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Really, there are no alternatives to opening an old hardback book, holding a complete story in the palm of your hands, and smelling all the different environments the novel had once called home (although my copy of War of the Worlds smells like manure and moth balls).
While all your friends are busy getting married and making babies, you can frisk through your bookshelf while asking “which one of you wants to be my friend today” and “you’ll never desert me, will you?” For others, books are an essential traveling companion, but their bulk frustratingly takes up valuable luggage space. Cue eBooks and eReaders.
Modern technology has found an alternative to these “modern” issues of space and convenience with eBooks, eReaders, Kindles and tablets. The voracious reader can now store hundreds of novels on their desired device. However, there are some major health and overall cognitive issues regarding long periods of reading on light-omitting screens, in comparison to paper novels.
Most people have probably heard that eye-strain goes hand in hand with computer screens and tablets, but don’t know their long-term effects on eye health. Brisbane optometry Professor Nathan Efron has stated that screens themselves are not harmful. However, they do increase the risk of developing short-sightedness, as the eyes are continually trying to focus on bright objects that are close and may cause the eye to become elongated.
Reading eBooks on light-omitting devices has also been found to decrease the amount of information absorbed by the reader, compared to paper books.
A Study including 50 readers of a short story by Elizabeth George was done by Norway’s Stravanger University. The study had half the participants read the 28-page short-story as eBooks on light-screened devices, and the other half read the story via a paperback novel.
Lead researcher behind the study, Anne Mangen stated:
“The Kindle readers performed significantly worse on the plot reconstruction measure, i.e., when they were asked to place 14 events in the correct order,” Mangen said.
Their thoughts behind this discovery may be as a simple as the physical turning of pages and being able to see the progression through the novel with a bookmark.
“When you read on paper you can sense with your fingers a pile of pages on the left growing, and shrinking on the right,” said Mangen.
Last but not least, according to a U.S. study, light emitted from tablets or eReaders can interfere with sleep patterns. It can also affect how alert someone is waking in the morning.
In a two-week experiment, researchers at Harvard Medical School used 12 adults, where for 4 hours before bed half the participants read on light-emitting devices and the other half on a paper book.
The study revealed that participants using light-emitting devices took an average of 10 minutes longer to fall asleep.
“The light emitted by most eReaders is shining directly into the eyes of the reader, whereas from a printed book or the original Kindle the reader is only exposed to reflected light from the pages of the book,” said lead researcher Charles Czeisler.
For those who cannot simply live without the practicality of eReaders, the original Amazon Kindles are as safe to use as paper books. The Kindles use something that’s called E-ink, which doesn’t use light to light up the pixels, but rather ink. The ink is arranged on the screen where the pixels are and this creates the image.
In a world of continually advancing technology trying to make life easier for everyone, the ye ol’ book is something (in my opinion, and with the evidence of science) that will never be beaten regarding eye health and of course, aesthetics. Please try to avoid reading novels on light-emitting screens, but if just love e-readers, remember the Amazon Kindle.