Study shows iPad beats Kindle in reading speed for those with moderate vision loss

Recently at the 116th Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Opthalmology research from a recent study  was presented that digital tablets  increased the reading speed of those with damage to their central vision. The poster, titled “Electronic Reading Devices Increase Reading Speed and Comfort in Patients with Moderate Vision Loss” was presented by Daniel B Roth MD.

One-hunded patients enrolled were assigned newspaper, print, and iPad/Kindle version of the same text and font to read. The text was then magnified on the mobile devices, and comparison was done on reading speed. Results demonstrated that printed material was read faster than text on the newspaper (p = 0.02). However, when moving to reading via the iPad, users read faster than printed text or newspaper print (p<0.001). This was further seen when the text of the iPad was magnified to 18 font. Of interest from the data presented on the poster, when comparing the iPad and Kindle, the text on an iPad at 12 font was still faster than being read on the Kindle at 12 or 18 font (p<0.001).

What the data presented from the poster abstract doesn’t tell us is what iPad was used. One with or without retina display? Would retina display be more beneficial? The authors concluded the back-illuminated screen on the iPad helped with patients with reduced visual acuity. This could explain why the iPad fared better than the Kindle, as the Kindle utilized lacked back-illumination, which is now found in later generations. Interestingly, patients with poor vision found the iPad more comfortable to use versus those with better vision, who preferred print. It will be interesting if the results of this or future studies may have an impact in the selection of reading devices by healthcare professionals for their patients.

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Timothy Aungst, PharmD

Digital Pharmacist seeking to integrate technology and mHealth into pharmacy practice and patient care. Assistant Professor by day, blogger and writer by night.

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3 Responses to Study shows iPad beats Kindle in reading speed for those with moderate vision loss

  1. Shannon Prather November 26, 2012 at 12:30 pm #

    Kindle Paperwhite with the option of having a back light may also narrow the playing field…especially if having the light was indeed the reason readers fared better with an iPad.

    • Iltifat Husain, MD November 26, 2012 at 12:34 pm #

      agreed. but i think it shows the popular notion that having an e-ink display is always easier on the eyes is not necessarily true.

    • Timothy Aungst, PharmD November 26, 2012 at 1:04 pm #

      I think the backlight played a large role and really helped out alot, along with being able to increase font size and zooming in. Revisiting this idea in the future with say smaller devices now being fielded (e.g. iPad Mini, Nexus 7) would also be interesting, to see if it made reading more comfortable as well.

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