Study Reveals Users of E-Readers Remember Less Than Those Who Read Printed Books

August 20, 2014—A new study, presented at a conference in Italy, revealed some interesting findings when comparing e-reader users to readers of printed books. The level of absorption was a key finding, where users of e-readers were significantly worse than paperback readers at remembering when events occurred in a story, The Guardian reported.

Fifty readers participated in the study and were tasked with reading the same 28-page short story by Elizabeth George—half read the story on a Kindle, and half in a paperback. The readers were then tested on the objects, characters and settings from the story.

Anne Mangen of Norway’s Stavanger University, was a lead researcher on the study, and chairs a European research network that studies the effects of digital text on reading.

“The Kindle readers performed significantly worse on the plot reconstruction measure, i.e., when they were asked to place 14 events in the correct order,” Mangen told The Guardian.

Mangen added that it is important to provide publishers with these statistics so that they will know which devices should be used for what kind of content.

According to The Guardian, the research concluded that the “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.”

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  • Kyle Cardinal

    An interesting study. I wonder if age would come into play here. If 90% of the participants were older like me and grew up learning from the written pages of text books then this just makes sense to me. I still personally prefer to read actual printed newspapers, magazines, and books, but I am okay with some electronic content. Considering that many high schools, colleges, and universities are moving to digital textbooks doesn’t this study make you wonder if we are sacrificing a better education and smarter students just to save money and not print text books. And, are the e-books just about the same cost as a printed one? Oh we’re going to get into landfill reduction and forest conservation topics aren’t we.

  • Robert Johannes

    Several years ago, a psychological study came out that basically said you learn and absorb 28 percent faster with a book. At the time they attributed this to:

    1. the reflective light values are significantly different than transmitted light.
    2. the body may hardware as a child maximizing the efficiency of print. (if you are more than about 10, chances are you learned first in a book, second in an electronic device)
    3. the page turning experience “links” you to the book. This “bonding” makes learning more efficient as page turning in an e-reader is a “break” in the communication process.

    This study seems to continue on the same path. I’m not surprised. And if educators are smart, they will pay heed to this. We’re far enough behind the rest of the industrialized world in trying to educate our children with haphazard systems. A 28% gap in medium makes the chasm even harder to fill.