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Chalk one up for ink and paper — the real kind.

A University of Washington study, released today, finds that students involved in a pilot of Amazon.com’s Kindle DX abandoned the device in large numbers — with fewer than 40 percent sticking with the device for reading after seven months.

Some of the reasons were relatively simple stuff that Amazon has already improved, such as better note-taking support. But others were more fundamental, showing the gap between the digital and physical worlds. From the UW article on the study

A drawback of the Kindle DX was the difficulty of switching between reading techniques, such as skimming an article’s illustrations or references just before reading the complete text. Students frequently made such switches as they read course material.

The digital text also disrupted a technique called cognitive mapping, in which readers used physical cues such as the location on the page and the position in the book to go back and find a section of text or even to help retain and recall the information they had read.

In other words, the researchers say, there’s still lots of opportunity for innovation and improvement in this market, particularly in the area of navigation.

The study followed 39 first-year graduate students in the UW’s Department of Computer Science & Engineering for nine months. The UW researchers will present their findings at a conference in Vancouver, B.C., next week.

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