Study Finds Reader Comprehension Much Lower On Kindles versus Paper Books

If you’ve been watching with unease as the world slowly shifts from print books to ebooks, a recent study on the subject will give you some extra ammunition. Researchers at Stavanger University in Norway carried out a study that seemed to suggest people have better reading comprehension when they read paper books than they do when they read books on digital devices. The study is fairly small and clearly won’t settle the debate, but it provides some interesting new food for thought.

The Amazon Kindle was used in a study that purported to show better reading comprehension in paperbacks

The test, which was performed with 50 readers, involved a 28-page short story. Half of the readers read the story on a Kindle and the other half read the story in a print book. When questioned after reading the story, the print readers were better able to answer questions about the book’s plot than the Kindle group. Researchers also expected to see differences in the emotional impact the story had on the two groups, but found the results didn’t differ much in that regard.

Answering the “why” question isn’t easy in a study like this, so the best information we have is really speculation. Researchers think that readers may have a better sense of plot (particularly the order in which events in the story occur) with books because they can feel (with their fingers) and see where they are in the book when they read. With digital text, researchers think, readers may not have the same awareness of where they are in the story (in relation to the beginning and end).

A new study purports to show that digital devices don't lead to the same reading comprehension that print books do.

What do you think? Do you feel like you have better reading comprehension when you read print? It’s worth noting that only two of the readers were familiar with Kindles, which strikes me as an issue that could skew the study.