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Are E-Books or Paper Books Easier on the Eyes?

What is that book that you have been itching to read? You say you don’t have time and that other tasks are more pressing, but now you have no excuse. October is National Book Month! You are hereby commanded to read for 31 days. Now, where to begin? Maybe you have always wanted to read Tolstoy’s War and Peace, but the 1,400 pages seems to daunting. National Book Month is a perfect time to tackle those 560,000 words! The average adult reads 250 words per minute, so you can finish Tolstoy’s masterpiece in a mere 38 hours!

Now, it’s decision time. Are you going to the library to check out this classic novel or are you going to download it on your E-reader. Thirty-eight hours of reading is a long time, so maybe we should find out which medium is easier on the eyes: paper or screen? According to Dr. Travis Meredith, chair of ophthalmology at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, the problem with e-readers is that we do not adjust the screens to our eye’s needs. There are many display technologies available with e-readers, such as black and white E-ink in the Kindle and Nook or the full-color IPS LCD display in the iPad.

What is easiest on the eyes really depends on the type of paper and the viewing environment. Some paper like newsprint and paper in soft cover books can actually be harder on the eyes than a digital screen. E-ink works well in bright sunlight but it can create eye strain in dark environments because of the lack of contrast and backlighting on the screen. LCD screens are hard on the eyes in brightly lit places but work well when used indoors.

Whether reading a paper book or an e-reader, our eyes are vulnerable to eye strain. Every hour, our eyes make about 10,000 movements so it’s important to remember the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes, take a 20 second break and look at something at least 20 feet away. It is even better to take a break and walk around for a few moments. Another important thing to remember while reading all those 560,000 words in War and Peace is to make a more conscious effort to blink. Blinking refreshes the eyes, lubricates them and prevents dry eye.

Whether you curl up beside the fireplace and read a well-worn library copy of Tolstoy or grab some rays on your back deck and download the classic to your e-reader, let your eyes be the final say. If you experience headaches, neck pain, blurred vision, or fatigue, you need to make a change. Take breaks, blink, walk around, or go to a new environment to read. Remember, this month is yours to get lost in a book so read in comfort and indulge in your right to be a bookworm!