My whole life, I have read physical copies of literature. Until this summer, when I bought myself an e-reader. Gone are the days when I had to worry about accidentally folding pages when storing novels in my backpack and worrying about how many books I could pack in my weight-limited carry-on.
I have always considered myself a reader as it is a pastime that I enjoy. Having the ability to enter a new world and escape your own life is such an enjoyable experience, that is, until you get a concussion and have to go months without being able to read for longer than a minute.
Back in January, I slipped on ice and was diagnosed with a concussion, thus resulting in temporarily losing one of my favourite hobbies. I was forced to reserve my brain power for academic school papers rather than the creative works I wished to read. Until mid-April, I suffered from daily headaches, eye strain (asthenopia), and fatigue. A few months later, fed up with missing my beloved books, I took the plunge into the world of e-readers.
Research has been conducted concerning reading with a traumatic brain injury as concussions are often accompanied by visual effects that disturb daily activities. An article published by The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists suggests that this “change in brain function” can result in “post-concussion syndrome [that lasts] more than 3 months.”
Medical professionals advise avoiding “strenuous mental activities,” such as reading, to promote healing. However, research into the effects of colour temperature and screen illuminance has been conducted to understand its effects on the brain, allowing individuals with brain injuries the opportunity to read while advocating for healing.
Nowadays, nearly everyone has heard of blue light and the need to eliminate it to reduce eye strain and improve sleep. This is yet another handy feature of certain e-readers. Font size and page colour temperature can be altered to fit a reader’s preferences and needs depending on factors such as lighting conditions.
Research from the Journal of the College of Optometrists shows that screen “illuminance and [colour temperature]… have a significant effect on asthenopia during reading.” It has been found that warmer colour temperatures are best suited for reading as it nurtures feelings of relaxation for both the brain and the eyes. Reducing eye strain and vision fatigue is the ultimate goal of the adjustable colour temperature settings on e-readers, as it allows readers to engage with the literature for extended periods.
I like to set my e-reader’s colour temperature to around halfway between the cold and warm settings, as it appears to be the most natural setting. I also rarely go above 45% brightness as it helps reduce eye strain in rooms with natural daylight. On days when my head feels worse, I am able to increase the font size, whereas, with a physical copy, I would resort to holding the novel closer to my face.
Recently, I asked my family doctor if an e-reader with a large font and lower illuminance would be a reasonable option for me during my healing process. He agreed that it is a “better alternative” to physical literature as it is “more customizable to [my] needs.”
Aside from the physical benefits of e-books, my e-reader allows me to connect my local library card to an application called OverDrive so that I can borrow books for free. This feature has greatly increased the amount of books I read because I no longer have to discern if the novel is worth the price.
I believe that a wide array of individuals would benefit from purchasing an e-reader. Limitations seem to disappear when you have one in your hand. Whether you need an audio version of a book, a larger font, or tricky words to be defined, you will find yourself appreciating every feature of these customizable and accessible devices.