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Practically Paradise
Inside Practically Paradise

Comfort versus Processing Ability

Several notable educators have been reading Ian Jakes commentary on this article: Universität Mainz. “Reading a book versus a screen: Different reading devices, different modes of reading?.” I want to comment on this and to share my concerns on purchasing an e-reader, so be sure to read to the end of this article.

I noticed that Judy Moreillon commented on the 21st Century Fluency Project that “the challenge with non-book print readers becomes the distractions and interruptions that e-devices can present.” She also noted “we need to be careful about using the term “reading” when we are actually describing skimming and scanning.”

The article in Science Daily begins: “A book or a screen – which of these two offers more reading comfort? There are no disadvantages to reading from electronic reading devices compared with reading printed texts.

I searched the article for references about measuring reading comfort and the disadvantages or advantages, but I don’t think the study correlated as well with the opening statement. What exactly does this term “reading comfort” mean? The article wants to debunk the subjective perception that readers prefer printed text. Here are two important paragraphs from the article to consider:

“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-ink reader. “We have thus 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 concurrent measures of eye movements (eye tracking) and electrophysiological brain activity (EEG). The criteria that were taken into account and analyzed were changes in the theta frequency band power, reading behavior, text comprehension, and information recall as well as the participants’ preferences for the respective medium.”

To me, those paragraphs discuss the ability to comprehend and process information. According to the researchers, there is no difference in ability to process information. This appears to mean equal processing of information should negate concerns on reader comfort. I am curious what the researchers refer to as reading behavior.

How can you judge comfort? It has nothing to do with the speed of eye movement and tracking of distractions, but everything to do with perception. Comfort is a factor that would seem to correlate with the desire to continue an activity. If someone perceives curling up with printed material as more enjoyable, will they be more likely to repeat the action of reading than someone who curls up with an electronic device?

As for myself, I am enjoying reading on my droid phone using nook and kindle app’s especially out in public when the speed at which I flick pages is less noticeable. When someone new watches me read a magazine, he or she usually accuses me of skimming and scanning instead of reading. Instead I am speed reading, chunking material, and using techniques of speed reading I learned in middle school with my best friend Ken.

When I am home and in the school library, I want my printed books. I surround myself with printed magazines, newspapers, and BOOKS. Yet yesterday my physical education teacher raced in to the library to show us her new Kindle Fire. Several teachers and paraprofessional assistants huddled around while we ooohed and aaahhhed. She kept exclaiming how happy she was that all of her Kindle book titles immediately were available on her Fire.

I noticed how the kindergartner class exploring Starfall on the library computers were entranced with these adults squealing with excitement as the teacher showed all the added features of the Fire (what Judy M. might consider distractions). I asked one kindergartner sitting closest what he thought and he eagerly asked, “Where are your books?” The teacher showed him and immediately his finger darted out to touch the screen and turn the pages.

My sweetie constantly is looking for signs that I have decided which e-device I want so he can buy it for me. I hate dithering so, but I cannot decide which features are most important to me. Do I want a huge battery? Am I willing to sacrifice battery life for color? How important is glare? How often will I be reading in low-light situations versus reading in the bright sunlight? How important is reading magazines and picture books in color to me? Currently 100% of the titles I’m reading on my phone are strictly print with no images, so are my habits going to change if I have the ability?

And… the number one selling point for me is which device is most comfortable for me to curl up with in my usual reading places? Aha! Comfort rules my purchasing decisions.


  1. For the technology aspect of an e-reader, I still prefer the iPad. However, the Nook also provides Internet access for a more reasonable price. I am interested in the new Kindle to see if it beats the Nook in technology.

    For access to books, both the Nook and iPad allow for access to different formats but I feel the iPad may still be ahead of the game. As far as the KIndle? We will see.

    Comfort? I am more comfortable reading a printed book. I enjoy holding it in my hands. I like not having to worry about battery life or access to electricity. My books weigh less than an iPad. My eyes are less tired after reading a book (text) than reading en ebook.

    The big draw for an ereader is being able to “carry” more than one book at a time and have access to e-mail, apps, and other technology. I also have a Droid and I can do all of the above on it so having a separate ereader may not be necessary. The problem with using the phone is not with the phone but with my aging eyes! I am already wearing reading glasses and reading a book on a 2 by 4 inch screen is taxing. Although, in a pinch the Droid is awesome!