Ability of Audio Feedback in E-books to compensate for haptic attachment to print books

  • Stewart Todhunter

Student thesis: Master's Thesis


Following a significant boom in popularity, the growth of the e-book industry has underperformed expectations. Despite the advantages of e-books, physical print media retains preference amongst readers. Research on behavioural economics, in particular with regard to the psychological importance of touch and sensory input, suggests that this resistance to e-books may be indicative of a bias towards valuing tangible goods over digital. Through use of interactive applications, however, a sense of imagined touch can compensate for this discrepancy. Sensory perception can be influenced by adjacent senses, and one way this is possible is through the use of sound effects synchronised with haptic interaction. For this study it was hypothesised that interactive audio feedback, when implemented in a touch screen e-reader, would magnify the perception of e-book ownership felt by that user. The experiment involved participants using a purpose built touch screen e-reader web application. Whenever a user touched the screen to interact with the e-book, the application would emit a certain sound effect. Four treatment groups of participants tested four different sounds: a high pitch tone, a lower pitch tone, a pink noise profile and a blue noise profile. A fifth group was treated with no sound effect. After exposure to the e-book, the participants were asked to specify a price at which they would sell it as a measure of perceived ownership. The results showed that the hypothesis was partially confirmed: one sound, the high pitch tone, correlated with a significant increase in perceived value from the control group. All other sounds demonstrated no notable change. The conclusion that a certain feedback sound in an e-book on a touch screen may in fact intensify feelings of ownership has great implications for touch screen user interface design and interactive touch screen applications in general. Moreover, the findings are consequential to the future of e-book design. Whereas the paper book metaphor has served as the dominant design paradigm for e-books, the impact of sensory feedback suggests that e-books may cultivate a greater sense of attachment with readers by embracing the interactivity afforded by modern mobile technology
Date of Award18 Jun 2016
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorPenny-Anne De Byl (Supervisor) & Jeffrey Brand (Supervisor)

Cite this