slow you down

A Nielsen study finds that readers read more rapidly from a physical book than an e-reader – but still preferred the e-reader.

Mary Knox Merrill/Staff/file
Do readers actually read more slowly from a Kindle than from a physical book?

Really? As a frequent Kindle user myself, I find this one hard to believe. But a new Nielsen study shows that a group of readers read most rapidly from a print-and-paper book and more slowly when using an iPad or Kindle.

A group of 24 readers – readers selected because they identified themselves as people who read often and enthusiastically – were given Ernest Hemingway short stories to read. (Hemingway was chosen because his work was judged to be "pleasant and engaging to read.") Each reader was tested on four different reading devices: an iPad, a Kindle, a PC monitor, and a book.

The study found that readers read 6.2 percent more slowly on an iPad and 10.7 percent more slowly on a Kindle compared with print. (The speed differential between the iPad reading experience and that on the Kindle was judged too small to be statistically significant.)

Interestingly, however, the study also found that – by a slight margin – users preferred reading books on a tablet device to reading from a paper book. Although there were some complaints about the weight of the iPad and the contrast of the written word on the Kindle, overall, on a scale of 1 to 7, users rated their satisfaction with the iPad at 5.8, the Kindle at 5.7, and the printed book at 5.6.

Is it just my imagination? I read on a Kindle often – not quite as often as I read printed books, but frequently. And it seems to me that one of the benefits of doing so is that I read much faster. I'm not sure I'm in sync with the 24 readers in this study.

There is one area, however, where they seemed to be largely in agreement and I couldn't concur more heartily. Almost everyone, it seems, hated reading from a PC monitor. On the seven-point scale, satisfaction with that experience rated a 3.6. Why? No surprise here – it feels too much like work.

Marjorie Kehe is the Monitor's book editor.

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