Jakob Neilsen did a usability study on e-book readers; kinda pointless in its design, but interesting to read the short report (hat tip Macworld).

The overall test had “avid readers” reading Hemingway short stories and concluded that reading a printed book is faster than reading on e-readers (iPad slightly faster than Kindle), but comprehension is the same. I don’t see why anyone cares, especially when the sample size was 32, reduced to 24 examples of unflawed data in the calculations. But whatever.

My attention was caught by this aside:

At the beginning of each session, we quickly assessed the study participants’ reading skills by administering the REALM literacy test. (This test asks people to read words of varying difficulty and scores them based on the number they mispronounce. In our study, most users got all the words right; 2 people failed on one word, which indicates at least a high-school literacy level.)

Mispronounce? Because I’m pretty sure I’m highly literate, and I can’t pronounce anything.

So I googled up the REALM literacy test, and it appears to be this:

The Rapid Estimate of Adult Literacy in Medicine (REALM) screening instrument is a word recognition test commonly used in health care settings. The tool is a laminated sheet containing 22 common medical words or layman’s terms for body parts and illnesses and is arranged in three columns. The words are written in large font and arranged in order of difficulty. Patients are asked to pronounce each word aloud. If they are unable to pronounce several consecutive words, they are asked to look down the list and pronounce as many of the remaining words as possible.

Words such as:

Osteoporosis Anemia Colitis
Allergic Fatigue Constipation
Jaundice Directed

Okay. Interesting approach. And, totally irrelevant to anything that might conceivably produce useful data about who can benefit from ebooks for what type of content.