Dyslexia Action has welcomed the latest piece of research to try to measure the benefits of e-readers for people with dyslexia as the ‘best so far’.

A study involving over 100 students, undertaken by researchers from the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics in the United States in association with other institutions, compared students' reading comprehension using an Apple iPod Touch with the same text on paper. The test on the iPod Touch was formatted to display only a few words per line.

The study found that reading speed and comprehension using e-readers improved for those students with very poor visual attention when using the device compared with reading longer lines of text on paper.

Head of Research, Development and Policy Dr John Rack said: “This is a very useful piece of research - one of the best, so far, to try to measure the benefits of e-readers for people with dyslexia.

“Many people with dyslexia will tell you that they like using e-readers, but, without a proper study, we are not likely to hear about the ones who don't find it helpful, and it is hard to make a general evaluation of the benefits compared to other possible solutions.  The really interesting thing about this study is the finding that e-readers did not give the same benefits for everyone: those with the more substantial processing difficulties gained the most, whilst those with milder processing difficulties were more efficient when reading from paper.  The researchers discuss how the page format, whether on paper or screen, may be the most critical factor;  but obviously this can only be adjusted to suit a person's preferences on e-readers.’

The research, funded by the National Science Foundation and the Smithsonian's Youth Access Grant programme, was published in the peer-reviewed journal PLoS ONE. Visual attention is the ability to process multiple visual elements, such as the words in a sentence or the letters in a word, simultaneously. It is thought that in some people, difficulties with reading spring from problems with this ability. As the researchers suggest, it may be the device's ability to display text in large font and short lines, rather than the device itself that benefits some students.

If you are affected by dyslexia and you have access to an e-reader, you could experiment with the settings of your e-reader to see if it makes reading easier. Let Dyslexia Action know the results by contacting:  innovation@dyslexiaaction.org.uk