Reading speed and comfort drastically improved for people who used backlit e-readers.
PROBLEM: Macular degeneration, the decline of sharp central vision, is the leading cause of vision loss in older adults. As it progresses, they can lose the ability to drive, recognize faces, and pursue one of the simplest of pleasures: reading. As pharmaceutical and surgical interventions are limited in their efficacy, the extent to which this registers as a disability depends on how well patients are able to maximize their remaining eyesight.
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METHODOLOGY: Researchers at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Jersey identified 100 patients with mild to moderate vision loss. The subjects were randomly assigned three different articles from the The New York Times, presented in 10 point font in three mediums: the actual newspaper, a printout from the website, and the Times' iPad2 app. In the second part of the study, they were randomly assigned five different chapters of a text, presented as a printed book, on the iPad2 at 12 and 18 point font, and the Kindle at 12 and 18 point font. For each format, their reading speed was calculated over a period of two minutes, and they were asked which they preferred using.
RESULTS: Printing out the articles were associated with a slightly increased reading speed, but the real significant improvements were seen with the iPad2. All of the participants, regardless of their degree of vision loss, improved their reading speed by at least 42 words-per-minute (WPM) when looking at 18 point font on the iPad2. The same font setting on the Kindle yielded an average gain of 12 WPM.