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I've noticed that as a student when reading material, there is a choice between reading from the screen or reading from paper. When reading from paper I find that I concentrate more and that comprehension is much better. I can partially memorize the material rather than reading from screen. In addition, I find reading from screen is more tiring. When I feel tired reading from the screen I often print to paper, and it provides relief.


  • Does research support this observation that reading from paper results in less strain and greater comprehension?
  • Are there any techniques to improve reading from screen?
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1 Answer 1

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Research would suggest that reading from (well printed) paper is easier; due to ease of making annotations, navigation and the lower risk of eye strain that can be caused from VDUs.

There are ways to minimise potential eye strain on VDUs, due to lighting and positioning.

Friendly User Interfaces would ease navigation, and the development of new technologies for monitors, would assist in visual acuity and reduction in potential eye strain and problems associated with glare.

We report on a laboratory study that compares reading from paper to reading on-line. Critical differences have to do with the major advantages paper offers in supporting annotation while reading, quick navigation, and flexibility of spatial layout. These, in turn, allow readers to deepen their understanding of the text, extract a sense of its structure, create a plan for writing, cross-refer to other documents, and interleave reading and writing. We discuss the design implications of these findings for the development of better reading technologies.

A Comparison of Reading Paper and On-Line Documents
Kenton O'Hara & Abigail Sellen

Rank Xerox Research Centre (EuroPARC)
61 Regent St.
Cambridge, CB2 1AB, U.K.

The advent of widespread computer use in general and increasing developments in the domain of hypertext in particular have increased awareness of the issue of reading electronic text. To date the literature has been dominated by reference to work on overcoming speed deficits resulting from poor image quality but an emerging literature reveals a more complex set of variables at work. The present review considers the differences between the media in terms of outcomes and processes of reading and concludes that single variable explanations are insufficient to capture the range of issues involved in reading from screens.

Reading from paper versus screens: a critical review of the empirical literature
Volume 35, Issue 10, 1992

Proof-reading: VDU and paper text compared for speed, accuracy and fatigue Behaviour & Information Technology
Volume 6, Issue 2, 1987

Visual strain during VDU work: the effect of viewing distance and dark focus
Volume 31, Issue 10, 1988

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Thank you for the great answer, the material is useful and worth learning. –  user10756 Aug 20 '13 at 10:06
Out of curiosity, do these results also hold for readers with dyslexia? –  senderle Oct 10 '13 at 22:03
@senderle interesting question, they didn't specify, you could ask this as a separate question. I would add a link to this –  user3543 Oct 10 '13 at 22:07

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