As technology improves, we see how tablets, smartphones, and e-readers slowly replace books.

There is no question that technology has changed how we read. But there’s one important issue that both book and screen lovers need an answer to: is there a difference between reading on paper and reading on the screen?

This study says yes and it suggests that reading the traditional way has more advantages. It turns out that our brain has a different method of processing digital and paper reading.

Difference in Reading Experience

The new study conducted at the Stavanger University in Norway, examined 50 people who were tasked to read a 28-page story written by Elizabeth George. Half of the participants read on Kindle and the other half in paper. After reading, everyone was tested on the information they gathered, including the characters, settings, and other objects.

One might not be good for your health
One might not be good for your health

Anne Mangen, the lead researcher of this study, said that they discovered the paper readers responded better than those who read on the screen with the following dissimilarities:

  • The paperback readers were more empathic than the screen readers.
  • Those who read on paper displayed more narrative coherence than the other group.
  • Meanwhile, Kindle readers did worse on reconstruction of plots where they were asked to place 14 events in the story in correct order.

Additionally, the following points were discovered:

  • Speed: Silent reading from paper is significantly faster than reading on the screen.
  • Accuracy: There were several activities that pertained to accuracy of reading, but the study focused on detecting errors during a proofreading exercise. It was found that proofreading on screen has poorer accuracy than doing the task on paper.
  • Fatigue: Several other studies have shown that proliferation of tablets, readers, and other improvements in technology has brought about intensified visual fatigue, which also increased eyestrain.

Reading on paper means having to turn the pages and there’s that feeling that the right pile of pages is shrinking, while the left pile is growing. On the other hand, tactile and haptic feedbacks don’t provide the same sense of progress and this affects the brain’s reconstruction of the story. What’s more, new studies have shown the dangers of using phone and tablet, especially as many people rely on their devices too much.

Mangen also discussed how a research that was published last year where 72 10th graders from Norway read texts in print and PDF on a screen. This test was followed by a number of comprehension tests. The results showed that those who read the books performed significantly better than those who read on the screen, particularly in reading comprehension tests.