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Books Science

Do Readers Absorb Less On Kindles Than On Paper? Not Necessarily 105 105

An anonymous reader writes eBooks are great and wonderful, but as The Guardian reports, they might not be as good for readers as paper books. Results from a new study show that test subjects who read a story on a Kindle had trouble recalling the proper order of the plot events. Out of 50 test subjects, half read a 28-page story on the Kindle, while half read the same story on paper. The Kindle group scored about the same on comprehension as the control group, but when they were asked to put the plot points in the proper order, the Kindle group was about twice as likely to get it wrong.

So, is this bad news for ebooks? Have we reached the limits of their usefulness? Not necessarily. While there is evidence that enhanced ebooks don't enhance education, an older study from 2012 showed that students who study with an e-textbook on an ebook reader actually scored as well or higher on tests than a control group who did not. While that doesn't prove the newer research wrong, it does suggest that further study is required.
What has your experience been with both recall and enjoyment when reading ebooks?
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Do Readers Absorb Less On Kindles Than On Paper? Not Necessarily

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  • Something in this? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Jabes (238775) on Wednesday August 20, 2014 @05:08PM (#47715605) Homepage

    I think there is something in this. I used to read paper books prolifically, but through change in lifestyle (kids, work pressures) didn't get round to it so much. The kindle has allowed me to read more again because I can take it everywhere with me. But I certainly get much more confused about which book was which and have less association with who the author was as the whole book purchase decision making is so much quicker.

    This means I lose track of which books in a particular series I've read, and find myself wondering if I've read a particular title or not

    BUT, I am reading more again and enjoying it when I do. So does it really matter?

  • by Ecuador (740021) on Wednesday August 20, 2014 @05:13PM (#47715657) Homepage
    The Kindle (unlike my first ereader - a Sony that sat unused after the first month) dramatically changed my reading habits. It made it very easy to read at night in bed (thanks to the small weight and the integrated light), to carry a bunch of books with me anywhere (e.g. commuting to work, on vacation etc) and also the instantaneous delivery helps getting a book the instant you think about reading it.
    As a result I am enjoying reading more, but, yeah, I guess recall of individual books is a bit worse now that I am reading more than twice as many...
  • Re:No difference (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mellon (7048) on Wednesday August 20, 2014 @05:18PM (#47715707) Homepage

    That wouldn't explain the different results among kindle folks versus paper folks, though.

    I suspect that the lack of physical pages does make a difference in terms of knowing where you are in a book. I certainly know that I can often open a physical book to the location of something I remember and come really close, particularly if it's a book I'm studying, but even for novels.

    But knowing exactly where you are in a book does not necessarily affect your comprehension of the book. I don't see any reason why it should. So yes, the lack of positional memory may make a difference in some test methodologies, but it doesn't mean people get less out of reading Kindle books. I mean, books on tape give you a completely different experience of the book than a paper book too; in some ways you probably get more, and in some ways less. This is the same sort of thing, I think.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 20, 2014 @05:22PM (#47715739)

    I'm a calculus instructor. We're required to tolerate e-texts. I've found that my students who use the e-text in class on laptops generally fail to be able to effectively use the textbook. The students with the "illegal" pdf on the ipad do better, but those students who use the dead tree version in class are generally able to find information when doing the homework. However, that's all anecdotal, and I'm working on designing a study to get a statistically significant result. Unfortunately, the first pass shows that use of paper v.s. e-reader is strongly correlated with ethnicity and looks clustered on family income, so designing a meaningful study is very challenging. (the 2011 study doesn't give a meaningful answer, despite the submitters flawed argument otherwise)

  • Re:No difference (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Nate the greatest (2261802) on Wednesday August 20, 2014 @05:23PM (#47715753)
    Do you know what would explain the difference? The fact that only 2 people from the Kindle group [the-digital-reader.com] had used one before. That is going to throw the results, I think.
  • Re:No difference (Score:5, Interesting)

    by lucm (889690) on Wednesday August 20, 2014 @07:12PM (#47716509)

    The one issue I have with the Kindle is that reading technical books does not work too well. For them, I pencil in remarks and highlights, and the Kindle functionality for that is not really usable. Also, technical books often have formulas and pictures which do not work too well either.

    I agree that pictures and diagrams suck on a Kindle, but the highlighting is fantastic, I've been using it a lot since I found out that in my Kindle library online I can access all the text I have highlighted, ever. In the past I used to stop reading whenever I would find something interesting that inspired me to do some googling, or when I would learn about some other book mentioned by the author. Now I simply highlight stuff and I look it up later. A lot more convenient.

    Also it's possible to lookup a word or sentence in wikipedia without leaving the page, there is a small pop-up window for that. Hugely convenient. Same thing with the built-in dictionary; that's what I used to brush up my Spanish since it's possible to have 1 default dictionary per language.

    And finally there is the Audible sync thing. I can listen to an audiobook while driving, and when I get home I can pick up where I left reading on my Kindle, the audio and ebooks are synchronized. I have to buy both but there is a big discount. It's not ideal for deeply technical books, but it works well for other kinds of non-fiction like business books or biographies. And it is awesome for fiction.

    I would not go back to reading paper books or ebooks on a tablet. For a while I had access to O'Reilly Safari and while they have a large selection of technical books it is pretty subpar as far as e-reading goes, I hated it.

  • Re:No difference (Score:4, Interesting)

    by shipofgold (911683) on Wednesday August 20, 2014 @07:42PM (#47716679)

    While I am certainly not a statistician, 25 subjects in each group sounds suspect. "Twice as likely" always makes me wonder what the absolute numbers are...
    If 3 people messed up the plot order on paper and 6 people on the kindle, that gives a result "twice as likely", but does that really mean this test would repeat similarly with 10000 subjects.

    TFA says:

      "The Kindle readers performed significantly worse on the plot reconstruction measure, ie, when they were asked to place 14 events in the correct order."

    all of them? a few of them? what is "significantly"?

  • Re:No difference (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Wednesday August 20, 2014 @07:56PM (#47716763)

    all of them? a few of them? what is "significantly"?

    There is another important question: Who funded this study, and why did they fund it?

    The market for education materials is HUGE, and there are vested interest groups that do NOT want schools moving to tablets, where they may not be able to control the curriculum. So they fund a study that finds that people don't learn well on tablets.

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