Are E-Readers Bad for Your Eyes?

eReaders have many benefits. They are portable, have the ability to store hundreds of books on them and are more convenient to carry around. As they become more common and affordable, you may be wondering about how they affect your eyes. After all, other forms of digital screens, like smart phones, tablets, televisions and computers, can harmful effects on your eyes. In fact, looking at these screens for too long can lead to Computer Vision Syndrome. With symptoms like blurred vision, eyestrain and headaches, Computer Vision Syndrome is a common side effect of looking at a digital screen for too long without a break.

On the surface, it would appear as though eReaders have a different type of screen than a computer or smartphone. So can using an eReader lead to the same annoying symptoms? Let’s dive in:


Computer Vision Syndrome and other conditions or symptoms caused by looking at digital screens for too long are caused by a several different factors. The most significant factor is how digital screens display images. Pixels form images and text, and can be thought of tiny pieces that, together, compose the full picture. Because of all the tiny pieces, your eyes have to work harder to make up the image you’re seeing on the screen. This can lead to blurred vision, digital eye strain and headaches if you don’t give your eyes a break periodically.

Most tablets, like iPads and Samsung tablets, use digital screens, meaning that they use pixels to make up the images and text on their screens. eReaders, on the other hand, use different technology.

eReaders, like Amazon’s Kindle and Barnes and Noble’s Nook, use a type of display called eInk. As it mimics the looks of printed paper, it can help reduce the tendency for users to develop eye problems.

Also, research has shown that newer LCD screens that are being used on mobile phones, tablets, computer and televisions may cause fewer eye problems. Their faster refresh times and higher resolutions can help decrease the frequency of digital eye strain, blurred vision and headaches.

If you do find yourself looking at screens all day long, remember the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. Researchers found that people who abided by this rule had less eye problems than ones who did not.

Printed Pages

Your eye problems sometimes stem from other things beside digital screens. Traditional reading can bring about unpleasant eye symptoms as well. When reading a regular book on a printed page, experts have said that the muscles in your eyes move about 10,000 times an hour. So even just reading a regular book can lead to digital eye strain.

To prevent any eye problems from arising, avid readers should take a break every ten minutes and make sure their reading space is well lit.

The Verdict

As you can see, reading on eReaders, digital screens and traditional printed paper can lead to issues with your eyes. So which one is the right choice? The answer largely depends on your preference, and partly on the quality of your eyesight. In a study, researchers found that individuals with poorer eyesight could read better using a backlit screen. People in the same study who had good eyesight preferred reading on a traditional book.

After taking this all into consideration, test out which situation works better for you. Do you notice less symptoms with an eReader or with a traditional book? And remember to give your eyes a break every once in a while, regardless of which medium you choose.

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