E-readers Are Satisfying But Slow

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While it takes longer to read a digital book than it does a printed version, people are satisfied with their overall e-reader experience. A usability study conducted by Jakob Nielsen of product development consultancy Nielsen Norman Group had avid readers rate Apple’s iPad, Amazon’s Kindle 2 and a printed book based in terms of their satisfaction with the reading experience.

On a scale of 7, the iPad scored 5.8, the Kindle 2 scored a 5.7 and a print book scored a 5.6. Reading off a PC, however, was rated a 3.6 by participants. This is encouraging as the primary purpose of Nielsen’s study was to determine if e-readers are an economically viable technological development.

“Many companies are betting big that electronic book readers will be one of the main ways people read long-form text in the future,” Nielsen said. “However, such products will succeed only if the reading experience is much better than the misery of reading from PC monitors.”

Twenty-four participants of a high school literacy level were asked to read short stories by Ernest Hemingway on each of the device0s. (According to Mashable, just 10 participants is average for a usability study.) They were also required to read the printed book version.  Users rated the digital and printed books similarly despite the fact that it took them longer to read the stories on the e-readers.  

Reading speeds declined 6.2% on the iPad and 10.7% on the Kindle versus the printed book. However, according to the study, because of the data’s high variability, it was impossible to conclude “which device offers the fastest reading speed.” (So, the jury’s still out on whether the iPad or Kindle will get you to the end of that book faster.)

Participants did comment that the iPad was too heavy and that the Kindle featured “less crisp gray-on-gray letters.” Many users noted that reading an actual book was more relaxing than reading a downloaded one. They also said that reading off a PC reminded them too much of being at work.  

However, Nielsen noted “this study is promising for the future of e-readers and tablet computers … the current generation is almost as good as print in formal performance metrics and actually scores slightly higher in user satisfaction.”

Don’t own an e-reader yet? Check out MainStreet’s article 13 Tablets to Rival the iPad to learn more about your options.

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