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7/6/2010
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iPad, Kindle Slow Reading Speed

People read books much faster on paper than on the Apple iPad or Amazon Kindle a study from the Nielsen Norman Group shows.

People read books much faster on paper than on the Amazon Kindle and the Apple iPad, a study shows.

In testing a couple of dozen people, all of whom frequently read books, the Nielsen Norman Group found that reading on the iPad was 6.2% slower than the printed book, while reading on the Kindle 2 was 10.7% slower. All study participants read a short story by Ernest Hemingway, who was chosen because his work is engaging, but not so complicated as to be over the heads of users, according to the study.

While reading on the Kindle e-reader appeared to be slower than the iPad tablet computer, the study's author, Jakob Nielsen, said the difference between the two devices was not "statistically significant."

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

One consistent finding was dislike for reading on a PC monitor. When asked to rate their satisfaction on a scale of 1-7, with 7 being the best score, readers rated the monitor an "abysmal 3.6," Nielsen said. On the other hand, the iPad, Kindle 2 and printed book scored fairly high at 5.8, 5.7 and 5.6, respectively.

According to the study, readers felt uncomfortable with the PC because it reminded them of work. With the iPad and Kindle 2, study participants found the former heavy, while the latter featured less-crisp gray-on-gray letters.

People also disliked the lack of true pagination in the devices, and preferred the way the iPad indicated the amount of text left in a chapter. In the study, the firm used the iBooks application that comes with the iPad.

"(Overall,) users felt that reading the printed book was more relaxing than using electronic devices," Nielsen said.

The study indicates that the future is promising for adoption of e-readers and tablet computers, particularly since manufacturers are developing higher-quality screens and adding other improvements.

For example, Apple's iPhone 4 "retina display" at 326-pixels-per-inch is considerably better than the previous generation iPhone used in the study. Also, Amazon is scheduled to ship this week a premium version of the Kindle with a higher contrast digital paper display. The new Kindle DX is using the latest E Ink technology, which is likely to eventually be added to the standard Kindle.

In addition to improvements in hardware, e-reader prices are falling substantially. Amazon and rival Barnes & Noble have both recently slashed prices of the Kindle and Nook, respectively.

The Association of American Publishers says e-book sales jumped 127.4% in April from the same month a year ago to $27.4 million. Sales for the first four months of this year are up 217.3% from the same period a year ago.

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