Reading Online or on Paper: Which is Faster?. Kurniawan, S., H. & Zaphiris, P. In Abridged Proceedings of the 9th International Conference on Human Computer Interaction, 2001.
Reading Online or on Paper: Which is Faster? [pdf]Paper  abstract   bibtex   
With the computer being more integrated into daily life, more and more people need to read online information. Online information is often formatted in a similar fashion to printed information. But are they similar in their effectiveness? The present study investigates the effect of information format on user’s preference and reading time when people read online information or printed information. The study tested one, two and three- column formats. This study involved forty two participants from three main adult age groups: young (18-40 years), middle-aged (40-65 years) and seniors (65+ years). The overall mean age was 50.0 years (S.D. = 20.44 years). Participants were divided into two reading groups: online and on paper. A balanced number of participants from each age group was assigned to each reading treatment. There was no significant difference in the reading speed and preference between different column formats. In agreement with findings from previous studies, reading on paper was 10-30% faster than reading online. The paper concludes with suggestions to designers of online information. As previous studies showed, some action needs to be taken to improve reading speed, such as using bigger font size or high contrast between the text and the background.

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