Reading on Kindles vs Printed Books

Jakob Nielsen has been conducting reading comprehension tests among a variety of reading devices. He says people can read books fastest in printed book form. But, people seem to find the experiences fairly comparable:

[On a 1-7 scale, the] iPad, Kindle, and the printed book all scored fairly high at 5.8, 5.7, and 5.6, respectively. The PC, however, scored an abysmal 3.6.

I completely agree with the PC based book reading experience as it exists today. The Kindle for the Mac is surprisingly unusable compared to actual Kindles, Kindle for iPhones/iPod Touches, or Kindle for Android devices. Plus, it’s very difficult to read a book when there are so many other distractions on a computer.

Nielsen’s tests suggest that people can read faster on books in printed form. However, I think that result will vary tremendously based on how familiar people are with reading on an electronic device. Also, picking the most comfortable font size, font face, brightness, and contrast will make a huge difference. A person with poor vision will clearly have better luck reading on a device where they can blow up the text to something easier to read.

In my own case, I’m sure I can read more effectively on my Kindle for Android app than I can in book form. Why? Because I get around to doing 90% of my book reading either in the dark, or at times when I don’t have a printed book with me.

3 thoughts on “Reading on Kindles vs Printed Books”

  1. Looking for a stretch speculation guess here — how many books do you think the average Kindle owner will read on their device before buying a new one, breaking it, losing it, getting bored of it or letting it gather dust? Maybe figure that the effective lifespan is about the same as a laptop — perhaps 3-4 years. Or less — obsolescence and required upgrade could be accelerated if new formats, features or styles may come out that render the old ones obsolete sooner — or, like many iPhone users or just first adapters, they’ll just want the newest when it comes out, whether they need it or not…

  2. @LM, interesting question. It seems safe to assume that a person buying a Kindle is a fairly heavy reader, so I imagine an assumption of 2 books/month would probably be conservative. So if the Kindle lasted 3 years, they’d manage to consume 96 books in the time they owned it. If that’s the case, the cost of a Kindle would likely be dwarfed by the savings on books.

    But, I think the various Kindle apps for the iPad, iPod Touch, iPhone, and Android phones are likely the platform of choice for Kindle book purchases. Personally, I read the Kindle formatted book I buy on my Android phone and iPod Touch. In both cases, this is only one of the many things I use each of these devices for, which makes a lot more sense to me than buying a Kindle device.

    One nice thing about Kindle reading is that you can open any device you’ve downloaded the book to, and immediately find yourself at the last-read page of the book. This also applies if you were to, say, lose your phone or Kindle. As soon as you get to an Internet connection you could re-sync and be up and running in minutes.

  3. oh no Last time I looked I didn’t see a kindle for android app! I will now have a large bill from amazon.com as soon as I tell my wife (on book 54 this year 7/7/2010).

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