Reading speed comparison on paper vs screens

Published January 9, 2024


I recently re-read the first five books of the Percy Jackson series. I'll share some data on reading speed, as well as my thoughts on the series after re-reading as an adult.


Data

I read most of the PJ series on my computer, and use Timing to log the time spent reading each one. However, I happened to find my old physical copy of the third book on my shelf, and read that one on paper — since I used my computer right before and after reading it, we also have the time spent on that one. I'm getting word counts of each book from this reddit post .

It took me 503 minutes to read all of them:

Now, the difference is not huge, but the only book where I read the physical copy was also the slowest read. Weird! Originally the difference was bigger because I overzealously counted how long it took me to finish book 3, but it is slow even after correction. This made me think about potential reasons — extra sleepy while reading, bad lighting, etc.

Then I thought that the page turning time was adding to the read time. Since I always scroll extra far down, I never have to wait to turn a page while reading on my computer.

To test this, I timed how long it took to turn 10 pages and read the first word on each page. For physical books, this took 15.8 seconds, and on my books app, it takes 7.32 seconds. Book 3 is 300 pages, so I can estimate wasted page turning time at ~254 seconds, which is not large enough to have affected the above graph (only 0.5% of the total read time). Still, interesting.


Thoughts

I remember receiving the first three books in a box set from a family friend, and I still recall the general plot and twists. Percy Jackson is comfort reading to me since I've read them before, and since they're targeted at young teenagers, the language and speech mannerisms are simpler than some adult-er books I've read. Sentences were often just simple ones for paragraphs on end.

Something I found annoying about the books this time is the constant topic switches — two characters get alone, they're about to exchange important info or a secret, and then a third character always butts in with an urgent message or incoming threat. The main character consistently mentions his ADHD, which seems to tie in with the pacing of events in his story — maybe this book is targeted at children with ADHD as a way of making them feel seen?

Another element in the books that may be a reflection of the teenage audience is the cagey romantic bits — they dance around the main character's romance without resolution for the entirety of five books, probably matching pace with the romantic expectations of much of the audience. I guess it would be hard for teens to empathize with a book character's emotional life if they were far more advanced than their own experience.

I felt a similar annoyance at the Fantastic Beasts movies — the two main characters are always interrupted before they can really talk to each other, and the audience is let in on a bit of information that isn't really shared. I forget the word for this concept, when the audience knows something that the characters don't, but the movies really abuse it. I think Fantastic Beasts relies on the audience's desire to see the romance blossom in order to get them to come back and watch the next one. Alas, the romance here has not advanced after 3 movies, and I resent the usage of this trick.

That's all, cya next time!


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