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A comparison of the influence of electronic books and paper books on reading comprehension, eye fatigue, and perception

Hanho Jeong (Department of Education, Chongshin University, Seoul, South Korea)

The Electronic Library

ISSN: 0264-0473

Article publication date: 1 June 2012




This paper aims to assess the usability of electronic books (e‐books) and paper books (p‐books) with objective measures, including user comprehension, eye fatigue, and perception.


A total of 56 sixth‐year public school students participated in this study. This paper was conducted in the following order: pre‐CFF measurement, p‐/e‐book reading, post‐CFF measurement, quiz, and questionnaire. A standard CFF device, a computer with a monitor for reading e‐books, p‐books, desks, and chairs were provided.


This paper found that there is a significant “book effect” on quiz scores; compared to e‐books, p‐books appear to enable better reading comprehension. Regarding eye fatigue, students had significantly greater eye fatigue after reading e‐books than after reading p‐books. Students were satisfied with the e‐book, but they preferred p‐books.

Research limitations/implications

Students would show satisfaction with e‐books and acknowledge their usefulness, but still prefer p‐books. However, a clearer understanding of this paradox in perception is needed. Further studies should try to explore the students' perceptions of e‐books.

Practical implications

Surprisingly, though, Korean students studied herein, who have had a higher level of exposure to technology than those in other countries, did not show positive behavioral intentions toward e‐books. Overall, the responses from the Korean students suggest that there was general satisfaction with reading e‐books on screen. However, this study also found a discordance in the students' perceptions of e‐books. In this study, most students grew tired of reading on the screen; this tiredness could have an adverse effect on both reading comprehension and the perception of e‐books. In further analyzing user responses, many of the critical remarks were found to refer to the screen/text size or clarity rather than to the e‐book itself.


Although this study suggests that students in general are not yet ready to entirely give up p‐books, e‐books are becoming increasingly common. However, great challenges remain in terms of making e‐book content more available and in enabling improved comprehension and reducing eye fatigue.



Jeong, H. (2012), "A comparison of the influence of electronic books and paper books on reading comprehension, eye fatigue, and perception", The Electronic Library, Vol. 30 No. 3, pp. 390-408.



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Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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