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E-reading has adverse effect on plot recall, says study
20.08.14 | Charlotte Eyre
Kindle readers are “significantly” worse at recalling plot compared to paperback readers, according to a new Europe-wide study.
The study, presented in Italy at a conference last month, showed that Kindle readers “performed significantly worse on the plot reconstruction measure, ie, when they were asked to place 14 events in the correct order”, researcher Anne Mangen of Norway's Stavanger University told the Guardian.
For the study, 50 readers were given a short story by Elizabeth George. Half read the 28-page story on a Kindle and the other half read a paperback version. They were then asked about objects, characters and settings in the story.
Mangan said the Kindle readers may remember less about the plot because of the nature of the device's tactile experience.
"When you read on paper you can sense with your fingers a pile of pages on the left growing, and shrinking on the right," she said. "You have the tactile sense of progress, in addition to the visual ... [The differences for Kindle readers] might have something to do with the fact that the fixity of a text on paper, and this very gradual unfolding of paper as you progress through a story, is some kind of sensory offload, supporting the visual sense of progress when you're reading. Perhaps this somehow aids the reader, providing more fixity and solidity to the reader's sense of unfolding and progress of the text, and hence the story."
Only two of the participants were experienced Kindle users but Mangan said regular digital readers would not necessarily perform better.
"I don't think we should assume it is all to do with habits, and base decisions to replace print textbooks with iPads, for instance, on such assumptions. Studies with students, for instance, have shown that they often prefer to read on paper," she said.