How to Enjoy eBooks without Causing Harm to Your Eyes
One of the major arguments against reading ebooks is that you need to read them on an electronic screen, and staring at a screen for long hours every day over the long term could cause damage to your eyes.
The concern is reasonable, and Computer Vision Syndrome is a real thing. The symptoms include headaches, eye dryness, blurred vision, eye irritation, excessive tearing, sensitivity to light, among others.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t have to be a desktop screen to cause the ailment. In fact, many frequent phone and tablet readers can totally relate to the eye irritations and headaches.
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In this post, I will share with you five tips to minimize the impact. While I can’t say for sure that these methods will help to completely eliminate eye problems, they work very effectively in reducing eye dryness and fatigue.
1. Get proper ambient light
Our parents tell us all the time not to watch TV in the dark and the same applies to reading. While reading with focused light in a dark room won’t directly cause nearsightedness or any long-lasting damages, it does put strain on your eyes and can potentially cause headaches.
The reason is that whenever your eyes drift from the pages into darker areas in the room, the muscles on your irises have to work hard to adjust to another level of lighting. Conversely, your eyes face pressure too if you’re reading in a dark corner and suddenly look at the brighter part of the room.
Not that this could happen often enough to hurt your eyes – most people can stare at their device for an hour or two straight without a single break. However, it’s still much safer to take precautions and read your ebooks at a place with proper ambient lighting – neither too dim nor too bright. If you have a sleeping roommate and don’t want to wake them up, use a bedtime book light to slightly increase the area of illumination around you.
2. Adjust the font size
The great thing about reading ebooks is that most of them allow you to adjust the font size, which you can’t do on a physical book. And that is a feature you really should make use of.
A popular belief is that for an A4 sized screen, a font size that allows around 50 to 75 characters per line is ideal. But if you’re reading your ebooks on various devices with different screen types and sizes, it’s best to choose one or two among the font sizes that you feel most comfortable with on each of the devices.
How to know if a font size is right for you? Your eyes should feel relaxed while reading – you shouldn’t have to squint or widen the eyes in order to see the letters. Plus, you should not have to draw the device too close to your face or have to bend your neck.
3. Reduce the screen brightness
Most devices we use to read ebooks have a backlit screen. This means that they have LED or fluorescent light shining from the back of the screen to the front, and to your eyes.
While the light has to go through a diffuser and several layers of film before it can travel into your pupils, it is still direct light. It’s the same as when you read a piece of paper in the direction of the sun.
If you have strong intensity on all the time, your eye muscles would have to constantly contract so you can see the letters, resulting in tiredness. Reducing the screen brightness so that it matches with the ambient light level could reduce the risk of eye fatigue.
If your device has a night mode, turn it on! The appropriate brightness and light color temperature not only help protect your eyes, but also reduce blue light and help you sleep better later.
4. Take a break
Our eyes are not designed to look at objects at a close distance for long hours. Doing so causes strain to the eyes – and this happens even when you’re reading a paperback. Also, while we read, we tend to stare at the pages more and move our eyes a lot. We also blink a lot less (5 times per minute) while we’re on a screen compared to normally (12 times). This results in dryness, which in turns causes itches and other irritations to your eyes.
An effective way to deal with this is to apply the 20-20-20 rule while you read. Every 20 minutes or so, take a break for about 20 seconds and look at something at least 20 feet away. This exercise reduces the risk of accommodative spasm of the eyes after long hours of reading on a screen.
5. Opt for an ereader
Whenever the question of reducing eye strain while reading ebooks pops up, the answer has always been to get an e-ink device.
Ereaders don’t actively “protect” your eyes. However, compared to other electronic devices, they are a far cry in terms of minimizing eye strain and headaches when reading for long hours.
The main differences is in the display technology, and the lighting.
Normal tablets or phones, as discussed earlier, are lit from the back of the screen. They also have very flushed glass screens, which strongly reflect light and create glare when under strong light.
Professional ebook readers, meanwhile, are made with e-ink technology, allowing them to display without backlight. You can read from an ereader like the Kindle Basic much in the same way and in the same environment you would a physical book.
On a lit ereader like the Paperwhite or nook, the light bulbs are installed on the sides in front of the screen, shining onto the display. The light is then reflected back to your eyes in a lower intensity. It’s the same way daylight or light from a lamp shine on your book – you don’t look directly into the light source.
There are also super eye-friendly ereaders like the Kobo Aura One or Aura H2O, which even have light color temperature that auto-adjusts to offer comfort to your eyes throughout the day and night!
Ebooks are becoming the norm for so many good reasons. They take up no space – you never have to think where to keep them in the house or worry about which ones to pack for a trip. They’re easily available and usually more affordable. Buying them takes merely seconds – no waiting for the package or a trip to the bookstore. And they’re green – they need no cutting of forests.
By all means, enjoy the books on your devices. But don’t forget to apply my tips to minimize the damages to your eyes. If you have any suggestions on protecting the eyes from reading on electronic screens, please share with us in the comment section!