E-readers can replace real books, but there are drawbacks

You see them on planes and at coffee shops. They're wrapped safely in designer covers and leather binders. In restaurants and bars, even at dog parks and in the carpool line, people are engrossed in them. Electronic readers have revolutionized the way we consume literature. Fact tank Pew Research Center revealed in its e-reader and tablet study earlier this year the growth of e-book readers nearly doubled this past holiday season. E-books have begun to outsell printed books.

Now that e-books are a staple part of our lives, has time revealed that e-readers could negatively impact our eyesight? Those of us who worried that too much e-reading would result in the need for reading glasses or other eye-related problems can rest easy.

"No direct ocular harm has been found, even in patients," said Kimberly Feder, OD of Florida Eye Health in Naples.

There is one exception to the rule. Feder cautions patients with clinically diagnosed dry eye that over-usage of e-readers can exacerbate such issues.

PROTECT YOUR EYES

"One drawback to the electronic reader is that in an eye clinically diagnosed with dry eye syndrome, symptoms of the condition may worsen," she said. "Tear substitutes should be used generously if reading for more than one hour."

Feder said there is actually a major clinical benefit to reading an electronic book.

"The font or letter size and illumination can be increased, which may make the words more legible to readers with limited vision due to eye diseases," she said.

However, using larger text size also has its limits.

"If the print is too large, it may be difficult to finish the word with limits in eye movement and screen width — imagine starting a word with multiple syllables and seeing only a portion of it," she cautions.

It may take time to adjust text for optimal reading and it is an extremely custom process. Feder said regardless of which type of e-reader a consumer uses, there is such a thing as good visual hygiene.

"When reading any type of material in any type of medium, good technique is to hold the material equal distance, at least 16 inches from your eyes," she said. "Any prolonged activity without interruption can lead to a sensation of strain, so a good rule for timing is every 20 minutes of visual activity should be broken up by a 20-second visual break where you look at something at least 20 feet away."

Lighting is also a key issue in good visual hygiene. Between e-readers, there is little if any difference in impact on the eye between e-paper or backlit types of e-readers. Feder concedes literature doesn't champion either over the other.

What is important, she said, is to always read with additional moderate ambient illumination in the room wherever you are reading.

"The e-paper books seem to do better in brighter environmental conditions, while the LCD books fare better in limited illuminations, and the opposite holds true for both," she said. "Considering your reading chair's environment first may help you make your decision between the two."

The last thing to consider with regard to going easy on the eyes is the level of contrast in the medium itself. High contrast allows for better viewing.

DO YOUR HOMEWORK

Read up on what's available, and don't discount little-known technology sites or devices that may satisfy two needs at once, such the tablets on the market now. Columbia University applied physics graduate Casey Johnston heralded Google's new $200 Nexus 7 tablet as "divine intervention" on Ars Technica, the "alpha geek" technology website. The Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime was named The Tech Report newsletter Editor's Choice. Both of these tablets that double as e-readers receive far less hoopla than iPad or Kindle, for example.

For seniors, there's even a specialized e-reader resource. The website ElderGadget.com is jam-packed with reviews on all things electronic. The site maintains a dedicated section on current e-readers that seniors can keep checking for the latest products. Spotlight reviews and special offers flank basic information that speaks to what seniors might like. Reviewers cover manufacturers, screen resolution, text formatting, price and weight among other differences in hardware. Visit the website at www.eldergadget.com/ereaders.

E-READER EYE HEALTH

For dry eyes: Administer a generous dose of tear substitutes when reading for more than one hour at a time.

Find the right size and contrast: Increase text size only to the point that reading is comfortable – text that’s too large makes it difficult to finish the word with limits in eye movement and screen width. Carefully customize your screen for brightness and contrast before you begin reading at length.

Think "book": Hold your e-reader at the same level you would a book at least 40 centimeters (about 16 inches) from the eyes when reading.

Practice 20/20/20: Break up every twenty minutes of reading with a 20-second visual break. During visual breaks, look at something at least 20 feet away.

Keep the lights on: Experts say to read with moderate ambient light wherever you are reading.

TRY BEFORE YOU BUY

The following is a list of local retailers where you can test drive different e-readers. Be sure to compare sizes, screen brightness and weight before you buy. Local bookstores have e-reader tables with samples of e-readers to examine. For Mac enthusiasts, the tech support staff at the Apple store at Waterside Shops will walk you through a demonstration.

Apple Store

iPad tablet store

Waterside Shops

5555 U.S. 41 N.

Naples

239-254-4240

Barnes and Noble

Nook e-reader

5377 U.S. 41 N.

Naples

239-598-5200

Books-a-Million

Nook

The Mercato

9128 Strada Place

Naples

239-594-9400

Best Buy

Kindle, Nook, Kobo, iPad, Asus, Eee Pad

6325 Naples Blvd

Naples

239-597-8529

© 2012 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Discuss
  • Print

Comments » 0

Be the first to post a comment!

Share your thoughts

Comments are the sole responsibility of the person posting them. You agree not to post comments that are off topic, defamatory, obscene, abusive, threatening or an invasion of privacy. Violators may be banned. Click here for our full user agreement.

Comments can be shared on Facebook and Yahoo!. Add both options by connecting your profiles.

Features