Designing Tablets for Reading

Can a tablet help cultivate positive attitudes towards reading and even improve reading skills? Although digital texts have dramatically shifted the way students engage with learning materials, readers often have negative opinions of using tablets and e-reading platforms. To test if reader acceptance could be enhanced by greater usability, researchers prototyped a new tablet interface to capitalize on existing advantages and foster reading strategies and skills. The new design was created using criteria based on an assessment of users’ wants and needs during the process of in-depth reading.

Findings show increased perceived usefulness, improved perceived ease of use, and better attitudes about reading for the new tablet interface, as compared to the unmodified iPad reading app. The perceived usefulness represents the most significant shift: the original reading platform had a considerably lower score than the new design. Results also indicate that participants were primarily driven by the usefulness of a product—no matter how easy a product is to use, if it isn’t perceived as useful, people won’t bother with it.

After identifying and assessing user wants and needs, the authors created a reading system with intuitive, multi-use contexts. The new reading experience is designed to nudge readers towards wanting to use the interactive interface in order to reap the advantages of digital reading. Compared to traditional printed books, tablets emphasize multimedia, personalization, and social networking. Though the digital reading experience offers unique affordances, many people apply the same habits used for printed books to their digital reading strategies. This study represents an early step in addressing the challenges facing learners as they cultivate new reading strategies and skills for in-depth, digital reading.

Huang, K. L., Chen, K. H., & Ho, C. H. (2014). Promoting in-depth reading experience and acceptance: design and assessment of tablet reading interfaces. Behaviour & Information Technology, 33(6), 606-618.