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Study Shows Readers Absorb Less Through e-books than Paper

TMCnet Feature

August 21, 2014

Study Shows Readers Absorb Less Through e-books than Paper

By Matt Paulson
TMCnet Contributing Writer

The popularity of e-books like Kindle and the Nook reader may have been skyrocketing, but a recent study has suggested that readers absorb less information through the devices than they do with traditional paper books. The report sampled 50 readers by giving them the same short story to read, with half of the readers given the 28-page story on a kindle and the other half reading a paperback version. The results were quite startling, which placed kindle readers as “significantly” worse with their reading comprehension than those reading ink on paper.

According to Anne Mangen of Norway's Stavanger University, who served as a lead researcher for the study, the results show “differences in the immersion facilitated by the device, in emotional responses.” to the story. Ultimately, it appears that narrative coherence is the skill that suffers the most. When asked to place 14 events from the story in chronological order, those who read it on Kindle were far less likely to score as well as those who read the paperback version.

So why is it that paperback books have a higher rate of reading comprehension, the Mangen suggests that “the haptic and tactile feedback of a Kindle does not provide the same support for mental reconstruction of a story as a print pocket book does...When you read on paper you can sense with your fingers a pile of pages on the left growing, and shrinking on the right.” While this cannot be determined conclusively yet, the tactile sense of progress and feedback by simply feeling the weight and thickness of pages between the two hands is a way that readers measure progress through a book. With a clearer marker of time, it makes sense why those with the paper versions may have been able to arrange events in order more easily.

Edited by Maurice Nagle

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