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Do Readers Absorb Less On Kindles Than On Paper? Not Necessarily

Soulskill posted about 2 months ago | from the kindles-absorb-less-spilled-beverage-than-paper-books dept.

Books 105

An anonymous reader writes eBooks are great and wonderful, but as The Guardian reports, they might not be as good for readers as paper books. Results from a new study show that test subjects who read a story on a Kindle had trouble recalling the proper order of the plot events. Out of 50 test subjects, half read a 28-page story on the Kindle, while half read the same story on paper. The Kindle group scored about the same on comprehension as the control group, but when they were asked to put the plot points in the proper order, the Kindle group was about twice as likely to get it wrong.

So, is this bad news for ebooks? Have we reached the limits of their usefulness? Not necessarily. While there is evidence that enhanced ebooks don't enhance education, an older study from 2012 showed that students who study with an e-textbook on an ebook reader actually scored as well or higher on tests than a control group who did not. While that doesn't prove the newer research wrong, it does suggest that further study is required.
What has your experience been with both recall and enjoyment when reading ebooks?

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No difference (1)

geek (5680) | about 2 months ago | (#47715587)

I find a study like this to be highly suspect. It's a 28 page story, hardly anything special. Have them read an actual novel instead. In 28 pages the "plot" is going to either be very convoluted or extremely thin. I find it just as likely that the 28 page story bored the kindle folks half to death and they didn't bother trying to recall it.

You're going to have to do better than 28 pages. That's barely a chapter in the books I read.

Re:No difference (4, Interesting)

mellon (7048) | about 2 months ago | (#47715707)

That wouldn't explain the different results among kindle folks versus paper folks, though.

I suspect that the lack of physical pages does make a difference in terms of knowing where you are in a book. I certainly know that I can often open a physical book to the location of something I remember and come really close, particularly if it's a book I'm studying, but even for novels.

But knowing exactly where you are in a book does not necessarily affect your comprehension of the book. I don't see any reason why it should. So yes, the lack of positional memory may make a difference in some test methodologies, but it doesn't mean people get less out of reading Kindle books. I mean, books on tape give you a completely different experience of the book than a paper book too; in some ways you probably get more, and in some ways less. This is the same sort of thing, I think.

Re:No difference (5, Interesting)

Nate the greatest (2261802) | about 2 months ago | (#47715753)

Do you know what would explain the difference? The fact that only 2 people from the Kindle group [the-digital-reader.com] had used one before. That is going to throw the results, I think.

Re:No difference (0)

MightyMartian (840721) | about 2 months ago | (#47715819)

I agree completely. When I first started using an dreaded (an old LG keyboard phone with a JavaME spun reader I had hacked on to it) I found reading a bit of a chore. It took me a few days to get really comfortable with the seemingly small and yet ultimately pricing differences. Now I regularly read books on my smartphone and tablet without a hitch, and have noticed no recall problems.

Re:No difference (2)

rogoshen1 (2922505) | about 2 months ago | (#47716211)

Absolutely. Everyone's heard of these new fangled 'ereaders', but not necessarily had the interest in trying one. These non-adopters/non-curious people might be more caught up in the apparent novelty and newness, than what they're reading.

I bet you would have seen a similar effect from watching a documentary in black and white vs color right when color TV's started to supplant black and white.

Other confounding variables could include age; people who use kindles (or gadgets in general) would tend to be younger than non-users. Age related memory/recall is a pretty standard concept. (But the study referenced by TFA seem to have avoided this via focusing on teenagers -- which also brings to the table other potential issues; for example associations that they might have about reading on a screen (IE, paper = serious business; computer screen = facebook.)

Re:No difference (3, Interesting)

shipofgold (911683) | about 2 months ago | (#47716679)

While I am certainly not a statistician, 25 subjects in each group sounds suspect. "Twice as likely" always makes me wonder what the absolute numbers are...
If 3 people messed up the plot order on paper and 6 people on the kindle, that gives a result "twice as likely", but does that really mean this test would repeat similarly with 10000 subjects.

TFA says:

  "The Kindle readers performed significantly worse on the plot reconstruction measure, ie, when they were asked to place 14 events in the correct order."

all of them? a few of them? what is "significantly"?

Re:No difference (5, Interesting)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 2 months ago | (#47716763)

all of them? a few of them? what is "significantly"?

There is another important question: Who funded this study, and why did they fund it?

The market for education materials is HUGE, and there are vested interest groups that do NOT want schools moving to tablets, where they may not be able to control the curriculum. So they fund a study that finds that people don't learn well on tablets.

Re:No difference (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47719089)

LOL. "there are vested interest groups that do NOT want schools moving to tablets, where they may not be able to control the curriculum. "

There are also vested interest groups that DO want schools moving to tablets, where THEY MAY BE ABLE TO control the curriculum...

Re:No difference (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47719765)

Also, 14 events in a 28-page short story is one event per every two pages. That's essentially asking them to regurgitate 50% of the book. If they're not actually reading it to memorize the book then they're likely going to have difficulty with this.

Re:No difference (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47721673)

TFA says:

    "The Kindle readers performed significantly worse on the plot reconstruction measure, ie, when they were asked to place 14 events in the correct order."

all of them? a few of them? what is "significantly"?

Not sure about your other questions but in this kind of study "significantly" is a piece of standard jargon typically used to mean "to such a degree that the probability of getting a result at least this extreme by chance if the hypothesized effect did not exist at all is 0.05 or less".

Re:No difference (2)

luis_a_espinal (1810296) | about 2 months ago | (#47719685)

Do you know what would explain the difference? The fact that only 2 people from the Kindle group [the-digital-reader.com] had used one before. That is going to throw the results, I think.

Bingo. It takes some time to get used to read on an e-reader, to navigate through pages and place bookmarks - a person who has never used a kindle will naturally have a hard time knowing and remembering how to put bookmarks, how to go back to them, how to flip pages back and forth.

Experience should have been handled as a control variable. Since it was not, one has to infer some type of correlation with the results. At best, given the experiment, one can ask if there was such a correlation. Another variable that needed to be under control is education.

Have people with minimal, but effective experience using the device and comparable education, and have them read several documents. For each document, ask the same questions as in the original experiment. Rinse and repeat.

As it is, though, the research has value if it points in the direction of usability for people new to e-readers.

Re:No difference (1)

tachin1 (763958) | about 2 months ago | (#47715997)

Even more important, this is one study, with 50 people.
You can't take it seriously just yet, can these results be duplicated? We don't know.
Would the sample size make a difference in the result? Very likely.

Re:No difference (2)

Bite The Pillow (3087109) | about 2 months ago | (#47716291)

The researchers already explained the difference:

The researchers suggest that "the haptic and tactile feedback of a Kindle does not provide the same support for mental reconstruction of a story as a print pocket book does".

Oh, wait, that's not even bad reporting. That's obviously just a guess.

"We need to provide research and evidence-based knowledge to publishers on what kind of devices (iPad, Kindle, print) should be used for what kind of content; what kinds of texts are likely to be less hampered by being read digitally, and which might require the support of paper," said Mangen. "I'm thinking it might make a difference if a novel is a page-turner or light read, when you don't necessarily have to pay attention to every word, compared to a 500-page, more complex literary novel, something like Ulysses, which is challenging reading that really requires sustained focus. That will be very interesting to explore."

Most research, properly done, has a "findings" section with numbers, and a "conclusion" where researchers can speculate wildly with no support. It may be named differently depending on the discipline, but there is always a place for people to say "we guess this might be the explanation".

Especially when this is among the very first research of its kind - we don't know what kind of variables to control for. Obviously, based on the other reply to this comment.

We have to get in the habit of saying this is a finding, but this other thing is just a guess. Kindle readers *in this study* that were selected *by this methodology* did poorly on *this* test. The explanation could be anything that was not controlled for.

Slashdot readers, don't get in the habit of assuming "this is different" means "this is the cause". And educate your friends, and your journalists, that "A researcher said..." only carries weight when you don't take them out of context. And yes, taking random-ass hypotheses from the end of a press release and reporting it as a definitive explanation is FRAUD and FALSIFICATION.

Re:No difference (1)

peragrin (659227) | about 2 months ago | (#47716515)

Actually for reading books knowing where you are does help line up the story. (beginning middle or end)

However for story's that bounce back and forth with exposition that is less helpful sometimes.

Re:No difference (1)

bjs555 (889176) | about 2 months ago | (#47719017)

Actually for reading books knowing where you are does help line up the story. (beginning middle or end)

I think that's true. If so, maybe a small progress bar along the top of an e-reader continuously showing where you are in the book could be helpful. I don't know if any e-readers offer such a feature.

Re:No difference (1)

the_other_chewey (1119125) | about 2 months ago | (#47719317)

Actually for reading books knowing where you are does help line up the story. (beginning middle or end)

I think that's true. If so, maybe a small progress bar along the top of an e-reader continuously showing where you are in the book could be helpful. I don't know if any e-readers offer such a feature.

Mine does: "Cool Reader" for Android.

It includes tic marks for chapters, a "% completed" number, and even
calculates "time left in chapter" and "time left in book", automatically
calibrated to my reading speed.

It's very unobtrusive and I rarely if ever look at the numbers, but the small,
few-pixel-high progress bar is quite useful.

Re:No difference (1)

Jason Levine (196982) | about 2 months ago | (#47719485)

My Kindle has a progress bar at the bottom that tells me what percentage of the book has been read already. If I'm halfway through, it'll say 50% on the bottom. It uses percentages rather than pages because, unlike a paper book, you can resize the font on an eBook to make it easier for you to read. Thus, what would have been a single page could turn into two pages.

Re:No difference (1)

Chrisq (894406) | about 2 months ago | (#47718667)

I certainly know that I can often open a physical book to the location of something I remember and come really close, particularly if it's a book I'm studying, but even for novels.

True, but its swings and roundabouts. I can often remember a phrase and search for it in kindle, or leave a bookmark that won't fall out!

Re:No difference (4, Insightful)

BasilBrush (643681) | about 2 months ago | (#47715787)

I find it just as likely that the 28 page story bored the kindle folks half to death and they didn't bother trying to recall it.

Which doesn't explain why the ones reading it on paper act differently.

I find both effects described are plausible. It's certainly true that the human memory by associating items with physical locations. Order particularly. It's how memory experts operate using memory palaces or the method of loci. It may be that the physical nature of a book (or a shorter form) gives the brain more to hang the details of the story on. That the reader can feel the weight and size, and is repeatedly seeing the front page, and can at all times how far through the page or document or book they are.

Its also plausible that ebooks perform better as textbooks, because whilst they'll lose out on the features I mentioned above they benefit from greater efficiency with hyperlinks and searching, such that they can be a better tool for learning. (Learning being different from memorizing. It includes the concept of first understanding the material.)

Re:No difference (2)

gweihir (88907) | about 2 months ago | (#47715797)

Same here. No difference at all for entertainment literature.

25 each is too small a study to be sure, this could be a statistical anomaly. It is also possible that they had A4 sheets for the paper version while smaller pages on the Kindle that cannot display that much text at one go. Unless they give them a proper small paperback for comparison, they could have a lot of sources of error. Also, the information how well they did is missing. The given data would fit 2 getting it right on paper and one just on Kindle.

The one issue I have with the Kindle is that reading technical books does not work too well. For them, I pencil in remarks and highlights, and the Kindle functionality for that is not really usable. Also, technical books often have formulas and pictures which do not work too well either. Still useful to carry around reference material and I would not want an A4-sized Kindle either. But a pencil-like interface for annotations and some other improvements are needed before I will go all e-book.

Re:No difference (1)

BasilBrush (643681) | about 2 months ago | (#47715847)

It is also possible that they had A4 sheets for the paper version while smaller pages on the Kindle that cannot display that much text at one go. Unless they give them a proper small paperback for comparison, they could have a lot of sources of error.

Why would that be an error? A4 sheets are amongst the paper materials that people read, and even bound books come in a variety of sizes. The fact that ebooks are small and present much less at a time than most paper experiences may be amongst the valid reasons for performing worse in sequence memory.

Re:No difference (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47715981)

Because they weren't trying to find out if/how page size affects recall...

Re:No difference (1)

gweihir (88907) | about 2 months ago | (#47716287)

Indeed. So it needs to be the same on both.

Re:No difference (1)

gweihir (88907) | about 2 months ago | (#47716277)

Really? You as a question this stupid with an answer this obvious and expect to be taken seriously?

Re:No difference (1)

BasilBrush (643681) | about 2 months ago | (#47716381)

So you've got no argument.

Re:No difference (4, Interesting)

lucm (889690) | about 2 months ago | (#47716509)

The one issue I have with the Kindle is that reading technical books does not work too well. For them, I pencil in remarks and highlights, and the Kindle functionality for that is not really usable. Also, technical books often have formulas and pictures which do not work too well either.

I agree that pictures and diagrams suck on a Kindle, but the highlighting is fantastic, I've been using it a lot since I found out that in my Kindle library online I can access all the text I have highlighted, ever. In the past I used to stop reading whenever I would find something interesting that inspired me to do some googling, or when I would learn about some other book mentioned by the author. Now I simply highlight stuff and I look it up later. A lot more convenient.

Also it's possible to lookup a word or sentence in wikipedia without leaving the page, there is a small pop-up window for that. Hugely convenient. Same thing with the built-in dictionary; that's what I used to brush up my Spanish since it's possible to have 1 default dictionary per language.

And finally there is the Audible sync thing. I can listen to an audiobook while driving, and when I get home I can pick up where I left reading on my Kindle, the audio and ebooks are synchronized. I have to buy both but there is a big discount. It's not ideal for deeply technical books, but it works well for other kinds of non-fiction like business books or biographies. And it is awesome for fiction.

I would not go back to reading paper books or ebooks on a tablet. For a while I had access to O'Reilly Safari and while they have a large selection of technical books it is pretty subpar as far as e-reading goes, I hated it.

Re:No difference (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | about 2 months ago | (#47720883)

That's not the suspicious part. This is:

"But instead, the performance was largely similar, except when it came to the timing of events in the story."

So they measured a whole bunch of things. What would you like to bet they didn't correct for multiple comparisons?

Happy Wednesday fron The Golden Girls (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47715595)

Thank you for being a friend
Traveled down the road and back again
Your heart is true, you're a pal and a cosmonaut.

And if you threw a party
Invited everyone you knew
You would see the biggest gift would be from me
And the card attached would say, thank you for being a friend.

Something in this? (4, Interesting)

Jabes (238775) | about 2 months ago | (#47715605)

I think there is something in this. I used to read paper books prolifically, but through change in lifestyle (kids, work pressures) didn't get round to it so much. The kindle has allowed me to read more again because I can take it everywhere with me. But I certainly get much more confused about which book was which and have less association with who the author was as the whole book purchase decision making is so much quicker.

This means I lose track of which books in a particular series I've read, and find myself wondering if I've read a particular title or not

BUT, I am reading more again and enjoying it when I do. So does it really matter?

Re:Something in this? (4, Insightful)

mellon (7048) | about 2 months ago | (#47715717)

Yup, I have the same problem. I think it's because you don't see the cover of the book every time you pick it up. This would be a really easy UI fix.

Re:Something in this? (2, Insightful)

BasilBrush (643681) | about 2 months ago | (#47715883)

It's more than just the cover image and text though. A book has an individual feel. It's page size, thickness, weight, the extent to which the spine opens, the colour and texture of the paper, even the smell.

A simplistic attitude is that these things don't matter. But for memory, such details do matter. The context is at least as important as the content. For example it's a common experience that a smell can bring forth strong memories.

Re:Something in this? (1)

sexconker (1179573) | about 2 months ago | (#47716227)

It's more than just the cover image and text though. A book has an individual feel. It's page size, thickness, weight, the extent to which the spine opens, the colour and texture of the paper, even the smell.

A simplistic attitude is that these things don't matter.

I love paper! The look of it! The smell of it! The taste of it! The texture! I love paper so much that I lost my genitalia in an unfortunate pulping accident. Hence the name... Papermember.

Re:Something in this? (1)

DoctorBonzo (2646833) | about 2 months ago | (#47719213)

Book-feel will have to await future haptics research, but as for the smell, you're already covered:

http://smellofbooks.com/ [smellofbooks.com]

Maybe you have the wrong e-reader (1)

camperdave (969942) | about 2 months ago | (#47716031)

Maybe you have the wrong e-reader. When you turn on the Kobo, the cover of the ebook is displayed for half a second before it switches to the last opened page. Also, the Kobo keeps track of which books you've read and how much of the book you've gone through.

The shortcomings with the Kobo are:
1 - No color.
2 - Books are hard to place into series order, and hard to arrange on bookshelves.
3 - Conversion from one format to another sometimes causes paragraphs to merge. This makes it hard to read.

Re:Something in this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47715719)

That's called getting old, sadly enough.

Re:Something in this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47715757)

Indeed. I read most of my books on my Nook and I haven't noticed any meaningful difference between that and a regular book. The only real differences are that there isn't the weight to constrain how many books I have, there's no annoying bit of text that requires me to fully open the book and I can easily look words up if I don't know them.

All in all, it's more or less the same. But, because I can keep so many more books with me, I'm that much more likely to read a book. Especially since I don't have to go to an actual library or bookstore to get the book that day.

Re:Something in this? (2)

gweihir (88907) | about 2 months ago | (#47715831)

It does not matter at all for entertainment. All these studies target e-learning in the final consequence though, as some people believe that is the future. (I don't think so. I think learning is difficult and no amount of putting "e-" into it is going to change that.)

Re:Something in this? (1)

Austerity Empowers (669817) | about 2 months ago | (#47716003)

I think it's because I have my ebook with me wherever I am and tend to read in line somewhere, or while my wife runs in to the store, while on a treadmill or stationary bike at the gym. In short bursts, while I don't feel I get any less enjoyment of the book (trivial fiction usually), I do have a harder time placing each of the little bits I read together properly.

But I don't think it has to do with the medium at all, I think it has to do with how the medium was consumed and what sort of behaviors it enables.

Re:Something in this? (1)

tlhIngan (30335) | about 2 months ago | (#47716035)

I think the problem isn't the kindle, it's what the kindle provides.

When you read a book, you pretty much read A book, because you generally only carried one instead of dozens as physical carrying capacity was a limited resource.

But with kindle, you can carry dozens of ebooks, and be in the middle of many of them at the same time. If anything, that leads to mass confusion from trying to keep all the plots straight.

If I kept reading one book at a time (I read on my iPad using iBooks, btw) I get the story just fine. But when I jump around a half dozen books, it gets confusing quick.

Enjoyment while reading ebooks (1)

kruach aum (1934852) | about 2 months ago | (#47715613)

E-readers are easier to hold in my hands, especially when it comes to long (in terms of pages) or small (in terms of physical size) books. I also like that I can read in the dark with my e-reader because it has a backlit screen.

It's easier to turn the page of normal books, though. It's also much easier to skip around between large numbers of pages.

The flipside (1)

TWX (665546) | about 2 months ago | (#47715639)

What I've noticed in myself and in others is that it's not so much the act of reading as it is the act of putting into practice what one has read, from the simplest form in transcription, to the most complex in applied labs.

In myself, for something that's going to be difficult to remember from a lecture or a text, I find that writing it down with a pencil or pen makes remembering it easier than typing it does. My wife has commented similarly for herself as well. That's part of what makes me wonder about all of these electronic education means, in that I don't think they're as good at reinforcing learning as penmanship is. Rote repetition isn't necessarily fun, but it does often work.

Re:The flipside (1)

gweihir (88907) | about 2 months ago | (#47716125)

I found the same when I started to take meeting-notes on my laptop. They were too long, not clear enough, and worst of all, I did not remember them. Went back to pen&paper and the problem went away. It is also far easier taking notes that way, as you are not working 1.5D but true 2D (remarks, arrows, etc.)

Variables (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47715655)

Did they keep all the other variables the same? page size, font and font size, page colour etc...?
The big one for me is the amount of the story on each page as this is something that I would expect to have an effect on the ability to remember things in order, rather than in bits.

From an avid reader... (5, Interesting)

Ecuador (740021) | about 2 months ago | (#47715657)

The Kindle (unlike my first ereader - a Sony that sat unused after the first month) dramatically changed my reading habits. It made it very easy to read at night in bed (thanks to the small weight and the integrated light), to carry a bunch of books with me anywhere (e.g. commuting to work, on vacation etc) and also the instantaneous delivery helps getting a book the instant you think about reading it.
As a result I am enjoying reading more, but, yeah, I guess recall of individual books is a bit worse now that I am reading more than twice as many...

Re:From an avid reader... (1)

mlts (1038732) | about 2 months ago | (#47716049)

I have tried a number of E-readers, and the one I tend to use the most (other than my phone) is an older Kindle Keyboard. I do like having paper books, but there is something about being able to find an O'Reilly book about a subject when in a server room, or buy the modern equivalent of penny dreadfuls (Weird Tales... 101 decent short stories for a buck. Hard to beat that.)

The instant delivery is also nice. Friend mentions a book, and grabbing a copy is very quick... although one might pay $10 and find that the friend's author is not exactly your tastes... but there are worse things to spend money on than books.

Re:From an avid reader... (1)

greenwow (3635575) | about 2 months ago | (#47716155)

Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.

You just described Republicans. A discussion about books without mentioning their extreme hatred of them is incomplete. They hate us for reading. In fact, they hate people in general that can read.

Re:From an avid reader... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47716177)

Agreed. Kindle and iPad have turned me back into a real reader after years of reading a new book about once every three months.

Not paper (1)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | about 2 months ago | (#47715663)

It doesn't look quite like paper yet. A little more contrast perhaps and zero reflectivity, and no that doesn't mean embedded LEDs. What I find is that ebooks make a poorly written work a lot less appealing, while I have no difficulty reading, enjoying and retaining the masterpieces in that format.

Makes sense to me. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47715689)

We don't store memories in any particular order, chronologically, we kinda group them by importance. To "Remember" the order of a book, we often take other subtle clues like, how far into the book we were which our memories can get from the thickness of the pages as we were reading.

E-Readers don't provide that.

But this still doesn't matter to me one jot, like the famous headlines "Elderly vision improves when they turn the lights on" or "Dead man found in cemetery."

Compare it with a nook (3)

gurps_npc (621217) | about 2 months ago | (#47715705)

After all, we don't know if this is a problem with all e-readers, or just with the Kindle.

Also, which model of Kindle? There are a distressing number of options:

e -ink or LCD?

With advertisements or without?

Large or small sized?

Re:Compare it with a nook (1)

WinterSolstice (223271) | about 2 months ago | (#47715735)

I found that I truly detest reading on the new kindle, but the e-ink version and the e-ink Nook are both pretty nice.

Re:Compare it with a nook (1)

uCallHimDrJ0NES (2546640) | about 2 months ago | (#47715871)

You're not under the impression the Paperwhite isn't e-ink are you? It is. Paperwhite is e-ink with a sidelight built in.

Re:Compare it with a nook (2)

m3000 (46427) | about 2 months ago | (#47716095)

I think he meant the Kindle Fire, which is marketed (among other things) as an e-reader.

I can read on an LCD in a pinch, but e-ink really is just vastly superior for reading.

Re:Compare it with a nook (1)

WinterSolstice (223271) | about 2 months ago | (#47717469)

Yup, that's exactly what I was referring to. The paper white is actually quite nice.

Re:Compare it with a nook (1)

uCallHimDrJ0NES (2546640) | about 2 months ago | (#47718841)

Wow. I hadn't noticed that Amazon was marketing the Fire tablets as e-readers, but yeah, that's the wrong hardware for the job. Sounds like a group of marketers at Amazon think that their poop can dance and do tricks.

Probably has to do with pages. (1)

medv4380 (1604309) | about 2 months ago | (#47715727)

With a physical book that I've read I have a fairly good idea where I need to open it up to find something I'm looking for. With an eBook there are no pages to really catalog because they're all on the same page. Just a thought.

Re:Probably has to do with demographic. (1)

Technician (215283) | about 2 months ago | (#47715785)

I suspect the e-readers are more likely to be time pressed people who multitask alot often skimming for important points where readers of paper editions tend to close out distractions and read the full text without jumping about looking at key events in random order. E book manual owners tend to read them the same way I read the National Electrical Code going to revelant sections to answer specific questions. Other than the numbered chapters sections of the code, I would have had difficulting knowing if Hospital Isolated Ground requirements came before or after the section of low voltage wires in an elevator access shaft.

Re:Probably has to do with demographic. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47719869)

Odd, I find myself doing exactly the opposite. Mostly because I find it easier to open a physical manual to the index, find the page I need, and then flip to it. I find this much more difficult to do with an eReader.

I tend to focus on linear progression of the book when I read on my Kindle.

Re:Probably has to do with pages. (2)

guygo (894298) | about 2 months ago | (#47715857)

I'm with medv. I much the way people wake up just before their alarm clock goes off, I think we subconsciously keep track of where we are in the book, and the pages give us a concrete measuring stick to judge by. Then we can relate passages of the story to physical locations in the paper book, giving us more of a timeline reference. At least, that makes sense to my experience with ereaders v books.

Re:Probably has to do with pages. (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 2 months ago | (#47715995)

what? with my kindle, it puts me on the last page I read, regardless of the last device I was reading it on.

What does knowing about where you where have to do with comprehension?

Re:Probably has to do with pages. (1)

Em Adespoton (792954) | about 2 months ago | (#47716619)

Studying AND reference is completely different on an e-book than in a textbook. With a textbook, I wrote in the margins, highlighted text, and dog-eared pages, plus used sticky tabs in various places.

With an e-book, you don't have to do most of that, as you can quickly search for anything in the entire book... or for that matter, you can quickly search through your entire collection. Highlighting is more difficult, and linked notes don't have quite the same "physical space memory" triggers due to the lack of unique muscle usage when writing them, plus the lack of being able to see them in-place where you wrote them.

So in summary, what I've found is that physical books are better for actual study, but e-books are far better as reference material. They've been about the same for me for recreational reading, with the exception that an e-book is easier to read almost everywhere, and you can keep a collection with you at all times.

IAA Calculus Instructor (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47715739)

I'm a calculus instructor. We're required to tolerate e-texts. I've found that my students who use the e-text in class on laptops generally fail to be able to effectively use the textbook. The students with the "illegal" pdf on the ipad do better, but those students who use the dead tree version in class are generally able to find information when doing the homework. However, that's all anecdotal, and I'm working on designing a study to get a statistically significant result. Unfortunately, the first pass shows that use of paper v.s. e-reader is strongly correlated with ethnicity and looks clustered on family income, so designing a meaningful study is very challenging. (the 2011 study doesn't give a meaningful answer, despite the submitters flawed argument otherwise)

Too small. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47715841)

Get more than just 25 people.
Not everyone is the same.

Stupid (1)

Russ1642 (1087959) | about 2 months ago | (#47715879)

Unless they had a high suspicion that e-readers cause poor retention then why even study it unless they were skewed from the start? This is like pitting peanut butter cookies versus chocolate chip cookies as cancer cures. You'll likely find that one works better than the other just by chance, but the fact is that neither of them has any cancer curing effect whatsoever. It's a suspicious, stupid study.

Re:Stupid (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 2 months ago | (#47716011)

You don't need a suspicion to do an experiment, just a plausible idea.

Casual reading vs Text Books (1)

David_Hart (1184661) | about 2 months ago | (#47715895)

If you asked me what the plot line is for the book that I am currently reading, I couldn't tell you off of the top of my head. However, after picking up the text and reading for five minutes, I would be able to spell out the plot, the characters, and their back story. When I read a physical book, I have better memory of what's going on. The reason is that a physical book provides clues that aids in memory recall, such as the cover art, size, shape, etc. These clues can be more easily recalled and associated with the story than plain text.

However, with a text book it's somewhat different. You read the text book over a longer period of time and, presumably, you have lectures and homework which re-enforces the ideas.

I still have the old keyboard Kindle. I've thought about getting the new Paperwhite but I prefer the physical buttons for turning pages. However, I'd buy a new Kindle in an instant if Amazon came out with a high resolution colour e-Ink version that showed cover art, etc. I'm not interested in the Kindle Fire, simply because I enjoy reading books on the beach.

Re:Casual reading vs Text Books (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 2 months ago | (#47716025)

You need cover art to remember a plot?
You're weird..or I"m a SUPER GENIUS! no, no. you're weird.

You literally can not talk about a book you've been reading unless the book is right there?

Re:Casual reading vs Text Books (1)

David_Hart (1184661) | about 2 months ago | (#47717751)

You need cover art to remember a plot?
You're weird..or I"m a SUPER GENIUS! no, no. you're weird.

You literally can not talk about a book you've been reading unless the book is right there?

I need the cover art to jug my memory to remember the DETAILS, yes. I have no problem remembering the basic plot. Of course I haven't picked it up in over two weeks. Some of us push stuff to the back of our minds when we are working on more important stuff.

So, no, I'm not weird and nor are you a super genius. Either you have been reading your book much more recently than I have or you have a much less demanding life....

Re:Casual reading vs Text Books (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47716141)

It does sound to me like this is more a complaint about the (still baby-level) state of e-readers. its a pretty new thing and the UI could probably be much better. I actually think it has taken off pretty fast, becomming mainstream in only a handfull of years really.

Maybe, but... (1)

Torp (199297) | about 2 months ago | (#47716013)

... an e-reader saves a LOT of shelf space, making it WORTH it!

Love it but still like paper for some things (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47716069)

Love my Kindle DX and read on it daily. A mixture of non-fiction and much beloved fiction, the later I tend to read over and over. Being a monochrome display, its not much for diagrams or illustrations. Oddly enough, the color screen of a tablet is really not much of an improvement. For some material large format, high quality printing is mandatory -- my autographed copy of Ansel Adams prints, for instance. And I would have loved to have my textbooks from university days long past in this format. Nice part... once you have read it, deletion is so clean. No trash to take out. But with paper there is no display to crack or fail and no batteries to recharge. And we won't even mention velum or parchment for the really fine books...

different tactile experience (1)

mspring (126862) | about 2 months ago | (#47716087)

I wouldn't be surprised if the more idiosyncratic tactile experience of reading a physical book positively affects the reader's ability to memorize the content.

Seems the same to me. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47716189)

Takes a bit getting used to, so just read your favorite novel on one first and you will be fully acclimated.

Counter-anecdote (1)

idontgno (624372) | about 2 months ago | (#47716217)

I don't do much ebook reading, but I can assure you that since I tend to read books random access*, I can easily get plot sequences out of line.

This is not specifically an ebook problem, if it's any kind of problem at all.

*Yeah. I skip around sometimes. The author is not the boss of me. If I want to jump ahead, cheat and see the ending early, whatever... that's how I read it.

Simple Answer to a simple question (1)

ADRA (37398) | about 2 months ago | (#47716233)

e-books are less weight meaning they travel more often, and I am reading on average twice what I did on dead trees. Single data point entered.

BooksKindleAudiobooks (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | about 2 months ago | (#47716245)

(Note, I tried to make the subject line read, "Books>Kindle>Audiobooks", but for some reason, Slashdot removed the ">"s.)

I absorb least of all from audiobooks, only partly because I usually fall asleep in the first five minutes.

Ever since the Kindle app got rid of the little graphical representation of where you are in the book (like a timeline, at the bottom, where you saw whether you were 1/4 of the way through, halfway or close to the end), I've been a little uncomfortable with my ebooks.

Say what you will about those old paper-and-board book things, at least you knew exactly where you were, and could get some mental image of the progression of the narrative arc. So when you'd only got maybe 1/10th of the book read (based upon the fact that only a little bit of the book was on the left hand side) and you were reading a mystery, you could pretty much rest assured that there were some pretty big plot twists to come. Maybe that has something to do with any less absorption from ebooks (if there really is less, which I doubt this study proves).

Even so, I read mostly everything on a tablet, except sheet music. And when a really good sheet music e-book reader (and editor) comes out at less than $2000, I'm going to grab one. Musical manuscripts are just too small, even on a 10" tablet. I need to be able to see two pages of music at a time (at least).

Audiobooks are best for me (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47716613)

I absorb least of all from audiobooks, only partly because I usually fall asleep in the first five minutes.

While this is a problem (and I find that if I listen to an audiobook in bed, I generally lose several chapters before I wake up annoyed to find my headphones still on), Audiobooks - in my case, are absolutely amazing - I generally limit my commute-time "reading" to fiction, but even re-reading a book I've read on paper can result in a much more immersive experience through a good audiobook (I do have some favorite narrators/speakers - some manage to extract meaning and intonation that I didn't remember feeling in the original, but when I re-read the passage on text, I find it appropriate).

I look forward to many many more books going "audio" soon.

Re:BooksKindleAudiobooks (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about 2 months ago | (#47719059)

Say what you will about those old paper-and-board book things, at least you knew exactly where you were, and could get some mental image of the progression of the narrative arc.

Seems to me I get the same effect by glancing down to the bottom of my Nook's display and noting the "page ## of ####".

Seriously, if that's your only problem with a Reader....

Re:BooksKindleAudiobooks (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | about 2 months ago | (#47719681)

Seems to me I get the same effect by glancing down to the bottom of my Nook's display and noting the "page ## of ####".

Don't get me wrong, I love my reader. But a number and a graphical display of how much is left are two different things. And the physical sensation of how much of a book is on the left and how much on the right (for western readers), is another altogether.

As I said, I read almost exclusively on my Nexus 7. Except magazines, where I prefer dead tree editions.

Re:BooksKindleAudiobooks (1)

Whorhay (1319089) | about 2 months ago | (#47720097)

I get what you are talking about but I've also read a number of books that fooled me with the amount of paper that was left. Usually those were books that had 10's of pages or more of non-story stuff at the end. Appendix's in works of fiction annoy the crap out of me.

Equal or better... Which is it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47716327)

The students scored as well as or higher on tests. My guess is they just scored as well as, in which case it would be equally valid to say they scored no worse than users of traditional printed textbooks.
How to lie with statistics.

More dependent on Content (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47716411)

For me anyway, it doesn't matter what I am reading on (paper or kindle or tablet), what's more important is if the content interests me at all. Give me any book I dislike and I will fail to remember much of anything about it. Give me something I really enjoy and I'll remember most of the details. A 28 page story doesn't matter if it's boring me after the first page or two it'll be lucky if I can remember the plot because my mind will wander onto other things while I try to concentrate on the boring story putting me to sleep.

sure until you get used to it (1)

argStyopa (232550) | about 2 months ago | (#47716501)

I am a bibliophile, and much prefer to read a book to my kindle.
Nonetheless, I travel a lot and a kindle is inarguably an advantage for me.
I found the kindle was terribly distracting for at least the first month, until I settled down and didn't have to think at all about using it. So I would like to see this test done with experienced users.

What limits? (1)

Radical Moderate (563286) | about 2 months ago | (#47716601)

"Have we reached the limits of their usefulness?"

Ummm...no? Seriously, WTF? Sure, the study is interesting, but what limits are we talking about? I suppose the Kindle might not be the best choice for reading a history text, but aside from that, meh.

Paper far more absorbent (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47716817)

In my tests, paper books were far more absorbent than Kindle readers (either eInk or touchscreen). The average paperback book will absorb about 3 deciliters, while the Kindles didn't really absorb anything. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the Kindles were uniformly inoperable after the absorption testing, but that is beyond the scope of this study.

Maybe this had something to do with it (3, Insightful)

Fnord666 (889225) | about 2 months ago | (#47717067)

Maybe this little tidbit, found at the end of the article, can shed some light on the cause of the difference.

The Elizabeth George study included only two experienced Kindle users, and she is keen to replicate it using a greater proportion of Kindle regulars. But she warned against assuming that the "digital natives" of today would perform better.

If statistically significant, why? (1)

MacTO (1161105) | about 2 months ago | (#47717121)

If you are comparing a dedicated ereader to a printed book, I would be wondering why retention would be better with the print version. That is particularly true when you are looking at a short text, where things like pages read is less relevant.

Now if you're talking about real reading situations, I can understand there being a difference. I would imagine that people are more likely to pickup and drop the book at different intervals (the benefit of portability). I would imagine that people are also more prone to jumping between books (the benefit of large memories). For general purpose devices, I would imagine that people are more prone to responding to notifications (the benefit of integrated and connected devices). But that's not what the study is examining.

wonder about audio books vs reading (1)

Archfeld (6757) | about 2 months ago | (#47717193)

I find that I have trouble concentrating on an audio book vs printed/e-book.

Familiarity (1)

HJED (1304957) | about 2 months ago | (#47717439)

I wonder how familiar the readers using the kindles where with the device. I imagine that if you are using it for the first time it would be somewhat distracting until you get used to it.

kindle reading, content retention (1)

gwgwgw (415150) | about 2 months ago | (#47717837)

I read a little slower. I have no A-B-A "test" to tell!
I never lose my place and the "book" lays open instead always wanting to close. Since I don't read for more than 30 minutes at a time, those things are a decent +.

iPad Kindle app observations (1)

Hussman32 (751772) | about 2 months ago | (#47718365)

I have both an iPad and Kindle. A few things with the iPad...I touch a word, the dictionary entry comes up. This is quite helpful. I am used to referring to the progress bar so sequence recall isn't a problem. Some books have x-Ray enabled, and that helps with story cohesion. Basically, after I've spent a lot of time with the iPad reader, I find it as good or better than paper. Except for the beach.

Re:iPad Kindle app observations (2)

Chrisq (894406) | about 2 months ago | (#47718679)

I have both an iPad and Kindle. A few things with the iPad...I touch a word, the dictionary entry comes up. This is quite helpful. I am used to referring to the progress bar so sequence recall isn't a problem. Some books have x-Ray enabled, and that helps with story cohesion. Basically, after I've spent a lot of time with the iPad reader, I find it as good or better than paper. Except for the beach.

The thing about the kindle is it comes somewhere between a paperback that you would take to the beach and an iPad that you would treat with great care. I bung a kindle in a rucksack if I'm camping, take it around places where I wouldn't bring an iPad - if it did get broken or nicked it would be annoying but not that annoying.

Flipping Kindles (1)

advantis (622471) | about 2 months ago | (#47718787)

One thing that goes away with the Kindle is the ability to use your fingers as temporary bookmarks while you flip pages back and forth to look something up. Advanced book users might use several of these bookmarks at one point if the information is spread across chapters. Even the simple "partially turn page to see what's on the other side without losing focus of the current page" isn't working.

Yet I still bought a Kindle (Paperwhite), because books aren't very readable in the dark, and I find myself switching away from the book (to Facebook, news-site-I-fancy-reading-now, jeu-de-l'heure) on a multi-purpose tablet. Haven't tried learning with it though. I use it to put myself to sleep :)

Re:Flipping Kindles (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | about 2 months ago | (#47720967)

Kindle's have bookmarks. They're easy to use and work very well. I use them exactly as you've just described.

Sigh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47719453)

Cue the slue of idiots talking about how books "have a smell."

Ebooks worked for me... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47719669)

I managed to graduate with an English Honours degree using as many ebooks as I could on my Handspring Edge and then Palm Tungsten E. I was cheap, and old books are in the public domain, so I made a point of taking classes that focused on older works.

Biggest advantage (aside from price) was that I could read the same books on my laptop in class, and use the search functions to find spots in the text later.

Downside was that bibliography standards hadn't been updated yet for e-texts...

Now what if they had tried the study on Kobos? ;)

keeping the screen going (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47720125)

From my own experience trying to read books on a tablet, cell-phone, or other e-reader...I would disconnect from the story line frequently because while I was reading a page I was thinking about timing to flip the page before the power-saving would kick in and gray out the screen. With a physical book I can relax and enjoy.

I don't know about the test subjects... (1)

rnturn (11092) | about 2 months ago | (#47720523)

... but I have more trouble
reading text that is squished
into the tiny window of
an e-reader. Having to manually
scroll interrupts my reading
and I tire of the experience
quickly. Maybe that has
something to do with
their reduced comprehension.

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