Are there studies on the optimal amount of rows/columns per page as far as usability ease of reading of large ebooks (e.g. hundred+ pages)?

I can see at least three distinct factors playing into this (may be more):

  1. The physical necessity of flipping a page as an answer being a cost
  2. The raster action of the eye (e.g. moving the focus from end of last line to start of next line) being a cost both physically AND concentration wise.
  3. Tnd the fact that you may lose concentration either from flipping a page, or having to recall what was on last page, if page flipping is too frequent.

The measurements can be (at least those I can think of) either reading speed, the content retention, eye tiredness, or mental tiredness.


The Studies reveal that personal choice is defined by each person and varies considerably. 72 characters is the old schools typewriter format. According to Wikipedia this is often maintained out of tradition.

The Effects of Line Length on Reading Online News(Wichita State University, 2005)

Summary: This study examined the effects of line length on reading speed, comprehension, and user satisfaction of online news articles. Twenty college-age students read news articles displayed in 35, 55, 75, or 95 characters per line (cpl) from a computer monitor. Results showed that passages formatted with 95 cpl resulted in faster reading speed. No effects of line length were found for comprehension or satisfaction, however, users indicated a strong preference for either the short or long line lengths.

Besides orientation you must also consider font size in combination with screen size, to calculate characters per line. But in the end yes there are studies, and they say everyone is different.


As I mentioned in your other question,

Some where (I can't find it right now), I read that 72 characters per line was best for reading comprehension. When there was less than this the end of line moving your eye to the begging of the next line slowed you down, and when there was more than this following lines become more difficult, because you have to move your head which makes eye tracking more difficult.

Now I have not been approaching this from a e-reader perspective, but from web design, mostly because my e-reader has small screen, and computers are getting wide screens designed for movies not for reading comprehension.

So lets look at how the print guys do this. For my sample I am using a broadsheet, a tabloid, the complete Sherlock Holmes, a physics text, a math text, and half a dozen paperbacks of various qualities.

Both newspapers use columns about 40 characters wide (proportional font, full justification) but the broadsheet uses shorter columns and puts another story on the bottom of the page the physics text uses lines about 80 characters long with a wide margin for notes the math text uses three columns about 40 characters wide. Both textbooks have graphical elements which break the flow of the text. The Sherlock has Two columns about forty characters wide. The paperbacks varied from 50 characters wide to 70 (that one had almost no margin.) Aside from the broadsheet no effort was made to limit column length other than the size of the page, so apparently although although there is a limit for how long a column should be it is large.

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