Older people could benefit from using e-readers or tablet computers rather than traditional printed pages because e-books place less strain on the eyes while reading, a new study has suggested.
Researchers from Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany, found that digital reading devices allow older people to read the same text more quickly and with less effort than printed pages, without affecting their understanding of the text, the Telegraph reported.
The researchers 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.
Each participant was asked to read extracts from nine texts, which ranged in difficulty from fiction extracts to academic texts, reading each one once on either a tablet, e-reader or printed page.
Among the younger group there was no difference in reading time or brain activity between the three devices, but older participants spent more time and effort when reading from the printed page.
The best results came when participants read from tablet computers, which required the least amount of brain activity from older readers and enabled them to finish a page three to four seconds faster.
The results, published in the Public Library of Science ONE journal, suggest that elderly people found reading easier when using backlit electronic devices, which provide increased contrast between the text and background, researchers said.
Previous studies have shown that older people's eyes are less sensitive to contrast, and worse contrast between text and background causes people's reading speed to decrease.
But when asked which device they preferred reading on, books were twice as popular as electronic devices among older readers, backing up previous surveys.
They researchers noted none of their results backed up the popular notion that digital reading devices are more tiring on the eyes.