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E-Readers Help Elderly in the Silver E-Read Project


A recent study undertaken by researchers from the German Johann Gutenberg University Mainz in collaboration with MVB Marketing- und Verlagsservice des Buchhandels GmbH found no disadvantages to reading from e-books compared to print publications, despite most participants subjectively preferred reading traditional books best.

The study compared differences in reading from paper, an e-reader (Kindle 3), and a tablet PC (iPad) with a group of young adult readers as well as a group of elderly adult readers. While the research team found no difference in reading performance for the young readers for each media, the elderly read text off an iPad three times faster compared to paper and the e-reader.

Keep in mind that the study was partially funded by MVB Marketing- und Verlagsservice des Buchhandels GmbH, an organization selling their own tablet PCs.

However, reading from electronic devices seems indeed to have some appeal for seniors. Jackie Cornette, a librarian from the Western Watauga Library in the United States initiated the Silver E-Read Project in 2011. This programme lends out e-readers to homebound elderly who, in turn, are then being able to download titles from home and read electronic books provided by the library.

In a pilot phase, a couple of elderly participants tested the Kindle 3, Sony Reader Pocket Edition, and Nook Color.

Advantages were:

  • Scalable font size very helpful
  • Wider range of titles for people who need large print
  • Leighter weight and easier to hold and read in bed than large print novels
  • Last Read Page takes user to the last-read page automatically
  • Text-to-speech proved to be useful for users with limited vision or who preferred to have the text read aloud for some other reason
  • Hundreds of books in one single device useful when storage and room space is limited

Some shortcomings were found, too:

  • Not all publishers allow text-to-speech for each title
  • Color-coded and larger buttons would be helpful
  • Kindle 3: Menus are difficult to navigate and and keyboard is difficult to read
  • Sony Reader Pocket Edition: difficult to use because of its size and the tiny stylus
  • Nook Color: Shorter battery life compared to the other devices
  • Nook Color: Touch screen on menus difficult to use with users with limited dexterity

The programme initiators hope to branch out the project to other retirement homes and to other libraries in the country.