Why print books are better for your health

Eye Health

By Joy Stephenson Laws and the pH health care professionals

E-readers like Kindles and Nooks are portable and can store thousands of books. Other than being dependent on electrical power, e-readers seemed ready to replace print books completely when they debuted in 1998. But recent research suggests that print still rules, health-wise.

Anne Mangen, a Norwegian scholar who studies reading in the digital age, has found that when you test students on their recall and comprehension of a short story read on paper versus an Amazon Kindle DX, the Kindle students don’t do well on the test. The order of events and their sense of chronological time in the story were both impaired. She suggests that because you can’t see more than one page at a time, the reinforcement of looking back quickly at the previous page to confirm a bit of information is gone. Some researchers also think that the tactile experience with paper is better for learning. Mangen’s other work includes a study showing that people reading from an iPad were less engaged with the material and less likely to find it understandable and coherent. This may mean that all-electronic textbooks are a poor idea for student learning.

And the idea of returning to paper is catching on. A “slow reading” movement has begun, featuring groups of people who get together, turn off their devices, and read uninterrupted for more than 30 minutes. Participants feel that they concentrate better and have less stress if they read in this way.

Print books can also save your eyes. Last year, researchers from the SUNY College of Optometry in New York reported that subjects who read the same information from a Kindle, compared to an iPod or print, reported more tired eyes and eye discomfort. People’s eyes took a long time to “recover” their distance focusing after reading off an iPod, and they read most slowly on the iPod. This is an important finding because many people have to read computer screens all day long for work and may already have eye fatigue.

Another study found that the Kindle Fire (with a liquid crystal or LCD screen) triggered eye fatigue while the Kindle Paperwhite (with E-ink print simulation technology) was similar to print in terms of fatigue. A different study showed no major difference in eye fatigue or strain between the LCD and E-ink technology.

So what’s all this mean? If you can read a book in print, do it. Otherwise, if you have to travel or keep things lightweight, an E-ink reader seems to be closest to paper and can tide you over until you are back with your paperbacks.

Enjoy Your Healthy Life!

The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.


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