Monday, September 9, 2013

Writing 101: Paper or Plastic?

Are ebooks better than paper books, or just more convenient to store? As an indie author, it's important for you to understand your medium...all the mediums you use. So it's time to really get an answer to that eternal question: paper or plastic? 

Reading on Screens

It's a lot easier to carry a cell phone, a tablet or an ereader than to haul 20 books with you everywhere you go. But when you read on a screen instead of on the page, you may be missing out on some of the story. 

By what gauge does one judge the relative merits of reading on a screen versus reading a paper book? As an author, my biggest concern is reading comprehension. 

I'm not the only one who cares about it. The Nielsen Norman Group conducted several studies regarding reading speed and comprehension. According to their findings, it takes readers longer to finish a page of text on the screen. Specially, reading from a computer screen is 25 percent slower than reading a printed page. Reading from a Kindle is almost 11 percent slower than reading a paper book. Reading on the iPad is a little faster -- just 6.2 percent slower than reading on paper.

But that's not all. Reading from the screen isn't just slower, it's harder. Readers who participated in the study using an iPhone-sized screen understood only about half of what they were reading. Compared to those who read from a monitor, iPhone users comprehended around 48 percent less of the text they scanned.

Nielsen asked readers to share their opinions about reading from screens, while they were at it. Surprisingly, many readers said they found it more relaxing to read a paper book. Those who read from their computer screens were uncomfortable, because it reminded them of being at work.

What should indie authors do with the information? They should keep publishing across as many mediums as possible in order to satisfy the biggest possible group of readers. Publish your books so they can be read on the Kindle, Nook, iPads and other tablets...and in paper. As screens grow more sophisticated and technology more advanced, reading from a screen soon may be even better than reading from the page.

Until then, keep printing...just to be on the safe side.

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