E-Readers and Reading Comprehension

Image from the Salon ArticleSalon posted an article (originally in Scientific American) about ereaders and reading comprehension on Sunday (h/t Marc Cortez) that I think sums up a lot of frustration on reporting on ereaders.

First, and oddly the Salon article has a picture of a first generation kindle (which is much clunkier to use than the now 6th generation kindles).

But more importantly early in the article the author suggests that studies prior to 1992 suggest that screen reading was less effective than print reading. But clearly 20 years later we have different quality of technology.   The very next line of the article suggests that more recent studies are less conclusive. But none of those less conclusive studies are commented on.

The most frustrating thing for me is that odd that most of the studies that compare print and digital text compare reading on a computer and reading a book. Studies rarely seem to compare reading on an ereader and reading a book. But the reporting on the studies almost always suggests that it was a comparison between reading a print book and an ereader.

The Salon article cites a January 2013 study, but it still compares reading on a computer (PDF files which have to be the worst type of file to read) and in print. In fact as far as I can tell, not a single study in the Salon article looked at reading on an eink ereader, even though the article mentions them frequently.

The article does make the very valid point that people often remember where something was in a print text. “I know where on the page a quote is from.” That is a real advantage to print. But the article does not at all address corresponding advantage to ereading (universal word search). So you can search for where that word or phrase was in a book in a way that is impossible with print.

On the whole, the article is unconvincing to me (admittedly I am a kindle lover) not because I don’t think that there are some advantages to print, but because the article addresses none of the advantages to eink readers.

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