More and more studies have been carried out on the subject of digital reading versus paper reading.

Most of these studies have concentrated on showing that an increasing number of people, mainly children and youths, prefer digital reading compared to paper reading but a recent research project directed by the Norwegian scholar Anne Mangen, though, went one step further, by analysing the cognitive implications of both types of reading.

The study centered on giving 50 readers the same story by Elizabeth George to read. Half read the 28-page story on a Kindle, and half in a paperback, with readers then tested on aspects of the story including objects, characters and settings. “The Kindle readers performed significantly worse on the plot reconstruction measure, ie, when they were asked to place 14 events in the correct order.”

The study suggests that “the haptic and tactile feedback of a Kindle does not provide the same support for mental reconstruction of a story as a print pocket book does”. Anne Mangen, associate professor of The Reading Centre at the University of Stavanger in Norway is now chairing a new European research network doing empirical research on the effects of digitisation on text reading.

The network says that research shows that the amount of time spent reading long-form texts is in decline, and due to digitisation, reading is becoming more intermittent and fragmented, with empirical evidence indicating that affordances of screen devices might negatively impact cognitive and emotional aspects of reading.

This new study, it is hoped, will improve scientific understanding of the implications of digitisation, thus helping to cope with its impact.