Are E-Readers Wrecking Your Eyes? Read On ...

Amy Kuras

E-readers are going to be a hot gift this holiday season, and lots of us who love to read are maybe hoping Santa will leave one under the tree. It's pretty exciting to think you can lug around everything you want to read ... books, magazines, even that bulky hardcover you heard about on The Daily Show last night ... in a package small enough to pop into your purse and take everywhere with you. No more endless waits at the doctor's office reading the same dull magazine again and again!

Avid readers, though, might have some worries about their eyes.





You know how you feel after you get immersed a big project, staring at the computer for hours on end? Your eyes are dry, actually feel tired, and may even be a bit teary or your vision a little blurry. Now imagine getting so absorbed in the latest blockbuster novel that you get a cramp in your neck and suddenly realize you haven't moved in like three hours (okay, that probably never happens anymore, but think back pre-kids to the time when it did). Add the two together and it sounds like a recipe for major eyestrain.

But surprisingly, it isn't.

Some e-readers, including the Sony Reader and Amazon Kindle, use something called e-ink, which mimics the action of ink on paper. It looks like paper, is readable in bright light, and is also difficult to read in dim light, just as a paper book would be (a fact which Amazon uses as a selling point, citing studies that using closely held backlit reading devices before bed can inhibit sleep). 

Others, like the iPad and Nook Color, use backlit LCD displays. Neither has an inherent advantage or disadvantage; it's whatever feels most comfortable for you. Opthalmologists say neither is likely to cause eye strain as long as you take regular breaks. Good news, eh, book fans?

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