Home » Ebooks, Tablets/Ereaders » Ebooks and eyestrain: Eleven tips for newbies and old-timers

Ebooks and eyestrain: Eleven tips for newbies and old-timers

10 August 2017

From TeleRead:

I myself can read ebooks without interruption for just as long as I can paper ones. Let us know your own experiences with the tips below.

1. Keep in mind your environment. Eyestrain may be less of a problem if you’re reading in a bright room. Position your phone, tablet, or dedicated ereader to avoid glare from the lighting.

2. Consider the use of a frontlit E Ink reader, like the most Kindle models or the Kobos, so the light from the screen isn’t glaring directly at you. Instead, the rays from the front lights bounce off the screen just as they would off paper. Yes, this is old stuff for TeleRead regulars. But it might not be for your friends who badmouth ebooks without familiarity with all the options. Educate ’em!

. . . .

4. Experiment with boldface. It won’t just make text more readable for many people on E Ink machines, it will also allow you to crank down the backlighting or front lighting. Along the way, you’ll save battery life.  Recent Kindles offer a boldface font, and Kobos even let you vary the extent of bold on different phones. iPhones and iPads provide for bold within certain apps by way of the San Francisco font. On Android phones, you can select bold within the Kindle app.

. . . .

9. Keep in mind the bottom line. It’s not to make your ebooks look like paper. It’s to be as comfortable as possible while getting the most out of them in every respect. So don’t be shy about weird screen colors.

Link to the rest at TeleRead

PG uses plugins or settings to filter blue light on his phone and tablet when reading on those devices at night so as not to encourage his body to think it’s the middle of the day. The OP has suggestions on how to do that.

However, for reading long-form text, either in the middle of the day or at night, PG is still a giant fan of his Kindle Paperwhite. It’s small and lightweight (205 grams for the Paperwhite vs. 469 grams – just over a pound – for the ten inch iPad Pro), so it’s easy to hold for long periods of time. 205 grams is less than most paperbacks weigh. Plus, unlike a paperback, if you drop the Paperwhite, you don’t lose your place.

PG keeps the light level on the Paperwhite low, especially when reading in the dark, while maintaining excellent readability, so as not to disturb Mrs. PG’s sleep.

Ebooks, Tablets/Ereaders

14 Comments to “Ebooks and eyestrain: Eleven tips for newbies and old-timers”

  1. I have the Kindle Voyage … never a moment of eyestrain.

  2. Sorry, I get more eyestrain trying to read my old paperback books than I ever have on my kindle …
    (font size for the win!)

  3. Al the Great and Powerful

    I dial down the light level, but do not see any need to vary the color. I find color change much more off-putting, and that sort of irritation is much more sleep-impeding than reading a blue-tinted page. But I read all day onscreen or tablet or phone when I’m not working in the field, so perhaps i am habituated to the color spectrum of my devices?

    I do find the unvarying font size and manual page turning with pbooks to be much more tiresome. I was reading a hardcover book last week and found myself tapping and swiping to turn the pages…

    • When I first tried the blue shade option on my Kindle Fire I found it disconcerting as well. However, there’s no doubt at all that after only a couple of uses I was falling to sleep a lot faster with it on. Now I actually leave it on most of the time and find it very easy on my eyes, which aren’t very good. I only need to turn it off if I’m reading outdoors.

  4. Text-to-speech with headphones on Kindle Fire and Kindle app on iPhone. No eyestrain at all.

  5. I want a Kindle that looks like a pair of reading glasses. With a virtual screen.


    • It’s coming and soon.
      You can do it today with most of the VR headsets out there.

      It’s not a great idea.

      Aside from the tech not being quite there, it suffers the same issues as LCD displays: you’re still shining a light right into the eyes and, more importantly, there is the fixed focal length issue. Eyestrain will be fierce.

      You can do it better/safer with the Microsoft Hololens but that bit of tech runs in the $3000 range and is a full blown miniaturized Windows PC you wear. That one projects text as a floating pane in your environment. It has less eyestrain since it doesn’t fill the field of view but it still will cause some unless the software moves the holographic text pane to different virtual distances every twenty minutes or so.

      I suspect it’s one idea that sounds great in principle but proves impractical when you actually try it. Like Google Glass. Or VR itself.

  6. I have multiple tablet/phone/ereader devices, but for long form reading I always use my Kindle Paperwhite. Drives me nuts that people don’t distinguish between reading on an LCD screen and an eInk screen. Fundamentally different technologies. eInk doesn’t cause eye strain any more than paper does.

    • Yeah, I like my regular Kindle for reading ebooks. I find even the Paperwhite to be too glaring for me (less contrast feels better for me). I’ve read books on my Kindle Fire, but I don’t like it. So much harder on my eyes than the e-ink screens. There’s a reason they make reading-specific devices, after all. Sure, it’s convenient to just use the Kindle app on devices you already own (phone, tablet), but regular Kindles are pretty cheap and well worth it, IMO.

  7. I read on an LCD-screen tablet, but I changed the “paper” color from white to gray while keeping the text black. That way it doesn’t feel like someone is shining a flashlight in my face and I’m trying to read the dark spots. Plus, my reading app allows me to darken or lighten the display by sliding my finger vertically along the side. My night reading setting is so dark that during the day it hardly looks like my tablet is on. Direct sunlight is a bit of a problem (although I’m rarely trying to read in direct sunlight, although ironically, the “night mode” with white text on black background seems to work best in sun), but otherwise, I can handle anything from well-lit rooms to complete darkness with no problem. (Well, OK, I get a bit of an eyestrain headache if I read in complete darkness, so I have a small night light near my bed to give me just a bit of ambient light while reading, but I can and have read without the light.)

    My wife, on the other hand, reads paper books with a 40 watt light shining straight at her face (and book) from within 3-4 feet away while laying in bed. How that doesn’t keep her up I have no idea. I’d think that would be significantly worse than “blue light” from a tablet.

  8. Al the Great and Powerful

    I do like Jason, reading light text on black background, and dial down the display to 10% or so, so dark its barely visible in normal light. Its actually disconcerting to change documents, because the now ones are at full brightness until I can drag down the display again.

  9. I switched to white text on black background with larger letters years ago, and it solved my headache problems. I had my daughter (who prefers physical books, and I finally got her to tell me why–eye strain) make the switch on her tablet as well, and she’s read four books in the past two weeks on her Fire.

    I realize dedicated eReaders are “better” for reading, but one of the great promises of high resolution touch screens is having a single device with you at all times that can do anything. I’d rather find a way to make my phone and/or tablet work for reading ebooks.

  10. Al the Great and Powerful

    THIS. I still have my Kindle DX, but I read a LOT more on my phone (its essentially a 6-inch tablet) or my tablet. The ability to do more on those devices, be it to play games, text or make calls, read and send email, write (short stuff at least, I haven’t tried any long form projects on the tablet or phone), view movies and other videos, navigate, look at star charts, search the interwebs, all of that makes the phone or tablet so much more useful than my dedicated reader.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.