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iPad better than Kindle for reading; both slower than paper

updated 02:25 pm EDT, Mon July 5, 2010

iPad wins in speed, UI for e-reading

Reading on an iPad is better than a Kindle, a study by Nielsen Norman has found. Both were slower than with real paper, but the iPad was considerably quicker for reading at 6.2 percent slower where Amazon's ostensibly better Kindle was actually slower, at 10.2 percent off of the time for paper. Apple's tablet also edged out the Kindle in usability, as iBooks not only had more clearly defined fonts but a much easier to understand page marker.

Both the iPad and Kindle still ended up edging out paper overall, as they scored 5.8 and 5.7 on an enjoyability scale where traditional books were ultimately last at 5.6.

Most of the complaints for reading were based on well-known criticisms, such as the iPad's heavy 1.5-pound weight and the low-contrast nature of an e-paper display on the Kindle. Some elements should also get better, as both are presumed to be getting better displays in the future. The new Kindle DX already has 50 percent higher contrast than its ancestor.

The findings are a possible surprise for Amazon, which has always assumed that the backlight- and flicker-free nature of e-paper would appeal more to customers. Apple's device is thought to be stealing some Kindle sales as it has color and video Amazon's hardware lacks, as well as a platform much more prepared for apps and the web.

by MacNN Staff



  1. PRoth

    Joined: Dec 1969



    I find real paper slower, what with all the thumb licking and fumbling for corners and such.

  1. wrenchy

    Joined: Dec 1969


    How about

    When you try to read for more than 20 minutes at a time?? Arms and hands getting tired iPad users? Neck getting sore from looking down at your lap??

  1. Wingsy

    Joined: Dec 1969


    What flickers?

    "flicker-free nature of e-paper"

    Is the author trying to imply that the LCD on the iPad flickers? That would be news to me.

  1. bjojade

    Joined: Dec 1969


    It does flicker.

    By the design of the product, there is some flicker in LCD versus e-ink. While imperceivable most of the time, the subtle flicker can cause some eye strain, especially in low light situations.

  1. DanielSw

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Stupid fixed ideas

    I welcome e-book readers, as I always found paper books awkward, clumsy, and difficult to handle and carry around--especially big ones with lots of pages.

    Though I haven't bought my iPad yet, I already enjoy iBooks on my iPhone. It's always with me, and I can quickly open my favorite book where ever I am and read a few paragraphs, tap the bookmark when I'm done, and be on my way. The screen rotation lock is also nice, as I always hated the strain of holding a book open against gravity while reading lying down.

    The Kindle may survive just as Windoze has survived amongst those who still "hate" Apple products, but Apple e-book reading is already far superior.

  1. luckyday

    Joined: Dec 1969



    I have an iPad and i love it for games, multimedia and surfing, but I had the pleasure of playing with my Uncle's Kobo reader this weekend (cheapest on the market) and for reading it's perfect. The print actually looks like paper, the battery life is amazing, and the screen actually looked better outside in the sunlight (while my ipad was almost unreadable)!

    I still believe that these devices are in different categories. With a case the iPad is not easy to read in bed as I would an ordinary book and after looking at an LCD screen all day at the office, it would be nice to do something that doesn't me require to look at another at night.

  1. malax

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Oh the irony

    Click on the Nielson Norman link at the top of the article--which you might think would take you to the study in question. You find yourself on the homepage of the usability experts who did the study. Now try to find the article in question on their site. I gave up after I couldn't even find the search option. They need to hire someone to work on their own site.

    And this site should provide a link to the actual article as part of the story.

  1. rtbarry

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Jakob Nielsen... the most over-rated "usability expert" ever. his work was relevant when the web was a brand new medium. but he pretends like nothing has changed and usable just means "how jakob nielsen likes to use things".

    most people find his websites/UI barely usable. just gobs of text and links everywhere. good luck finding anything. there is no appropriate emphasis on what's current, or hot.

    try finding the the above-mentioned study on the NN site. i couldn't.

  1. iphonerulez

    Joined: Dec 1969


    What difference does this survey make?

    Some people like reading from eInk and some people like reading from LCD. It's a user's preference. It may also make a difference depending on what they're reading. I'd guess that people might enjoy reading newspapers and magazines on an iPad than they would a Kindle, but prefer reading a regular novel on the Kindle than on the iPad. And it could also depend on how long a person was reading. For short periods of use the iPad could easily best the Kindle.

    In the end, they're probably very close and it probably both will do the job well. Nothing is going to be proved by some survey. The iPad will easily outsell the Kindle because the iPad is more versatile. That's about it. People should use both the iPad and Kindle for different purposes.

  1. BillAvi

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Less likely to skim on an electronic device

    I think that you tend to skim less when reading on an electronic device. It's the only reason I can think of that I now find Tom Clancy to be unreadable. I loved his books when reading them in paperback, but find them torturous when reading them electronically. It's much easier to skim through a 2000 word description of how a bolt is fastened to a beam on a battleship in a real book.

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