It’s the holiday season right now in the USA which means that people are talking about what they want as a gift. I would like a Kindle or one of the new Barnes and Noble competitors to the Kindle. Since we are being frugal in our household this year I don’t think I’m going to get one (and I haven’t read the reviews yet to see whether I want the Kindle or the new B&N competitor).
Is a Kindle the same as text online? — It might seem contradictory, then, for me to say I want a Kindle and then write a post about the idea that reading text online is not fun. But actually I am not talking about the same thing at all. I’ve tried a Kindle, and the liquid ink technology is different than LCD displays on a laptop or a desktop monitor. Reading text on a computer screen is admittedly better than it was years ago. I go back to the dreaded “green screen” days, and I can say with certainty that reading text on my MacBook Pro is a lot better than reading text on the green (or amber — how many of you remember amber?) and black screens from yester year.
It’s the luminescence — Computer screens however, have a different lighting display than the Kindle, and certainly are different than reading on paper. When you are reading text on paper the light is reflected off the paper and back to your eyes. When you are reading text on a computer screen the reflections of room or sunlight are different.
So what’s the result? — The result is that reading text online is tiring to the eyes. People are only going to read a limited amount of text at a time on a computer screen. If you want people to read text on a computer screen you have to do the following:
Break the text up into chunks –– use bullets, short paragraphs, pictures and any other means you can to break the text up. People will read a few lines of text on a computer screen and then skip to the next paragraph, so break it up.
Use a font that is easy to read — There have been “font wars” for years. The research shows that the font you use is not a big deal as long as it is basically readable. Meaning don’t use an overly decorative font for a block of text.
Use a font size that is easy to read — Even younger people complain about small fonts.
Use black text on a white background or close to that — You need enough difference between foreground and background. Black text on a white background is the most readable.
Make the content worth it — In the end it all boils down to whether what is on the page is of interest to the reader. If it is then the reader will be more patient with having to read the text online.
So what do you think? Do you have a Kindle or the new B&N device? Do you think it is different than reading text on a computer screen? Are you an avid text reader online?
If you are interested in reading the research about font type and reading more about typography and readability here are two great websites:
Did you find this post interesting? If so, please consider adding your comment, subscribing to the blog via RSS, signing up for our email list, and/or sharing the post.