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Print vs. Digital: Which Is Better For Your Eyesight?

When it comes to reading, there are some key differences between computer screens, e-readers, and printed books and newspapers. The question is, how does each affect our eyes?

Reading On A Screen May Make Our Eyes Work Harder

Computer screens, smartphones, and tablets display text and images differently than e-readers and print, using tiny pieces called “pixels.” Focusing on pixels makes our eyes work a little harder than if we were reading a traditional book. However, as screen resolution improves with advancing technology, reading on a screen will cause less strain.

Studies have shown that when reading on a screen we tend to blink less—sometimes causing eyes to become dry and sore. Glare on a digital screen is also a cause for concern as it can tire the eyes more quickly than normal.

To avoid digital eye strain, or Computer Vision Syndrome, you should follow the 20/20/20 rule. When reading, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds every 20 minutes. This should help relieve symptoms of eye strain as well as prevent them.

E-readers And Printed Books Have Their Own Set Of Concerns

E-readers like the Kindle or Nook use a different type of display than computer screens, called E Ink. This type of display closely mimics the appearance of ink on printed paper and has shown reduced tendency to cause eye strain when compared to other digital screens.

The concern with traditional printed books is lighting. Reading in poor light makes it more difficult for the eyes to focus, thus causing eye fatigue. Reading in dim lighting also makes you blink less often than you normally would, leading to a temporary case of dry eyes.

Which Reading Medium Is Best For Your Eyes?

In the end, there are concerns for every type of reading medium. While there are differences between reading printed books, e-readers, or on your tablet, computer or phone, the take home message is this: you should rest your eyes no matter what.

You might be surprised to know the 20/20/20 rule applies to bookworms and e-reader enthusiasts alike! While reading on a computer may tire your eyes out more quickly, reading for prolonged periods of time without looking away is primary cause of eye strain, whether that be on paper or a screen.

Your Comfort Matters To Us

Whether you’re reading on your computer at work or curled up with a book at home, being educated about eye strain is the first step in preventing it. If you have any questions about the medium of your favorite books, please let us know! We want to help you continue to enjoy a lifetime of healthy, happy reading.

As always, thank you to our awesome patients!

Top image by Flickr user John Benson used under Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 4.0 license. Image cropped and modified from original.
The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.