Berlin - People still prefer to read words on paper rather than off a screen, but a new study has shown that senior citizens find it less strenuous to read using an e-reader or tablet.

Researchers from Mainz, Goettingen and Marburg in Germany had people aged between 21 and 77 read texts across a variety of media while they monitored eye movements and brain activity.

They found that for older people it was physiologically easier to read something on a digital device than from a printed book.

Linguistics professor Matthias Schlesewsky of Mainz University suspects this is because digital letters are illuminated and display more contrast than printed letters.

Among the things that the researchers looked at were how long the readers fixed their eyes on the words. For the 36 participants aged between 21 and 34, the measured values were similar whether they read from paper, an e-reader or a tablet.

However, the 21 readers aged between 60 and 77 could absorb the words faster with their eyes and with less mental effort when reading a digital text rather than a printed one.

Despite the physiological measurements, all the participants declared that they preferred reading off paper than from screens.

Whether older people find an e-reader or tablet difficult to use was not part of the study, which was partly financed by German publishers. The study was published on the online journal PLOS ONE. - Sapa-dpa