Challenging The Superiority Of The Printed Page
A study published this week that compared paper with tablets and e-readers showed negligible differences in reading comprehension. For older subjects, tablets beat out the other two media in terms of providing a faster and easier reading experience.
Kecia Lynn has worked as a technical writer, editor, software developer, arts administrator, summer camp director, and television host. A graduate of Case Western Reserve University and the Iowa Writers' Workshop, she is currently living in Iowa City and working on her first novel.
What's the Latest Development?
A study out from -- of all places -- Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz suggests that contrary to assumptions, reading text on paper may not be inherently better or easier than reading text on an electronic device. The study involved two groups of people, one young (ages 21-34) and one old (ages 60-77), reading from a printed page, an e-reader, and a tablet. Using eye-tracking technology and EEG sensors, the researchers discovered that there was no real difference in comprehension across the three media in either group, and that for the younger readers, there was no difference in reading speed or effort. Most surprisingly, for the older group, speed and effort improved when they read from a tablet.
What's the Big Idea?
Prior to the study, both groups of subjects said they overwhelmingly preferred reading from paper to reading from electronic devices, a response that lead author Franziska Kretzschmar says reflects "a prejudice that people hold against digital media in Germany." However, the results demonstrate that "negative subjective assessments of readability for e-books and other digital texts are not a reflection of real-time information processing demands." The study's findings appeared this week in the online journal PLOS ONE.
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