Research in our laboratory demonstrates that use of e-readers can help many people who otherwise struggle to read. Find tips on buying and use here.
We did a number of studies investigating how use of the readers helps people with dyslexia —people who have lifelong difficulty with reading that is not easily remediated through instruction. In papers we published in the journal PLoS One, we found that when reading speed and comprehension were considered, a substantial fraction of the one hundred-three people with dyslexia we tested read more effectively, and with greater ease, when using the e-reader compared with paper. What made the difference was the ability of the device to display lines of text that were extremely short (about two or three words per line), as well as its ability to space out the text. When these people read using the modified formatting, their reading instantly improved. It’s important to emphasize that not everyone with dyslexia benefited, but its possible that among those that did are the people who otherwise respond poorly to the traditional instructional approaches to dyslexia.
First and foremost, consider the person and their life-long preferences. If you are buying for a person who prefers not to use cell phones, iPads, and computers, and talks lovingly about books, chances are they may not appreciate the gift of e-reader unless they have been dropping hints that they want to try one. Some people absolutely love the look, smell, and feel of the classical book held in the hand, and such people may not want to give up the sensory experience of reading from a paper book. Such people may find an e-reader to be a poor substitute. (But, you never know until you try!)
If the recipient of your gift is someone who is adventurous when it comes to gadgets, but otherwise doesn’t read much using traditional books —doesn’t seem to enjoy reading— giving the gift of an e-reader can be a life-changing experience for them. Such people may find that when reading using an e-reader, what was once an unpleasant experience will be transformed be a source of pleasure and joy.
One should choose an e-reader that provides a large range of options for changing the display of text, including the ability to display small numbers of words per line, and allow the user to change the spacing of the lines, and even letters. It’s important that the e-reader be able to display books using a right-ragged margin. Justifying very short lines (to display straight margins on the right and left) introduces large gaps in the text that can actually makes reading much more difficult. Right-ragged margins solves this problem.
Dr. Schneps, head of the Laboratory for Visual Learning I have dyslexia myself, and when I first started doing this I found that I needed to go through a number of e-readers before I found a system that worked for me. When it works, it works instantly, and when it doesn’t it’s obvious. But it’s not easy for a person buying a gift to know exactly which device is going to work out for the recipient. Purchasing an e-reader that offers many options for display formatting will likely increase the chances that the device will workout. Encourage the recipient to experiment with the display, and make changes over time, until they find a format that works well for them. When it works, it just feels right.
Questions you can ask before buying:
1) Does the device make it easy to change the formatting of the display (or do you have to dig deep to find obscure menus)?
2) Can the device display text using only two or three words per line using right-ragged margins?
3) Does the display allow you to make large changes to widths of margins, spacing of lines, letter spacing, and size of fonts?
We have a website that allows you to preview the effects of some of these features before you buy. Scroll down and try out the interactive tips: http://readeasy.labvislearn.org
OUR PUBLIC ARTICLES
Summary of PRESS articles SmartPhone Reading Research
Read how Brett Burlison, an attorney with dyslexia, discovered how reading on an iPhone helps, and how this lead to his writing a novel, a passion he thought was out of reach. Read how he did it here.