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The Effects of Touch Screen Technology on the Usability of E-Reading Devices

Eva Siegenthaler, Yves Bochud, Pascal Wurtz, Laura Schmid, and Per Bergamin

Journal of Usability Studies, Volume 7, Issue 3, May 2012, pp. 94 - 104


Although reading is the main function of electronic reading devices (e-readers), previous studies demonstrated that a critical factor for perceived legibility is the usability of the device. If users have problems with the handling of a device, they will not like using the device for reading. Therefore, easy handling is a critical factor for a user’s reading experience. One important device feature seems to be a touch screen. A touch screen tends to be very intuitive and saves space as no keyboard or mouse is required, which also tends to make for easier hand-eye coordination than a mouse or keyboard. This study investigated the effect of touch screen technology on the usability of electronic reading devices. Three different types of devices were compared: two e-readers with e-ink display (the Sony PRS 600 with a touch screen and the Sony PRS 505 without a touch screen) and one tablet PC with a backlit LCD (Apple iPad with a multi-touch screen). Participants completed different use case scenarios for each device. Participants then completed a questionnaire that asked them to rate the usability of the navigation, design, handiness, and handling of each device. The results show that e-reading devices with touch screens correlate with better navigation ratings. Participants rated the navigation significantly better for the devices with a touch screen compared to a device without a touch screen. Overall results suggest that a touch screen allows for an easier and more intuitive interaction. Nonetheless, participants were not able to solve all tasks without problems, and significant differences were found between the devices. In conclusion there is still room for improvement, for the devices tested, in regards to usability aspects.

Practitioner’s Take Away

For UX-professionals, consider the following:

For consumers who want to buy an e-reading device, consider the following:

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The Effects of Touch Screen Technology on the Usability of E-Reading Devices