NPR logo Reading A Book On An iPad Or Kindle? It Might Take Longer

Reading A Book On An iPad Or Kindle? It Might Take Longer

A small study indicates that reading electronic books is up to 10.7 percent slower than an old-fashioned paper version. Manu Fernandez/AP hide caption

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Manu Fernandez/AP

Dr. Jakob Nielsen, a usability specialist, has done a small study that indicates that reading a book on an iPad or a Kindle will take longer.

According to Nielsen, the iPad measured 6.2 percent slower than a printed book and the Kindle was 10.7 percent slower.

Nielsen conducted the study by giving a group of 24 people a variety of Ernest Hemingway stories to read.  Nielsen said he picked Hemingway because "his work is pleasant and engaging to read, and yet not so complicated that it would be above the heads of users."

Nielsen set his subjects down in some nice comfy chairs with good lighting.  They read a story in print, on then on a PC, iPad, and Kindle.  Although there was a difference in how long it took to read in different platforms, Nielsen says, there was no difference in reading comprehension.

Nielsen doesn't actually know why reading on one of these electronic devices is slower and he doesn't speculate.  But in their comments, the study's participants said they thought that the iPad felt too heavy and they didn't like the gray-on-gray letters of the Kindle.

As for reading on the PC, the participants disliked that experience because "it reminded them of work."

Nielsen studies consumer products to help companies know if they've got a hit or not.  His conclusion is that the future is promising for tablet computers because readers actually ranked them as a nicer way to read than a book even if it takes them a little longer.

The study is interesting.  But, I remain a little skeptical because 24 people is such a small sample.  That said, as someone who has read on all of those devices it has a kind "truthiness" for me.