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TechnoDoc
Posts: 18
Registered: ‎01-29-2010
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eInk vs. LCD Eye Strain

I have seen a great deal of discussion about the benefits of an eInk screen vs. a backlit LCD, in regards to eye strain.  Obviously everyone has their own preferences, but from a medical and physiologic stand point, there is no clinical evidence that eInk offers any advantage over an LCD display in preventing or providing relief from eye strain.

 

This conversation has ramped up in the last two days, as a result of the Apple iPad announcement, and as a physician, I have always been curious as to how this assumption came to be.  This morning I saw a quote from an ophthalmologist in the LA Times who also questioned this assumption:

 

A perhaps more dubious strike against the iPad is that the light from its screen could put strain on users' eyes after prolonged periods of use. Electronic ink, which was created to mimic the visual properties of a printed page, has been praised by critics and consumers as being more eye-friendly.  But the science does not yet support the idea that backlit digital displays are bad for your eyes, said Ivan Schwab, a professor of ophthalmology at UC Davis.  The idea that computer screens cause eyestrain "is more hearsay and anecdotal," he said.

I decided to ask a few of my ophthalmologist colleagues about this today, and so far they have all agreed that it is not the screen technology that is to blame, it is the light level - either too low or too high - that causes eye fatigue.

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eagleSB
Posts: 341
Registered: ‎11-04-2009
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Re: eInk vs. LCD Eye Strain

Interesting info.  Thanks.  I know from my own experience that staring at my PC screen is less comfortable for me than looking at the eink screen or paper.  I have adjusted my LCD to be fairly low intensity, but still find it uncomfortable.  I believe you may be right that the intensity of the light is to blame.  On an LCD screen, I am staring into the light - no matter how dim.  On the e-ink, it is reflected and diffused light.  Glare off the screen gives me the same issues as the LCD screen, so I need to adjust to avoid it.

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1914ww
Posts: 15
Registered: ‎12-31-2009
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Re: eInk vs. LCD Eye Strain

I read ebooks on my laptop using the B&N ereader.  I have noticed the most eye strain if I try to read the back lit screen in a dark room.  If you are having trouble with eye strain related pain from reading your ebooks on a backlit screen, these two things have helped me.

1. Read in a well lit room

2. Go into settings and change the background of the page to a gray or tan. (you can set it to about any color imaginable)  With less contrast between the page and the text, I have experienced much less eye strain.

eInk like on the Nook may be a better solution but if you are a cheapskate like me, darkening the background (page) seems to really help.

Pleasant reading

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RaAusar
Posts: 72
Registered: ‎10-26-2009
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Re: eInk vs. LCD Eye Strain

I really appreciate the information and from personal experience I haven't experienced eye strain from a backlit LCD either. 

 

I spend nearly 12 to 16 hours out of my day at a LCD computer monitor. Although I admit I find it easier to read on the nook. This could be attributed to the fact I'm reading in a lean back mode versus a lean forward mode that's done when at your desk or with a laptop. Plus, I don't read for hours. Max 1 or 2 hours in one sitting then I'm off to another task.

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NookerBD
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Registered: ‎01-25-2010
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Re: eInk vs. LCD Eye Strain


TechnoDoc wrote:

I have seen a great deal of discussion about the benefits of an eInk screen vs. a backlit LCD, in regards to eye strain.  Obviously everyone has their own preferences, but from a medical and physiologic stand point, there is no clinical evidence that eInk offers any advantage over an LCD display in preventing or providing relief from eye strain.

 

This conversation has ramped up in the last two days, as a result of the Apple iPad announcement, and as a physician, I have always been curious as to how this assumption came to be.  This morning I saw a quote from an ophthalmologist in the LA Times who also questioned this assumption:

 

A perhaps more dubious strike against the iPad is that the light from its screen could put strain on users' eyes after prolonged periods of use. Electronic ink, which was created to mimic the visual properties of a printed page, has been praised by critics and consumers as being more eye-friendly.  But the science does not yet support the idea that backlit digital displays are bad for your eyes, said Ivan Schwab, a professor of ophthalmology at UC Davis.  The idea that computer screens cause eyestrain "is more hearsay and anecdotal," he said.

I decided to ask a few of my ophthalmologist colleagues about this today, and so far they have all agreed that it is not the screen technology that is to blame, it is the light level - either too low or too high - that causes eye fatigue.


 

Doc,

With all due respect...from my experience my eyes tire while staring at my comp  screen, and or T.V. screen for any period longer than a couple of hours...im sure thats a fairly standard perspective.  Eye strain occurs for me on my Nook (e ink) display only after I get physically tired...especially with the ambient light source in the room.  I equate this difference in eye strain to looking at the sun vs. looking at the sun reflected off of a snow field..both will give me eye strain but the sun will give me eye strain faster.

My two cents,

Brian

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Alley415
Posts: 708
Registered: ‎12-10-2009
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Re: eInk vs. LCD Eye Strain

I find that the eink screen is less tiring for my eyes if I am reading for extremely long time spans say 4 hours or more.  But for every day use of an LCD, I prefer my macbook to my work LCD screen.  The Macbook screen adjusts to outside light  plus has the normal range of adjustment for the screen.  I know others have this as well but I am not sure exactly which companies. 

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DogDoc
Posts: 41
Registered: ‎12-14-2009
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Re: eInk vs. LCD Eye Strain

[ Edited ]

I am not sure there have been any formal studies on the effects of E-Ink vice LCD on eye strain. Much of the evidence is empirical. However, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. If a person finds that one form of media causes more discomfort then, by all means, they should chose a different media.

 

One cause for the perceived difference of the media might be the focal distance, or where you hold the ebook, versus the computer screen. 

 

Interstingly enough the American Optometric Association has named the syndrome of eye strain from computer use Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS). A syndrome similar to CVS caused by reading paper books has not been documeted. It may be that e-ink emulates paper so well that it does not cause CVS--only time will tell. See following article.

 

"Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS) is the complex of eye and vision problems related to near work which are experienced during or related to computer use. CVS is characterized by visual symptoms which result from interaction with a computer display or its environment. In most cases, symptoms occur because the visual demands of the task exceed the visual abilities of the individual to comfortably perform the task.

Vision problems occur frequently among video display terminal (VDT) workers."

 

"Most studies indicate that visual symptoms occur in 50-90% of VDT workers." A survey of optometrists indicated that 10 million primary eye care examinations are provided annually in this country primarily because of visual problems at VDTs - not a small public health issue. Vision problems are pervasive among computer workers and are the source of worker discomfort and decreased work performance.

There appears to be a communication gap regarding the nature and extent of vision problems related to VDT use. The vision problems experienced by VDT workers are varied and are difficult to grasp and understand by those who don't specialize in vision. The misunderstanding may also be the result of unfounded reports of cataracts caused by VDTs, exaggerated manufacturer claims about the need for UV and other radiation protections, and misleading statements about the effects of specialty tinted and coated lenses (e.g., computer glasses) among other products.

In order to improve communication and understanding of the vision problems at computers, the American Optometric Association supports the use of the term "Computer Vision Syndrome" (CVS) to broadly encompass the visual problems experienced at VDTs. CVS can be used to refer to the entirety of visual problems experienced by computer users and therefore improve communication and understanding of these problems. However, since there is not a single factor or visual disorder which causes the visual problems at computers, CVS encompasses many different symptoms, disorders and treatments."

 

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DogDoc
Posts: 41
Registered: ‎12-14-2009
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Re: eInk vs. LCD Eye Strain

[ Edited ]

Yet another hypothesis might be that our eyes have little problem focusing on most printed material, which is characterized by dense black characters with well-defined edges. Characters on a computer screen, however, don't have the same high contrast or well-defined borders. The luminous elements (pixels) that create images on a computer screen are brightest at the center and diminish in intensity toward their edges. This makes it more difficult for our eyes to accurately focus on computer-generated images compared to images printed with ink in a book or magazine. In addition the LCD screen is constantly refreshing. Even though this refresh rate is imperceptible, the eyes must constantly adapt and change focus causing eye strain.

 

The e-ink display, like the printed page, does not refresh and has more crisp defined edges of the characters making it easier to focus on, thus reducing CVS.

 

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mandohack
Posts: 10
Registered: ‎01-09-2010
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Re: eInk vs. LCD Eye Strain

I'm a computer technician that remembers back to the days of CRT displays.  The argument for eyestrain from a CRT was brightness AND refresh rate.  You had to get the refresh rate up to 75Hz horizontally, if I remember correctly, to reduce eyestrain.

 

I'm not sure if that carries over to flourescent and LED backlit LCD displays or not.  I know when looking at an LED from your peripheral vision, it does flicker at 60Hz if  it is not properly filtered.  Most LCD display are properly filtered and do not flicker when viewing peripherally.

 

Whether that means less fatigue or not compared to eInk, I don't know, but thought the brightness argument made a lot of sense now that we can rule out refresh rate.

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icebike
Posts: 4,434
Registered: ‎11-30-2009
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Re: eInk vs. LCD Eye Strain

 


NookerBD wrote:
Doc,

With all due respect...from my experience my eyes tire while staring at my comp  screen, and or T.V. screen for any period longer than a couple of hours...im sure thats a fairly standard perspective.  Eye strain occurs for me on my Nook (e ink) display only after I get physically tired...especially with the ambient light source in the room.  I equate this difference in eye strain to looking at the sun vs. looking at the sun reflected off of a snow field..both will give me eye strain but the sun will give me eye strain faster.

My two cents,

Brian


 

 

 

Well said.

 

The eyestrain from backlit monitors is so obvious that there probably has been no need to study it.

Therefore there is no science available.   

 

Perhaps its the word Strain that they object to.  

 

Lets put it simpler.  Reading on a back lit screen is something 99 percent of people would rather not do all day at work and then come home and do it all evening as well.  It drives people away.  its uncomfortable.

 

e-ink: not a problem.

 

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wynand32
Posts: 77
Registered: ‎10-21-2009
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Re: eInk vs. LCD Eye Strain

 


icebike wrote:

 


NookerBD wrote:
Doc,

With all due respect...from my experience my eyes tire while staring at my comp  screen, and or T.V. screen for any period longer than a couple of hours...im sure thats a fairly standard perspective.  Eye strain occurs for me on my Nook (e ink) display only after I get physically tired...especially with the ambient light source in the room.  I equate this difference in eye strain to looking at the sun vs. looking at the sun reflected off of a snow field..both will give me eye strain but the sun will give me eye strain faster.

My two cents,

Brian


 

 

 

Well said.

 

The eyestrain from backlit monitors is so obvious that there probably has been no need to study it.

Therefore there is no science available.   

 

Perhaps its the word Strain that they object to.  

 

Lets put it simpler.  Reading on a back lit screen is something 99 percent of people would rather not do all day at work and then come home and do it all evening as well.  It drives people away.  its uncomfortable.

 

e-ink: not a problem.

 


 

 

Although I do wish there was more empirical data on the issue, I have to agree with this post. Pretty much, for me it's a matter of knowing it when I see it (no pun intended). I spend all day at work staring at LCD's, and currently use a Tablet PC with an LED screen for reading (my nook arrives today). Staring at that screen for any amount of time generates significant fatigue. When I used my Sony ereader some time ago, I can remember how refreshing it felt when I put away the notebook and started reading the the e-Ink screen.

 

And I mean that literally: it was "refreshing." My eyes felt actual relief, precisely as they do when I turn off the computer and read a physical book.

 

And this effect was magnified when I needed to use my notebook in a less-than-optimal environment, like outside in the shade (my Tablet is simply unusable in the SoCal sun). In extremely bright environments, such as on the beach, an LCD/LED screen will either be unusable or would generate extreme eyestrain in the most literal sense--that is, straining to read the faint image on the screen. Only a reflective screen can avoid this phenomenon.

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FrogAlum
Posts: 3,425
Registered: ‎12-25-2009
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Re: eInk vs. LCD Eye Strain

Here is what I know from experience:

 

If I try to read for an hour on my iPhone or computer, non-stop, and look up at my TV to check the guide or my DVR list, everything is so blurry I can't make sense of it.

 

Two or more hours with my nook results in no problem reading either the guide or list on the TV.

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GeoffreyF
Posts: 202
Registered: ‎12-15-2009

Re: eInk vs. LCD Eye Strain

I don't know about clinical evidence but I do have objective evidence.

 

I spend my life in front of an LCD.  I write and design computer software for a living.   I am 58 years old and had 20/20 vision until I developed presbyopia at the more or less typical age of 45.   I typically have to get up every hour or so and part of my regimen is to look in the distance to rest my eyes.

 

My work also requires that I read a lot of technical books.   Most of these books are available as eBooks but I buy them as paper books because of the screen eye strain issue.  These sorts of books are not yet available for the nook (or any eReader) but I hope they will be.  Their publishers tell me they will.  

 

With the Nook, I have read more material in two weeks than I have read in months.   (the nook material is more in the line of liberal arts non fiction and classical fiction.   It seems better than reading from a conventional book, in fact though I cannot really explain this except that the page is not curved as it is in an open book and so it is all in a single plane of focus.   I sit for hours reading in complete ease and comfort.  Given the amount of material and the utter lack of eye strain, I'd say that this is past some kind of placebo effect.   Not clinical but I feel objectively comfortable with the assertion that the Nook is an aid to reading.

 

The eInk display is exactly like a piece of matte finished plastic with printing on it.  It is all reflected light, it is all in one plane of view, and not (as is the case with LCD) slightly different plane of view.  There is no raster (flicker) as there is on an LCD.   It's a solid ink like presentation as advertised.   Not only has the amount that I've read increased six fold but I believe that I understand the technical qualities of eInk in relationship to my experience and as an explanation of it.

 

Finally, I am not a doctor and I have not looked for clinical work on this but I doubt that eInk would have gotten the investor contribution that it has without some kind of clinical effort.   eInk has substantial liabilities as to color and refresh time and it would be a non-starter if it did not provide such a substantive benefit.

 

 

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Wigum
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Re: eInk vs. LCD Eye Strain

I spend all day at work looking at a computer screen. I go home and work/play on my laptop - my eyes are fine at the end of the day.

 

I read a book on my laptop, my eyes are bloodshot and sore when I go to bed.

 

I read a book on my e-reader, my eyes are fine at the end of the day.

 

Sure things strain your eyes more than others, and im sure it's the contrast of focusing on the text that bugs me out about reading on a laptop. However, my guess is people would much rather carry around a nook than a laptop to read their books

 

 

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TechnoDoc
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Re: eInk vs. LCD Eye Strain

In response to the poster who mentions CVS (computer vision syndrome):  CVS is caused by a decrease in the blinking reflex and prolonged short distance focusing.  It has nothing to do with the nature of the screen technology, but rather how people interact with computer screens (sitting too close, etc.).  The actual condition that describes "eye strain" is asthenopia, and can happen when concentrating on any short distance, visually engaging activity, which includes reading good old fashioned paper books.  As mentioned by another poster in this thread, old CRT computer monitors with a refresh rate lower than 70 Hz can definitely exacerbate eye strain, but this is not an issue with LCD screens.

 

Several posters have also mentioned that the light coming directly from a TV or LCD screen strains their eyes, but not the reflected light off of an eInk display.  The retina of the human eye responds to photons, and it can not discriminate if a photon came directly from a light source, through layers of liquid crystal, or was reflected off of an eInk panel.  Any light that is too intense (one poster mentioned looking at the sun vs. a sunlit snow field) will be uncomfortable (if not damaging, as is the case with looking at the sun).  The iris of the human eye will change to accommodate varying intensities of light, but if you are really experiencing discomfort from the intensity of the light coming from an LCD or TV, I would suggest turning down the brightness.

 

Lastly, as mentioned above, eye strain is caused by prolonged short distance focusing, so it would seem that as long as you employ the appropriate amount of lighting, don't hold your source too close for too long, and look up every once in a while, you should be OK...regardless of the type of screen you are reading your books on.

 

 

 

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TechnoDoc
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Re: eInk vs. LCD Eye Strain

Oh, one more thing...

 

To the poster who said that there must be a benefit to eInk, or there wouldn't be so much investment in the technology.  I would say that the major benefit is probably battery life.

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GeoffreyF
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Registered: ‎12-15-2009
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Re: eInk vs. LCD Eye Strain

TechnoDoc

 

Please show me some references for your statements.   

 

I can tell you that I sit at a proper distance and proper posture when working at a computer screen.  The objective statements I made about reading from an LCD monitor and from an eInk display are based on a correct posture.   I read both types of displays at about the same distance.

 

LCD screens do have several undesirable characteristics for long term viewing, especially where looking at text is concerned.   Each of the colors is not in exactly the same plain.  Also, the display is a raster display, refreshed at a fast rate.  If you move your eyes quickly, you will see a break up effect caused by this.  At a slower rate, this requires more work to focus.

 

Try looking at an LCD with a strong light surrounding you.   It is painful.  

 

Your statements about "looking up every once in awhile" demonstrate you have very limited experience with prolonged reading on an LCD screen.   I expect you have none with an eInk display.

 

As I said, please provide links to the information that you are providing.    There is a saying, "On the internet, nobody knows you are a dog."  This is also true of a doctor.   I don't think your statements are credible or knowledgable.   There certainly is no evidence at all of differential thinking or analysis.

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DogDoc
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Re: eInk vs. LCD Eye Strain

TechnoDoc,

 

I guess I don't understand the point of your post. If you don't see the benefit of E-Ink then don't buy an EReader. What is the point of posting disparaging remarks on these forums?

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JAin-NYC
Posts: 83
Registered: ‎11-30-2009
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Re: eInk vs. LCD Eye Strain


DogDoc wrote:

TechnoDoc,

 

I guess I don't understand the point of your post. If you don't see the benefit of E-Ink then don't buy an EReader. What is the point of posting disparaging remarks on these forums?


 

Some people never learned "If you don't have anything nice to say don't say anything". 

 

 

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Nodd
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Registered: ‎01-22-2010
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Re: eInk vs. LCD Eye Strain

I find it interesting that the people who dispute LCD versus eInk differences the most, don't seem to have much first hand experience with eInk at all.

 

As a computer professional, I work with LCD screens up to 10 hours a day, and at very high resolutions on wide screen displays in a well-lit room.  In the last hours of a workday, I can sometimes not even focus well anymore on screen text.  I would come home to do more stuff on computers, and just have to give up due to eyestrain.  Now that I have a Nook, I find myself able to read myself to sleep with no problems.  It has literally brought back the enjoyment of reading for me since it's so easy to consume books without physically shopping for them.

 

And to really settle it all, just try actual real-world comparisons for yourself.  If you haven't done that, with all due respect, ...you're really just blowing smoke.

 

As for the iPad, make note that the iPad has low actual screen resolution; 1024 x 768 display resolution, at 132 pixels per inch wiht a glossy screen.  This is lower than most computer displays.