‘You’ll Hurt Your Eyes Reading’
‘I’ll hurt yours in a minute,’ was Tony Hancock’s succinct reply when told this by Hattie Jacques. But e-reading has been suggested as causing new levels of eye strain for all of us. Since starting to read on an iPad, I’ve experiences serious eyestrain problems which don’t improve even when I turn the light to a low level.
Now a new report has revealed that E-ink screens are easier to read in sunlight and are less likely to cause eyestrain than the LCD displays commonly used in tablets – but that many consumers are unwilling to buy the device that best suits them, or both devices. For me, iPads function best as a multi-purpose browsing tool, rather like a magazine, to be enjoyed in short bursts.
An e-reader is for serious readers. The Kindle Paperwhite is the best of the bunch, with its adjustable backlighting, but it a few flaws: The lighting isn’t even, the interface is far from perfect (try nipping to footnotes and back) and the case is prone to chipping. But the pros outweigh the cons: It’s easy to find and buy books, or get free ones, its Amazon site is simple to navigate and it’s a joy to hold.
Against this the new Kobo Aura has the first completely flat screen, and some models are unbelievably cute and feel good in your hand. The massive drawback for us in the United Kingdom is its connection to the appalling WH Smith website, which, like its shops, makes Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar seem like an orderly shopping experience. They also hide their free content away so that it takes you forever to find it.
An e-reader without a good website is useless. So while everyone’s weighing the hardware and stroking its silky sides, they ignore the bigger issue of its connection to booksellers. I spent two hours attempting to download a handful of carefully selected editions from WH Smith onto Kobo and finally gave up. I found the same ones through Amazon on Kindle in seconds.
The global market in dedicated e-readers peaked in 2011 with 23 million devices sold. Sales have since declined to the point that only 16 million such machines are forecast to be bought this year, with the number expected to fall to 10 million in 2017. It seems e-readers will become a niche market for heavy users, just as DVDs remain a niche market for serious film fans.
Instead, casual readers are using tablets – but if they’re heavy readers like me, they’ll find themselves suffering more blurred vision, having more eye tests and buying more pairs of glasses than ever before.