Seniors are rediscovering their love of prose with the rise of electronic books on dedicated e-readers and tablets. One of the main reasons is the contrast and light weight nature of popular readers like the Kindle. Digital Readers tend to weigh less then a hardcover novel, and give seniors the ability to enhance the size of the fonts, making it easier to read.
Researchers from Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany, tracked the eye movements and brain activity of 36 younger participants aged 21-34 and 21 older adults aged 60 and above as they read text from e-readers, tablet computers, and printed pages. It seems the younger demographic showed no difference in time or brain activity when presented with the different mediums. This is thought to occur because of the large amount of time they spend on LCD and other electronic mediums. Overwhelmingly, the results showed that the elderly found reading easier when using electronic readers and tablets. This is because there was increased contrast between the text and background, researchers said.
The research report states that seniors are torn between dedicated tablets, like the Apple iPad and e-readers. Some like the ability to do more things with a tablet, such as paying bills. Others tend to like the longer battery life and the lightweight nature of e-readers, making it easier to hold for longer reading sessions. The rise of e-readers with front-lit displays, such as the Kobo Glo and Kindle Paperwhite, are also becoming more popular. This is because the light is not emitting from behind the screen and does not contribute to eye strain.
One elderly reader wrote in, and said “I am a disabled person who is an avid book reader and I have thought for a long time that e-readers are brilliant for this very reason. My hands are not good and I find reading a paper book very painful to do but e-readers are light and easy to use just by tapping with fingers.” Another reader mentioned, “My mum is 84 and has failing eyesight so had all but stopped reading until we got her a Kindle a year ago. She absolutely loves it.”
As much as e-readers are starting to gain more traction with older people, the same research article proclaims their undying love of physical books. The crux of the issue, is that the older you get, the poorer your eyesight becomes. The love of paperback and trade novels is hampering seniors reading habits. Many people are finding that once they get an e-reader, they tend to read more.
Michael Kozlowski has written about audiobooks and e-readers for the past twelve years. Newspapers and websites such as the CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and the New York Times have picked up his articles. He Lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.