Paper vs e-ink vs LCD…

And the jury is still out. Despite everybody’s insistence that paper is better than e-ink which is better than LCD for reading, it seems that there is much more to the story than meets the eye (sorry!). Confession – I haven’t read the primary research, so am guilty of a farily superficial analysis, but a piece in the New York Times suggests that accepted wisdom may not be all that wise (as is almost always the case). Witness:

First of all: doctors say that reading on a screen won’t cause any harm.

“Most of what our mothers told us about our eyes was wrong,” said Dr. Travis Meredith, chair of the ophthalmology department at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. “Sitting close to a television, or computer screen, isn’t bad for our eyes. It’s a variety of other factors that can cause physical fatigue.”

But every seven year old kid persuading his/her parents for more screen time has always known that. As far as e-readers is concerned, here’s the rub:

Michael Bove, director of the Consumer Electronics Laboratory at the M.I.T. Media Lab, says different screens make sense for different purposes.

“It depends on the viewing circumstances, including the software and typography on the screen,” said Mr. Bove. “Right now E Ink is great in sunlight, but in certain situations, a piece of paper can be a better display than E Ink, and in dim light, an LCD display can be better than all of these technologies.”

Granted, Dr Bove is not an opthalmologist, so I’m not sure of the basis of the argument. One day I’ll dig a little deeper! In my experience though, he’s right. I prefer my iphone in the evening, when it’s fairly dark (probably because I don’t need a reading light) and on balance probably like my Sony a little better on a lazy Saturday afternoon on the sofa. Watching my other half (not) use her kindle, it’s pretty clear that both are good enough for reading ‘long-form-texts’. And it’s availability of content, not screen technology that’s currently driving usage. At least at my place 🙂


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