Study shows readers absorb less information when reading on a Kindle

Aug 22, 2014 by Bob Yirka report
Kindle Touch

(Phys.org) —Researchers at Stavanger University in Norway have found that people tend to absorb less information when reading on a Kindle versus printed paper. After being asked to read a short story written by Elizabeth George, people using a Kindle performed significantly worse on a test that measured plot reconstruction than did those that read the same story from a printed paperback book. The team has not published their results yet but did present what they've found to a group at a conference in Italy recently.

As ebooks become more popular, scientists (and educators) have begun to wonder if the experience a reader gets from reading using an electronic device is different from that experienced by those reading words printed on paper—or more specifically, if the experience is better or worse. The team at Stavanger asked fifty people to read a 28 page short story, and then to take a test afterwards to see how well the created by the author set in their minds—half read the story on a Kindle, the other from a paperback book. The test afterwards involved asking questions about plot points, settings, characters, objects, etc., to discover the degree of information absorption and retention by the reader. The researchers report that the Kindle readers reported feeling as empathetic to the characters in the story as did the paperback book readers, and questions in the test indicated they were equally immersed as well. They also seemed to gain an overall sense of the narrative that was nearly the same as with those that read from the paperback—but the similarities stopped there. On the parts of the test that tested how well the readers absorbed data in the story, the Kindle readers scored much lower.

The researchers cannot say why the readers scored lower but propose that more study needs to be done. They suggest the tactile experience that goes along with reading a printed book might be more conducive to data retention, or perhaps the fact that a reader is constantly aware of their degree of progress with a paperback book somehow has an impact on what their mind holds onto.

It should be noted that only two of the volunteer readers were accustomed to reading on a Kindle, which might have impacted the results.

Explore further: Print book reading tops in US despite rise of tablets

More information: via TheGuardian

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User comments : 7

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BSD
5 / 5 (1) Aug 22, 2014
The results beg questions, particularly regarding study:

How long does it take for an inexperienced Kindle reader, to get used to reading one?

In the mean time, how much information is lost by the reader that otherwise could have been retained if they had stuck to books?

They suggest the tactile experience that goes along with reading a printed book might be more conducive to data retention, or perhaps the fact that a reader is constantly aware of their degree of progress with a paperback book somehow has an impact on what their mind holds onto


It could also be, the new user is more aware of the Kindle and the technology, therefore paying less attention to the information.

A book is so ubiquitous and been around for centuries, no one is fascinated by it, only by what it contains.

I don't like the ability of Amazon to delete books from your list. You don't have complete control of your data. There's another company that begins with A, that does that.
BSD
not rated yet Aug 22, 2014
XXX
gopher65
2 / 5 (2) Aug 22, 2014
Having read quite a bit on both paper and e-paper, I can attest to the fact that the inability to tell "how done I am" with a book makes a significant impact. I pay more attention to some parts of a book than others, and - with few exceptions - authors tend to place the important bits in the same part of the story.

Something like "character intro - filler - place intro - filler - major event - filler- filler - filler - major event - filler - climax - epilogue".

With an e-book you can click or touch to find out how far along you are, but it isn't constantly in your mind the way it is with a book. I find it harder to know what parts of the book I'm suppose to pay attention to, and what parts are just mindless filler.

(Note that superb authors have less filler so that effect matters less, but most people aren't superb authors.)

This effect is much less evident to me when I read a "kindle only" book. I suspect that authors structure the story differently when they know it's e-only.
GuruShabu
not rated yet Aug 22, 2014
I am an avid reader and I have had a Kindle since the first was released.
I still buy paper books because the availability on Kindle books is restrict.
I think both versions have their goods and bads.
For instance, when I read paper books I have the habit of scribbling my impressions on the pages I am reading. I think they are quite useful when I want to refer to some idea or something that I've learnt while reading that page.
On kindle I cannot do that with the freedom of a pencil and an actual paper.
However, Kindle gives me other opportunities that cannot be achieved on paper books.
I can highlight (which I really do a lot!), I can check instantly the dictionary. I can retrieve all mu notes with a click!
On the side of "learning" I think there is nothing to do with electronic or paper. It is your actual INTEREST on the subject that will leave the impression long enough to become a permanent memory and therefore be considered "knowledge".
foolspoo
3 / 5 (2) Aug 22, 2014
more fodder for national enquirer. this is purely subjective and will be different with every user. and every user will experience different results every attempt. and as familiarity grows, the user will be more comfortable with the chosen medium.
24volts
not rated yet Aug 22, 2014
I think the biggest problem is that the screen simply doesn't look the same as the page of a book. I've got a 7" pad and if I make the screen show as much as the average paperback page the letters on the screen just get too small to comfortable to read so I have to set it to show maybe half a page at the time. It feels like I'm changing pages faster than I'm reading them depending what I'm reading. Other than that I enjoy using it to read with.
italba
not rated yet Aug 24, 2014
If "only two of the volunteer readers were accustomed to reading on a Kindle", the distraction caused by the new media can easily justify these results! This test should be repeated after a few weeks all the volunteers had a Kindle.