A Few Links on Digital Reading and Shopping

So Borders opened an e-bookstore along with apps for Android and Blackberry to go with the existing apps for iPods and iPhones. On one hand, there is indication that Borders will also step up the in-store ebook offerings (without specific mention as to HOW they’re going to do that).

And on the other hand, there’s Mike Cane’s take on the Border’s e-bookstore, which focuses on the Borders Inc President Mike Edwards’ comment that “We’ll take market share just by turning it on.”

I agree with Cane: that comment is just flush with the 0_o and the ??! and WTFery spread on squares of What Now??

And finally, PC World posted a story about a study regarding how fast folks read on paper vs. on the iPad and the Kindle. The study was launched by Dr. Jakob Nielsen of the Nielsen Norman Group, and according to the write up on useit.com they focused on 24 users reading a Hemingway story for approximately 17 minutes on the different devices::

The iPad measured at 6.2% lower reading speed than the printed book, whereas the Kindle measured at 10.7% slower than print. However, the difference between the two devices was not statistically significant because of the data’s fairly high variability.

Thus, the only fair conclusion is that we can’t say for sure which device offers the fastest reading speed. In any case, the difference would be so small that it wouldn’t be a reason to buy one over the other.

But we can say that tablets still haven’t beaten the printed book….

This absolutely astounds me. 10% slower than print? I’m tempted to try to read two similar-length books on paper vs. the Kindle to test myself, but I think I read much faster on the Kindle. For one thing, as Lindsay Faber said to me on Twitter, I’ve figured out at what point on the page I need to click the page turn button so the refresh doesn’t interrupt. For another, control of the text size allows me greater comfort and gives me the ability to sink into the book much easier than on the iPad. But it’s been awhile since I read a paper book, so I don’t know if I’ve really thought to measure how fast I read something on paper vs. via eInk.

I will say this, though:

After using each device, we asked users to rate their satisfaction on a 1–7 scale, with 7 being the best score.

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.

Most of the users’ free-form comments were predictable. For example, they disliked that the iPad was so heavy and that the Kindle featured less-crisp gray-on-gray letters. People also disliked the lack of true pagination and preferred the way the iPad (actually, the iBook app) indicated the amount of text left in a chapter.

Less predictable comments: Users felt that reading the printed book was more relaxing than using electronic devices. And they felt uncomfortable with the PC because it reminded them of work.

Sing it, people, sing it, to all of the above. One thing that digital books have made me think about at length is not only what and where I read, but how I read. What am I doing when I read? How fast can I sink into the story and start ignoring everything around me (much to Hubby’s displeasure)? What is my optimal reading environment and through what format, digital or paper? And do I read faster digitally or am I wrong about that? I have much to ponder, clearly.

What about you: do you think you read faster digitally vs. via a printed page? Should we all get stopwatches and race?



The Link-O-Lator

Comments are Closed

  1. library addict says:

    Since I do not yet own an ereader, I am stuck reading my ebooks on my PC or ancient laptop, which definitely isn’t as comfortable as a paberback or hardcover (yes, I am one of those who loves reading hardcover 😛 )  So I’d agree with the lower comfort/reminds me of work satisfaction score for the PC.

    But I really don’t get why it matters if you read a paper book vs digital book faster.  Who really cares?

    My favorite place to read is either in bed or curled up on the sofa.  The laptop or a print book works fine in bed, but I do prefer print on the sofa as my laptop is heavy and old and glare from the screen is an issue.  If I had an eReader I imagine that could change. 

    I will never understand why publishers and some others view digital and print as being in competition rather than in amiably coexisting.  I just want to read the book.

  2. Lyssa says:

    As a new convert to the Nook, (I actually got mine July 1st) I can say I enjoy the device primarily for ease of storage of reading material, and I don’t miss the paper page at all. I also say reading via nook is vastly better than reading an ebook via computer!

  3. I haven’t timed myself but I have this sense that I read much faster on my iPhone and Nook than I do a printed book. I think it may have something to do with the small size; I read REALLY fast anyway, and given how small the iPhone screen is, I can almost take in all of its content at a single glance. So I whip through a book, tap tap tap tap tap, surprisingly quickly.

    It’d be fun to actually time this though!

  4. Heh.  I wasn’t aware that it was a race.  Maybe if I read slower I wouldn’t need to buy so damn many books.  I probably do read a bit slower on my Kindle because I can’t jump around and skim.  I read a bit more thoughtfully.

    But since I’m reading for PLEASURE, I don’t time myself.

  5. DrgnsLdy28 says:

    I read my ebooks on a mini 9 laptop.  Comfort isn’t an issue with it since its small.  I don’t think its much different from a ereader reading device.
    As for difference in reading time, yeah, I thnk it takes me longer reading an ebook.  Why?  No idea. 

    ebook vs paperback — I prefer paper over electrons though I have almost as many ebooks as paper books.  Its too easy for the harddrive on a computer to crash and lose everything in one shot.  Yet with the paperback I have to worry about silverfish, fires, and water damage.  (experienced all of those with my paper book collection)  But I still prefer that book in my hand.  And I think that has to do with the price.

    I like to read out on the front porch swing when the weathers nice.  Cool breeze and a cool drink in hand.  Perfect moment for reading.

  6. Kerry says:

    Re the timing thing…

    To be honest, who cares?

  7. Scorpio M. says:

    I feel that I read faster on my laptop/BB. I think it’s because there are no page numbers so I tend to read until the end of a chapter, whereas with print books I pause whenever. I’ve never timed it though.

  8. LandSnark says:

    I was wondering if Border’s was going to make a second ebookstore attempt.  I saw that this morning and shook my head. I don’t think they’ll make it now.  I think it’s too late for them to make a decent go of it.

    Reading speed is the same for me whether it’s my ereader or paperback.  Maybe a little faster on the ereader. It’s never fast enough, long enough, or hard enough.  Or sorry, that’s a different blog.  Much slower on a computer.  Harder to curl up with it.

    I’m also sure I use more calories while reading on a ereader (or paperback) than doing dishes or laundry.  I should look into a grant for that study. 

    across29:  29 across?  Hmmm, let’s see.  It has five letters, and it’s something everyone is really good at.

  9. I saw the timing thing lauded on some publisher-centric blog earlier today, like it was some sort of death knell for ebooks. Really? Really

    I don’t know. I acknowledge that by reading primarily m/m and shopping in the weird fringes of the Internet now exclusively for reading material I’m not the norm. But I am now well trained. I feel over $10 for an ebook is appalling no matter who wrote it and what the length. I am considering buying ebook versions of my favorite print books, like Pratchett and Crusie and Judith Ivory if I can go get them. The freedom of being stuck somewhere and being able to pick whatever I want to read! To have what I want RIGHT NOW! It’s so amazing and liberating.

    It’s to the point that pretty much if I can’t get it in ebook, I’m not really interested. Even if it’s cheap and in front of me rather than something I have to order and have delivered, I want it in e. Portability. Organization. Shelf space. If I’m reading a little bit slower, I can live with it.

  10. Carly says:

    I think it might just seem that I’m reading faster on my kindle because I “turn” the pages more often than I would with a paper book. A second question is the dictionary function. It was a Hemingway that they were reading—maybe the people with e-readers were checking their dictionary function more often than people with a printed book would get up to use a dictionary. Really learning new words instead of guessing their meanings from context has been a fun (and unexpected) upside to the e-reader for me.

  11. I’m with Carly—it feels as if I’m reading faster on my iPod Touch, but the pages are far smaller and page turns more frequent, plus the books I tend to read on it are also much shorter (erotic novellas and short novels). I also suspect I read faster digitally because it’s a bit less enjoyable and my eyes are eager to be done.

    However, for whatever reason I suspect I read more digitally, meaning I stop and put the story down less frequently…perhaps because of the human desire to push a button and get a reward (in this case, the page turning). For some fascinating info on how humans read—particularly after the advent of the internet—I recommend Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains.

  12. Pam Regis says:

    On my Kindle I skimmed the last half of an interminable best seller (not a romance, by the way), reading only the heroine’s scenes, and skipping the scenes of all of those other characters about whom I just did not care anymore.

    I remarked at the time that I could skim faster by advancing screens on the Kindle than by turning the pages of a paperback or hardback. It was easier to spot the relevant scenes, for some reason.

  13. Deb says:

    I’d like the study to have included more people and reading choices of more interest (I’m an English major and have read—closely—my fair share of Hemingway), not to mention some non-fiction passages.  Also, I wonder what the study’s gender breakdown was.  Based on my completely unscientific research (i.e., between me and my husband), I’d say that women read faster than men—depending, of course, on the subject matter.

  14. Carin says:

    Before I get excited about the study results I’d want to know things like – were the subjects comfortable using ereaders?  As Sarah mentioned, I’ve gotten good with timing the click to turn the page.

    I don’t know that I read any faster or slower electronically.  I really don’t care.

    I saw the new Border’s ebookstore and you know what I thought?  WHERE’S MY COUPON.  Sheesh.  I get coupons for their paper store all the time.  Having a coupon or some type of sale or anything would have made me actually shop the store rather than take a quick look around and go eh.  What is Borders goign to give me that I can’t get at the Sony store?  Prices looked the same to me.  And Borders wants me to download more software in order to shop their store?  Where’s my motivation to do that?  I’m telling you, without a coupon or super good deal, it’s not worth the trouble to me.

  15. Mama Nice says:

    I most certainly read faster on my Sony…I click it on and boom – right back to the spot I was before. I am forever losing bookmarks, and it takes me a second or two or three to find where I was in a paper book. I have 2 small children constantly demanding my attention – which means I often lose my place on the page – and with the eReader, I can find my spot again much faster (less real estate to scan). I also read more often – since it’s with me and I can grab it and read in short bits (long lines in the store, waiting in the car for a kid’s class to wrap up). I still do both, and am currently in the middle of a hardcover book – which is not quite so convenient to tote around. I don’t think I’d ever enjoy reading a book on a computer screen – even my lil’ netbook – it just doesn’t feel relaxing. You can’t curl up and just relax…oddly enough, people often complain that they miss the feel of a real book in their hands – I find reading the eReader makes getting comfortable easier – my hand doesn’t cramp up from trying to hold the book open in whatever crazy angle I’ve decided to lay down in – and turning pages is a breeze (and the pages don’t blow in the breeze – and since I LOVE to read outside – this is a definite bonus!)

  16. SB Sarah says:

    @carin: I don’t think you’ll be seeing coupons for the Borders ebookstore, at least not for the five agency model publishers. Some of their contracts stipulate that the booksellers cannot offer discounts, incentives or rebates on their digital books.

    Which totally limits a booksellers ability to do what it does, namely: sell books. So my money is on lots of coupons as usual for the Borders physical store, and few coupons for the ebook store unless it’s book-specific.

    I’m working on my grousy rant about the agency model and how much I loathe it, but that’s another (much longer) entry.

  17. Yeah, Barnes and Noble won’t do coupons on its ebooks either, which annoys me as both a Nook owner AND a longtime B&N member.

    AND Fictionwise yanked its Buywise club, which made them a much less attractive prospect for buying books. They also still aren’t carrying most of the titles from the agency model publishers, either.

    I’m not a fan of the agency model, either. 😛

  18. kristen says:

    Oh, I’d love to get my mitts on this. I’ve been twiddling my thumbs waiting for this release.

    What would I do?

    I would sing her praises on the nearest street corner a la Barry Manilow:

    Oh Loretta, you came and you gave me a scoundrel, but I need something more!
    Oh Loretta, Dear Rupert is such a hottie, cuz I like my men dumb!
    Oh Sarah, please give me an Arc and some money to fight my addiction –to romance, cuz I’m getting quite poor! From buying, and buying away…

    *Cough* and so forth…

  19. Wylykat says:

    Warning on the link to free ebooks for Kindle.  The Cry Sanctuary: Book 1 of Red Rock Pass series is not free.  Glad I chekced before clicking to download it.

  20. Jessica says:

    I have several thoughts on the ebook speed study mostly because I am doing something similar for my dissertation research.  First their sample size is way to small to guarantee that their results mean anything.  My analysis says I need at least 54 women and 54 men to find small results, which is what this study found.  With their 24 – no way would I consider the results reliable. 

    Second they didnt account for the fact that all their readers already knew how to use books to read on but didnt necessarily have any idea how to read on a pc or ebbook reader.  Anyone who has used an ebook reader knows it takes an hour or two to get used to it and figure the right timing for page turning. 

    Overall I found it a case of overinflating small to insignificant effects (in a not very valid study) to get news coverage and isn’t something that I will take all that seriously.  Even so it will be mentioned in my dissertation…. but not as good research

  21. Jessica says:

    And I can’t wait for your post of the agency model.  It makes me so annoyed I become incoherent.  I think it is so truly stupid I go out of my way to buy not agency model books for my Kindle and I’ve never cared about publishers before.

  22. Mary Beth says:

    Interesting question.  I might read paper books faster in some cases, because if I hit a boring segment, it’s easy to flip ahead/skim until I come to an area I want to pick up with the story again.  It’s not as easy to do this on an e-reader.  However, given that, I love my Sony e-  book reader and unless I can get books at my library (save a few $‘s with rising prices), I will always opt for ebooks.  I carry my e-book reader everywhere—it’s convenient, comfortable to handle, and I have multiple books at my fingertips!

  23. henofthewoods says:

    I read faster when I read on paper. I am an extremely fast reader and I find it hard to slow myself down when I have a big page available – my eyes are scoping out the next line of text, the next paragraph. I end up missing things. Sometimes they are more important than my brain’s cold-hearted copy-editor has decided and I lose the meaning of a passage until I reread.
    The book may fly by too fast. If I spend over $20 on a hard cover, shouldn’t it last for days rather than hours? But I want to know what happens next and that overrides my ability to slowly and calmly gather all of the meaning from the words.
    An ebook reader (currently my iPod Touch) doesn’t let me see as much text. There is no simple way to skip over a paragraph without realizing I have done it. I am more likely to start rereading a page because I didn’t turn the page correctly.
    I think one of the problems reading from a monitor will always bring, is that our eyes will start to travel to other points on the screen. Our eyes crawl up and down and sideways, and the computer monitor is not stable enough or close enough to our heads to be comfortable reading for long passages. This is especially bad reading from a website with animation of any kind setting off the startle reflex.
    I love handheld ereaders, but the monitor on my pc is only bearable for a short story, and even then I am usually sampling an author before purchase rather than truly reading for pleasure at that second. (Unless shopping is the pleasure?)

  24. henofthewoods says:

    looked at the list of free stories – I think that they are all available as free stories direct from Ellora’s cave if you want other formats.

    (I recognize one or two and am guessing on the rest.)

  25. Jocelyn Z says:

    I bought my nook on the same day as Lyssa, for much the same reasons.  How funny.  (Lyssa, we must get paid on the same day).

    Anyway, I’m still a new adopter, but I think that I do read much more slowly on the nook than I do in print, because I feel like I need to hit every word before I click the button to go to the next screen.  I might get over that in time.

    Overall, so far, I like the nook very much because it’s so light, and I usually read on the train or during lunch at work.  It doesn’t weigh my purse down as much, I don’t have to dedicate a hand to keeping the book open while I’m holding a burrito with the other.  But, if I’m reading at home, I’d prefer a paperback.  I think they’re easier on the eyes, I find that there’s a little glare on my shiny new nook that I don’t like, and though I like the way Nook displays how far you are in a book, I like being able to feel how far I am with my hands.

  26. Chicklet says:

    I read faster on a screen, for sure. I’m not sure why, but that’s the case. Last night I read a 70,000-word fanfic over the course of the evening—an hour, and then a TV break, and then a couple more hours. I did skim ~1000 words of it because it veered into a pairing I don’t like, but I don’t think I would have read a paper version of that same story quite as quickly. *And* it was on my PC, which was on my desk, not an ereader or a smartphone. Maybe my brain is a sport. [/Wrinkle in Time reference]

  27. Ridley says:

    I definitely read books much faster on a reader than I do in print.

    When I read print, my eyes wander. I’ll read random paragraphs, bouncing side-to-side between the two open pages, then re-read it all sequentially.

    In ebook, I have just the one page to look at, so my eyes stay put.

    Best spam word ever: provided69. I can’t even begin to spin that into a phrase without blushing.

  28. Elizabeth says:

    On my nook, I can skim quite quickly. If a book might not be worth finishing, I will

    But for reading well-crafted sentences, books that are worth loving a well-chosen phrase, I find that I do read more slowly on an ereader. I read with more atention.

    When I pick up a paper book, I’ll find my eyes shifting to the facing, next page. I am more inclined to skip (or barely skim) whole sentences, almost paragraphs, at a time.

  29. Lizabeth S. Tucker says:

    I rather like Borders.com, but I do wonder one thing…actually, I suppose it might be two things.  the ebook section of Borders.com is actually run by KOBO, who have their own bookstore as well.  Sony’s Connect is run by Borders.  Huh?

    Did a bit of research as well in regards to pricing.  Borders.com is cheaper than Sony Connect.  But when cruising some books on the Borders app, I found a book for .79 that sold at Borders.com for over $10!  Why, why, why?

    hard44 It is hard to understand, without a doubt.

  30. NannyOgg says:

    My husband calls me the “book chipper” (because I devour books the way a wood chipper devours branches) an he watched me as I was reading on my Kindle last night.  He said I click the “next page” button roughly every 10 seconds.  Yesterday, I read a 400 page book over the course of about 12 hours, with meals, laundry, other chores and a nap in between.  I don’t think my speed has varied from paper to e-book.

  31. NannyOgg, can I just say what a big fan I am of your cookbook?

  32. Anne says:

    Chiming in here from libraryland.

    I believe libraryland 2.0 guru Stephen Abrams commented on this earlier this week.  He had some very good points.

    1) as we all know, e-print is new and we’ll see lots of developments coming up to improve it. 

    2) a user who uses a reader a lot would be much more at ease and turning pages more quickly. 

    3) Hemingway?  A little dense.  A little less challenging material might change the results

    4) The type of reader used makes a big difference

    5)  We don’t know what the controls were for this study other than format.  Were these English majors?  People who are fast readers?  How long was the story? 

    6)  Remember when typing a document on a computer was slower than using a typewriter?  That has changed drastically.  It could be that e-reading speed will increase over time as well.  This would be interesting to check over time

    7)  For the love of tasty taquitos, this is one of the few studies even attempting to measure this so far.  Scientifically speaking, you need a lot more studies to actually prove this.

  33. Smokey says:

    The brief PC World review of the study makes me think the study is more about usability than speed.  And, yes, it takes some learning to get used to the e-reader buttons.  Three things that zipped across my mind about e-paper when I read this post are:

    – I can carry 150+ books on my Kindle/e-reader and all those books fit in my purse.  Saying goodbye to paper weights is a real e-reader plus.

    – The PC is awful for reading.  But it sure is great for putting together bookmarks and notes from many different sources.  E-reader plus a PC is a great student/researcher tool.

    – Pixel Qi displays that can switch between backlight and black-and-white displays were picked by IEEE as a 2010 neat thing and I see a real future for e-reader & a PC.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pixel_Qi for the screen and IEEE = the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, item was in January 2010 IEEE Spectrum magazine.

    My Kindle better hold out for another half decade or so while computer manufacturers work out the technologies.  I know I won’t live long enough for publishers to work out the digital copyrights management issues … but we’ve been through DRM a lot.  Nice to know that “we have the technology.”

  34. Sharon says:

    Hmmm…but why do we want to read something enjoyable faster…?

    Honestly, I love a lot of things about my Kindle, but I still purchase favorite authors’ latest books, or new books I’ve heard really good things about from trusted sources in traditional paper book format because it’s slower in a good way. 

    AAMOF, if I find myself flipping wildly through a book on Kindle it’s a good sign I’m not that crazy about it.  It’s easy to skim and skip on a Kindle. 

    I find myself saving my Kindle for travel and waiting on long lines, and reading paper books when curled up in a soft chair at home, or in bed (my husband can’t stand the sound of the Kindle clicking as I “turn” pages anyway), or, naturally, when I’m enjoying a soak in the tub.

  35. cories says:

    I read pretty quickly anyway and for most books, I skim more than I read (one time, I had to force myself to really slow down when I was reading Wodehouse as to not miss any of his witty writing).  This is very true for paper books.  However, when I read ebooks on my laptop, I don’t read as quickly because it’s harder for me to scan due to fewer words per page.  And all that clicking.  Perhaps I’m more used to reading documents very closely on the computer for work and haven’t yet make the switch in my mind to read/skim for pleasure.

    Another issue for me is that I can read a paper book practically anywhere and I do.  I can’t read an ebook on my laptop while I brush my teeth, soak in the tub, or cook dinner.  I guess I can, but I’d worry more about dropping the laptop on the floor or in the water.  It’d be the same for any ereader I may get.  If I drop a paper book on the floor – no problem.  If I drop a paper book into the water – problem but not over $100’s worth.  So, I don’t read as often with an ebook as I do with a paper book.

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