Study shows readers absorb less information when reading on a Kindle

Kindle Touch

(Phys.org) —Researchers at Stavanger University in Norway have
found that people tend to absorb less information when reading on a
Kindle versus printed paper. After being asked to read a short story
written by Elizabeth George, people using a Kindle performed
significantly worse on a test that measured plot reconstruction than did
those that read the same story from a printed paperback book. The team
has not published their results yet but did present what they’ve found
to a group at a conference in Italy recently.
As ebooks become more popular, scientists (and educators)
have begun to wonder if the experience a reader gets from reading using
an electronic device is different from that experienced by those reading
words printed on paper—or more specifically, if the experience is
better or worse. The team at Stavanger asked fifty people to read a 28
page short story, and then to take a test afterwards to see how well the
virtual world
created by the author set in their minds—half read the story on a
Kindle, the other from a paperback book. The test afterwards involved
asking questions about plot points, settings, characters, objects, etc.,
to discover the degree of information absorption and retention by the
reader. The researchers report that the Kindle readers reported feeling
as empathetic to the characters in the story as did the paperback book
readers, and questions in the test indicated they were equally immersed
as well. They also seemed to gain an overall sense of the narrative that
was nearly the same as with those that read from the paperback—but the
similarities stopped there. On the parts of the test that tested how
well the readers absorbed data in the story, the Kindle readers scored
much lower.

The researchers cannot say why the readers scored lower but propose
that more study needs to be done. They suggest the tactile experience
that goes along with reading a printed book might be more conducive to
data retention, or perhaps the fact that a reader is constantly aware of
their degree of progress with a paperback book somehow has an impact on
what their mind holds onto.

It should be noted that only two of the volunteer readers were
accustomed to reading on a Kindle, which might have impacted the
results.

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