View Full Version : A question for expericned ebook readers.
08-15-2005, 05:49 PM
I have read a lot of ebooks on a lot of devices, going way back to the old Psion Series 3 in glorious low res black and white.
And, unlike many forums on the web, most readers here will have done the same.
Am I mistaken in thinking that the most modern screens are not in fact the best screen for reading an e-book?
Something happens when you up the resolution, up the brightness and refresh rate. And I don’t know what it is but something happens. If I had to read a novel on a handheld I would do it on something old – a Palm 3C or a Netbook. I would do it in preference to my Ipaq 4700 or Tungsten.
Does anyone know what I mean? Is there a real qualitative difference in “abstract reading experience quality” that is inversely proportionate to screen technology advances or is my eyesight simply getting worse?
08-15-2005, 05:58 PM
...or is my eyesight simply getting worse?
It's probably your eye-sight, LOL. When I was still in my 20s, I had no problem reading with fontsize 10 on a 1280x1024 screen. Nowadays, I have a larger resolution (1600x1200), but my fontsize is also considerably larger when I read documents (I use CTRL+ in Firefox to increase it temporarily). I don't think the new PDAs make it harder to read e-books. Seriously, how could a 160x160 screen be better than a 640x480 screen? Only make sure to pick larger fonts, and you should be fine :D
08-15-2005, 06:11 PM
Seriously, how could a 160x160 screen be better than a 640x480 screen?
I don’t know but how about two possible reasons:
1)How about that the simplicity and blockyness of low res makes it easier to concentrate on the text rather than having to process all that extra visual information that must come with font smoothing and kerning and softness. Reading isn’t like watching a movie - visual quality is irrelevant to the text (Take a look at the quality of a paperback books paper compared to printer paper.).
2) Perhaps there is some feature of new screen technology that means that though it ostensibly looks better it makes reading a more tiring and less natural experience.
If we think of the interface between text and mind (Be that a paper book, an audio book or an ebook) one of the key roles of that interface is to get the text into the mind in the most efficient, reliable and lasting way. And this is not necessarily the most pretty way.
08-15-2005, 06:27 PM
That's an interesting question. I find, though, that the bigger and brighter screens, better fonts, better resolution and even better battery life all help to make for a better reading experience for me. One comparison that's pretty easy to do is between two different 320x320 PalmOS devices I've had (Sony Clie SJ33 and my Treo 650) vs lo res or black and white PalmOS devices (absolutely horrible in comparison to the hires), or vs a 240x320 Toshiba e405 PPC (where you get more on the screen, but the experience is more eye-tiring and less pleasant for me).
I haven't had the pleasure of reading on a hires+ Palm or a VGA PPC unfortunately, but with what I've tried, I'll have to put in another vote for "it's your eyes!" ;)
08-15-2005, 07:53 PM
I find that screen brightness can be tiring. I switched to a light-gray background and reduced the brightness. That made things a lot easier for me.
As for resolution: I cranked up my old visor to compare. I will have to disagree: high-rez is MUCH easier on the eyes.
08-15-2005, 08:57 PM
Another vote for aging eyes and contrast fatigue. I now use a larger font, light gray background, and reduce screen brightness. The E2 is nicer on the eyes than the IIIxe (and I can get away with not wearing the reading glasses for a short time).
08-16-2005, 05:45 AM
For me, the reading experience itself is not noticably better than it was on a 160x160 screen. I only read news and articles, though, and then only for 30-60 minutes each day.
08-16-2005, 06:07 AM
the reading experience itself is not noticably better than it was on a 160x160 screen
That is my point exactly. And when you come to reading very long texts I think this unexpected difference is amplified:)
I find my old Clie T415 (mono, 320x320) sharper than my newer UX50 (color, 320x480). I prefer the UX50 because its brighter but if the T415 was equally bright it would be preferable. Its text is sharper, chrisper, and more pleasurable to read.
Color screens are less sharp that mono screens of the same resolution. Also, font smoothing is acutally a process to blur the edges of the fonts making them smoother but less sharp. IMHO, the color screen technology in current portable devices is not good enough to match the sharpness of print or of previous generation mono screens.
08-19-2005, 12:45 PM
When I got my Clie T625 (320x320) it was a revalation and the first time reading on a handheld format was practical to my mind.
Now I have a Loox (640x480), I can't say that it is much better than the Clie but the extra screen size does give me a few more words.
I find it best to reverse the screen so that I get white text on a black background, much less tiring but the hi-res is SO much easier to read.
Of course, it also matters what reader you are using. I have found that the MS reader is nowhere near as good as MobiBook or eReader.
Full screen can also help because it turns off distracting features.
08-19-2005, 02:18 PM
I love reading e-books. Either on the Zodiac2 or Palm T3, it was great. Now on the hx2755 PPC it's just as good. One thing that absolutely drives me cross eyed (literally) is the PPC version of Font Smoothing. Can't remember what Microsoft calls it, but it makes me go cross eyes trying to focus on the words. /chuckle/
10-03-2006, 02:48 PM
Put me in the "hi-res is better res" camp.
I currently have a Dell Axim X51v which is 640x480. When using Haali Reader, the text simply has no corners, (unless intended, of course). The text is light years ahead of everything else I've used. Better than my Palm IIIx, my SL-5500 Zaurus, and my HieBook.
I'm currently watching ebay and thinking of just picking up an NEC LitePad as my next reader. I really want an eInk reader, but for just a bit more, I can have a reader that will display pretty much any text format, play any video clip, sound file, and is very portable. I know the battery life won't compare, but every choice has a compromise somewhere.
For me, resolution doesn't have as much to do with ease of reading as the type of display. A purely reflective display is far easier on my eyes than staring into a glowing, constantly-refreshing box for hours at a time. I've read a couple of books on my AlphaSmart Dana (has an older Palm-type display) and it's much easier on my eyes in the long term than my bright, high-res LCD monitor. (This is only true when I have good ambient light... otherwise the Dana display is a bit murky.)
One thing that absolutely drives me cross eyed (literally) is the PPC version of Font Smoothing. Can't remember what Microsoft calls it, but it makes me go cross eyes trying to focus on the words. /chuckle/
10-17-2006, 11:46 AM
For me refresh rate is the main culprit. This is mostly why I'd prefer e-ink.
10-21-2006, 05:00 AM
I enjoyed reading on almost all of my ebook devices, but have to say I really liked the backlighting of the Rocket Ebook series - both black & white and color versions. I like to read late at night, and I'd prefer to turn off the lamp at some point.
For me the best ebook readers are the ones that have such a pleasant interface that I simply lose myself in the book. I, for one, like to forget I'm using a device after awhile, and be left to dwell on the content therein.
The perfect ebook reader would combine the backlight of the Rocket ebooks, the great page-turning bar and hardware buttons of the iLiad, and the size/fit/feel of the Sony Reader. Of course e-ink is awsome in bright light - and both the iLiad and Reader have great displays.
From the original Rocket ebook through the Treo's, pocket PC's, Libre and now the iLiad and Reader; I've tried them all and ultimately think that what really makes the reader is a great book... (Pun intended...) So the fewer hoops we collectively need to jump through, the better our experience.
Just my 2 cents...
06-20-2007, 08:25 PM
I wish I could afford a new reader....that its main purpose is reading books. With the nice texts and the bright easy to read screens.
But alas, I am poor and would rather spend my money on other joys.
So I have 2 main ways to read ebooks.
First, my original book reader. A Mobile Pro.
Yes, I know, it is larger and has a keyboard. But it has a nice size screen that is bright unless you are trying to read in the sunlight. And I can do actual work on it.
Since my favorite book reading software is UBook, with the help of BookDesigner, I can read almost any book presently released on the market.
For manuals with pictures I have a PDF reader on my old mobile pro. Maybe three or four out of a thousand books I cannot get on my Ubook.
My new luxury is an Axim 51V. Again, I mainly use Ubook software, but I also have Adobe reader and MS LIT installed. I also have a voice text reader for when I am driving, It can finish reading my book to me.
So I have found that you do not have to have an expensive bookreader to enjoy ebooks. I have even sold Mobile Pros to friends who want to start cheap in ebooks.
06-21-2007, 10:05 AM
WHat size screen does a Mobile Pro have?
06-21-2007, 10:16 AM
8.1 in DSTN passive matrix, according to CNET (http://reviews.cnet.com/pdas/nec-mobilepro-900/4507-3127_7-30474189.html?tag=sub). :nice:
06-21-2007, 10:51 AM
Larger screen then the Sony with a lower resolution.
06-21-2007, 10:58 AM
Same as the old CyBook (same screen, I suspect). Pretty horrible screen - can only be read in dim light, and because it's not an "active matrix" screen it has a very small range of "viewing angles".
06-22-2007, 11:04 AM
i get bothered in the uk with the flickering of the screens all at 50 hz rather than 60 hz, after a while it stops, same with screens, bright ones hurt my eyes, the sony reader is passive or call it reflective and i can read for hours, not so one laptop
06-29-2007, 03:32 AM
The specs of my old thing is at
Yes, the screen is dim in bright light but I can read sitting in my truck as long as the sun isn't shinning directly on the screen.
It was not originally purchased as a book reader. More for play and homework. Over the years, it has evolved into a trustworthy friend.
It recently came off the hood of my truck around a curve going about 35 MPH, It is in a neoprene case and it just bounced it's way out of the road and onto the grass. It has been under about one inch of water and took 4 days to dry out. Both times, it started right back up. I am also on the my third Axim. The first was dropped in it's leather case. The button on the side(X5) was hit and the screen was no longer a "touch" screen. The second (v50) got some wires crossed somewhere and started smoking one day. By that time, it had been dropped several times. I have actually lost count of the number of times I have dropped the mobil pro, both off the hood of the car and just normal clumbsiness. But it still works
Yea, it is old. But they are cheap these days. They do have a nice size screen, if dim. My friends that do have these like them because they have the large screen and you can change the screen and font around on the uBook reader. They do not really read outside or in bright light. (we all work third shift;))
One friend will have it open on the pillow next to her and have it on auto-scroll. When she falls asleep reading and fails to keep the screen alive, it shuts down and keeps her place. The attached keyboard makes it easy to prop open on somethng soft like a pillow.
I will wait on the new book readers until I break my new Axim. I would love one with the large bright screens.
07-06-2007, 12:24 PM
I've been reading ebooks since the late 90s on a variety of Palms and now on a Sony Reader. I find that higher resolution is better. I certainly believe there is such a thing as too much contrast - I like my Palm TX brightness cranked all the way down and I use an off-white background in the day and a black background at night. And I find that eink with reflected light is far more comfortable than a backlit Palm.
After trying a few different night reading solutions with the Sony Reader I found one I like. I don't like the white LEDs for night reading - too white, too bright. I found a head-lamp at Target with a single red LED to keep from spoiling night vision. I don't really want to put it on my head but I find laying it on the pillow by my head, pointed up at the Reader works best for me at night.
07-15-2007, 08:15 PM
What I am using at the moment is an ear light. It's an LED light attached to my ear.