E-book, Tablet PC or Printed Page: Which do Readers Really Prefer?


 "Almost all of the participants stated that they liked reading a printed 
book best. . . but it does not match the data obtained from the study,"

The debate between authors and publishers continues.  Do their readers prefer and have a better reading experience from a book or a screen, and which of these offers more reading comfort?

Many authors express concern that while younger readers have grown up reading from screens, by publishing an E-book, they may be missing a major section of their market - older readers who prefer and process information from the print page.

According to research conducted at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU, and published in 2011, there are no disadvantages to reading from electronic reading devices such as an E-book compared with reading printed texts.  This result holds true for both younger and older readers.

Whether printed or digital, reading itself remains the important cultural technology
The objective of the study was to investigate whether there are reasons for this skepticism [about the ease of reading from a screen]," says the initiator of the study, Professor Dr. Stephan Füssel, chair of the Gutenberg-Institute of Book Studies at JGU. "This study provides us with a scientific basis for dispelling the widespread misconception that reading from a screen has negative effects," explains Füssel. "There is no (reading) culture clash – whether it is analog or digital, reading remains the most important cultural technology."

Readers may say they prefer print, but that's not what research shows
The result of the study stands in stark contrast with the participants' subjective reaction. "Almost all of the participants stated that they liked reading a printed book best. This was the dominant response, but it does not match the data obtained from the study," specifies Professor Dr. Matthias Schlesewsky, who designed and conducted the study together with Professor Füssel.

"Information is processed more easily when a tablet PC is employed."

In fact, tablet PCs provide an advantage over e-ink readers and the printed page that is not obvious: information is processed more easily when a tablet PC is employed.

Suggested Reading
Furthermore, while there were no differences between the three media employed in terms of rates of reading by the younger participants, the older participants exhibited faster reading times when using the tablet PC.

Similarly, the participants' subjective perceptions did not match the results of a comparison of e-ink readers and printed paper texts. Almost all participants stated that reading from paper was more comfortable than from an e-ink reader despite the fact that the study actually showed that there was no difference in terms of reading performance between reading from paper and from an e-reader.

"We have demonstrated that the subjective preference for the printed book is not an indicator of how fast and how well the information is processed," concludes Professor Schlesewsky.

The study analyzed the differences in reading from various kinds of media (e-book, tablet PC, paper) in two sample groups, young and elderly adults. Each participant read various texts with different levels of complexity on an e-book reader (Kindle 3), on a tablet PC (iPad), and on paper.

The reading behavior and the participants' corresponding neural processes were assessed by means of of eye movements followed by an eye tracking system, and Electro-physiological brain activity tracked by an Electro-Encephli-Graph (EEG).

The criteria that were taken into account and analyzed were changes in reader's brain waves, reading behavior, comprehension, and information recall as well as the participants' stated preferences for a specific medium.

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Story Source:  Materials provided by Universität Mainz. "Reading a book versus a screen: Different reading devices, different modes of reading?" ScienceDaily, October 2011. 


  1. As an author, I like read both, however the past few years, I write eBooks. The Hidden Journal and Misplaced are my latest on Amazon. Joyce Brennan

    1. It's nice to know that older readers use screens despite saying they prefer books. Opens up the market nicely for authors.


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