Experiencing literature on the e-reader: the effects of reading narrative texts on screen

Annika Schwabe, Lukas Brandl, Hajo G. Boomgaarden, Günther Stocker | University of Vienna



The digitalisation of literature is proliferating, and the increasing spread of digital reading devices and the availability of digital texts is likely to make books on screen a lasting phenomenon, but little attention has been paid to the consequences of digitalisation for the experience of narrative fiction. While on the one hand, reading literature on a digital reading device might trigger a superficial processing of the text, and problems regarding orientation within the narrative, the awareness of reading a literary text might, on the other hand, lead to more in-depth and complex processing, independent of reading medium. This study examines whether the reading performance and the emotional and cognitive experiences of the reception of a literary text vary between reading a printed book or an e-reader.


Using a between-subjects experimental design, 207 participants read the beginning of a novel either in a printed book or on an e-reader. They then completed a reading comprehension test and questionnaires about their cognitive and emotional experiences.


Overall, the results do not suggest the clear superiority of either of the two reading media. Neither reading speed nor reading comprehension differed significantly between the two groups. Even though a broad range of reading experiences was measured, neither cognitive nor emotional reading experiences differed significantly between the groups.


An e-reader does not affect either reading performance or cognitive and emotional experience of reading a narrative text, compared with a printed book.