They are the lightweight devices that some people swear by, the electronic book, or e-reader, but studies have shown that by reading a story on one of these devices can make it harder to follow the plot. A team of researchers based at Norway’s Stavanger University tested a number of people reading a real book against those with an e-reader. The results showed that those reading the read hard copy books were more likely to be able to explain the story than those with the e-reader.
In the study, 50 participants were given the same 28-page short story, written by Elizabeth George to read. Half of them read the 28-page story on a Kindle, whilst the other half read from a paperback. The researchers then quizzed the participants on different aspects of the story, including plot, characters and settings.
The study revealed that although the participants had the same kind of empathy with the characters, and they showed a similar understanding of the narrative, when the researchers asked them to recount the story’s plot in the correct order, the participants reading on a Kindle performed ‘significantly worse’
Anne Mangen, a lead researcher on the study, spoke to The Guardian:
“When you read on paper you can sense with your fingers a pile of pages on the left growing, and shrinking on the right,” but she agreed that: “I don’t think we should assume it is all to do with habits, and base decisions to replace print textbooks with iPads, for instance, on such assumptions.”
The researchers concluded that factors such as the weight and feel of a real book, and the simple act of turning over a page could be behind the participants lack of grasping the basic plot, as these could help the reader in absorbing information.
Mangen had previously tested 10th graders and found that even students, who are used to reading on digital devices, still performed better when reading off a hard copy.
The researchers tested 72 participants who were randomly divided into two groups. Both groups were given the exact same two texts, one a fiction piece and the other a factual piece. The first group read theirs on a computer screen, whilst the other read the texts on paper.
Before the study, all participants’ reading and vocabularies had been charted, to allow for any variations in the results. The participants then had to answer a series of questions to relay their understanding of the text. Those who read the hard copies performed significantly better than those who had read off the computer screen.
“Studies with students, for instance, have shown that they often prefer to read on paper,” she said, but she admitted that further research was needed, in an interview with The New York Times she added: “It’s interesting to us that the differences were both related to time and temporality — why is that?”
So, has this put you off buying a Kindle? If so, why not tell us in the comments box below. Or if you have a kindle and are perfectly happy with it, let us know.