Research Proposal: Reading on computer, iPad and paper: how angle and position of reading medium affect reading speed


Jul 2017 - Aug 2017



Lingfei Li


Reading on computer, iPad and paper: how angle and position of reading medium affect reading speed



        Nowadays, reading information from electronic devices has become more and more common, including reading on computers, kindles, and smartphones. Even though reading on these kinds of devices has become an essential part of life for most people, there are still some limitations of reading on these devices, such as reading efficiency and speed. In an experiment comparing reading speed and comprehension on paper, iPad and kindle, performance of reading on paper was found to be the fastest (Harris, 2012). Compared to the efficiency of reading on papers, the efficiency of reading on electric devices is controversial, and much research has focused on reasons why reading on paper results in faster reading speed and better comprehension than reading on a computer.

        To analyze the reasons of different reading performance on paper and computers, some research has focused on people who are proficient in using electronic devices. Kim and Kim (2012) chose teenagers born between about 1995 and 2010, who were growing up with popularity of computer, iPad, and smart phone, to test their reading performance on paper and computer. However, it was found that teenagers actually read slower on computers than on paper. Their worse performance on computer than on paper showed even these teenagers, who were the most familiar with electronic devices, still read slower on computer than on paper (Kim and Kim, 2012). Consequently, proficiency in electronic devices in different demographic groups may be not associated greatly with reading speed.

        Meanwhile, quality of display also has been regarded as a potential factor causing the lower reading speed on electronical devices. According to research of Green, Perera, Dance, &Myers (2010), even though display screens in the past might have affected reading speed on electronic devices due to display contrast, display quality, and operation, nowadays display unit of electronics is unlikely to cause observed interference on reading speed. Because of technological development in terms of display contrast, display quality, and operation, the appearance of words shown by devices is as clear as that shown on printed paper. As a result, reading speeds are probably unaffected by the quality of display.

        These previous studies mentioned above all have chosen computer and paper to compare, and have shown reading on paper was faster than on computer. However, these two mediums are significantly different in terms of shape, operation and texture, and therefore it is difficult to analyze physical factors which contribute to different reading speeds. To overcome this difficulty, one useful solution is to introduce an intermediary to assist researchers to compare reading speed on paper and computer. An appropriate intermediary is the iPad, because it has common characteristics with both paper and computers. To be specific, iPads and paper have similar shape, operation, and mobility, and iPads and computers have comparability in display qualities, such as contrast, resolution ratio, and screen brightness. In fact, a recent study reported that reading speeds on a printed book and an iPad were similar (Hou, Rashid, &Lee 2017). However, Hou et al. (2017) did not discuss why reading speeds on paper and iPad are the same when reading speeds on paper are admittedly faster than on computer.   

        One study that may shed some light on this faster speed on paper or iPad than on computer is Muter, and Maurutto’s (1991) study. In this experiment, they found that the reading speed on printed paper was the same as that on a display screen, but they included a special condition in this experiment which was that participants could read reading device (either book or computer) in any distance and style they felt comfortable with (Muter, and Maurutto, 1991). The result of this study is different from previous studies that found reading speed to be faster on printed paper than on a display screen, which is likely due to the fact that this study permitted participants to manipulate the position of the reading material, whether it was a paper book or a display screen.  Therefore, this result hints at a potential connection between reading speed and the ability to manipulate the book or device to the reader’s preferred position. However, this study was completed prior to the creation of tablets or e-readers, or even laptops. Therefore, it is worthwhile to examine whether the faster reading speed shown on iPad or paper than on computer is due to the ability to manipulate the angle and change the position of the reading medium. As a result, this present paper aims to analyze if reading speed is associated with angle and position of reading medium or not. In order to meet the duty, this experiment tests two questions:

        1.How does reading speed on paper change when paper is positioned in different angles?

        2.How does reading speed on an iPad change when an iPad is positioned in different angles?

        To answer these questions, this experiment includes 2 parts: In the first one, articles printed on standard paper (8.5*11 inches) will be set from 0-90 degree for participants to read and then their time would be recorded. In the second one, 12.9-inch sized iPad pro (8.86*12 inches, which is similar with the size of standard letter) showing the same information as paper, the iPad will be also set in 0-90 degree to read and then their results would be compared with data from first experiment. In particular, when an iPad is settled in a nearly vertical degree, it would be similar with a computer, and when an iPad is settled in a above horizontal degree, it would be similar with paper. This transition is convenient and obvious for researchers to compare difference between paper, iPad, and computer. Although this experiment only adopts one size of iPad pro in 12.9-inch, and one size of paper in standard US letter size, which seems not comprehensive, it could avoid some uncertain interference factors caused by different sizes of medium, such as different visual size of font and charts. Through these limitations, this present research could identify more reliably whether angle and position of reading medium is a factor of reading speed or not, and the results would be helpful for readers to use reading devices more efficiently and for business companies to design and improve their e-reading products.






Green, T. D., Perera, R. A., Dance, L. A., & Myers, E. A. (2010). Impact of presentation mode on recall of written text and numerical information: Hard copy versus electronic. North American Journal of Psychology, 12(2), 233e242.


Hou, J., Rashid, J., & Lee, K. M. (2017). Cognitive map or medium materiality   Reading on paper and screen. Computers in Human Behavior,67, 84-94. doi: 10.1016/j.chb.2016.10.014


Harris, P. (n.d.). Vision Performance Institute th Annual Research Conference ... Retrieved August 3, 2017, from,5063.1


Kim, H. J., & Kim, J. (2013). Reading from an LCD monitor versus paper: Teenagers’ reading performance. International Journal of Research Studies in Educational Technology,2(1). doi:10.5861/ijrset.2012.170


Muter, P., & Maurutto, P. (1991). Reading and skimming from computer screens and books: the paperless office revisited? Behaviour & Information Technology,10(4), 257-266. doi:10.1080/01449299108924288

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