Don't throw away your printed books: A meta-analysis on the effects of reading media on reading comprehension

Pablo Delgado, Cristina Vargas, Rakefet Ackerman, Ladislao Salmerón

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


With the increasing dominance of digital reading over paper reading, gaining understanding of the effects of the medium on reading comprehension has become critical. However, results from research comparing learning outcomes across printed and digital media are mixed, making conclusions difficult to reach. In the current meta-analysis, we examined research in recent years (2000–2017), comparing the reading of comparable texts on paper and on digital devices. We included studies with between-participants (n = 38) and within-participants designs (n = 16) involving 171,055 participants. Both designs yielded the same advantage of paper over digital reading (Hedge's g = −0.21; dc = −0.21). Analyses revealed three significant moderators: (1) time frame: the paper-based reading advantage increased in time-constrained reading compared to self-paced reading; (2) text genre: the paper-based reading advantage was consistent across studies using informational texts, or a mix of informational and narrative texts, but not on those using only narrative texts; (3) publication year: the advantage of paper-based reading increased over the years. Theoretical and educational implications are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)23-38
Number of pages16
JournalEducational Research Review
StatePublished - Nov 2018


  • Digital-based reading
  • Meta-analysis
  • Paper-based reading
  • Reading comprehension
  • Reading media differences

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education


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