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.