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Old 09-08-2012, 02:42 PM   #1
Silhalnor
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Can LCDs be made easier to read from?

Why are LCDs harder on the eyes than eInk or paper? They both rely on light to show the user what is onscreen it is just that one does so by reflecting ambient light and the other emits it's own. I think it is because LCDs emit an amount of light that is not equal to the ambient lighting. Given that can't we adjust the light output to whatever the ambient light is? Perhaps using the webcam for automatic adjustment?
(Note that I am assuming the use of an LCD whose backlight can be adjusted to any level desired. In my laptop and, I expect, most LCDs I only have around 8 brightness options but this is a really simple problem to remedy by using a variable resistor so I am ignoring it.)

I have a Kindle DX and it is great to read on but I rarely use it because so much of my work requires a computer and most of my plain reading these days are actually from articles. I could convert those to ebooks but that would take longer than simply reading them. Thus I sometimes wonder what other options I have; is there conceivably any way to bring the ease of reading from LCD up to that of ebook readers? (Or alternately put an eInk display in my laptop but that still seems to be impractacal.)

Edit:
I found this article which says the actual cause may be a few other things.
http://www.nbcnews.com/technology/te...my-ipad-966387
Apparently matte screens are better because they have less glare and "visual noise" (what does that mean?) which is a technology that eReaders use but not LCDs. Could this be adapted to LCDs?
There is also "quality of light" which is another term that I am unsure of. Apparently 'natural, reflected light' is inherently better than self-illumination? It doesn't explain why though. Maybe it can be emulated?

Last edited by Silhalnor; 09-08-2012 at 03:27 PM. Reason: Additional information.
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Old 09-08-2012, 04:18 PM   #2
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In order to see the LCD screen, there needs to be a bright light behind it. That light, softened somewhat by the screen, is shining directly into your eyes. Take a flashlight, stick a piece of translucent plastic in front of it, and shine it into your eyes. Flickering can be a problem but it is a separate problem.

The whiter the image, the brighter it is. I find that watching video is usually easier than reading, except when the video has a bright white background. Alternative color schemes can help. I have used a black background with green text (white text gets too bright for me).

You can try turning the brightness down really low. The problem is that the image gets too dim pretty quickly. You can also try moving the screen farther from your eyes.
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Old 09-08-2012, 05:17 PM   #3
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But light is shining directly into your eyes when you read from an eReader or paper too, if it didn't you wouldn't be able to see. Why should it be inherently different? My reasoning is that it should be possible for LCDs to emulate the same form of lighting, maybe with some additional hardware for sensing or emulation.
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Old 09-08-2012, 05:44 PM   #4
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Or you could just have simple english... LCD uses transmitted light, eInk uses reflected light and that seems to be easier on the eyes for many people (including me)...

I say seems to save this thread degenerating into the usual LCD vs eInk battles from those who have no trouble with LCD to those who hate them as a tool of the devil... and it's all anecdotal anyway... personally I'm in the eInk camp for general reading and that's a good enough anecdote for me - I don't give a damn for those who disagree, they don't have my eyes or my migraines so
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Old 09-08-2012, 05:47 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Silhalnor View Post
But light is shining directly into your eyes when you read from an eReader or paper too, if it didn't you wouldn't be able to see.
Yes, but it's not at all the same. The light is reflected and bounces off the object before it goes into your eyes. Everything surrounding us (when not in complete darkness) can be seen because light is reflected off it and bounces into our eyes. It doesn't cause nearly the same amount of strain as staring directly into a light source. A flashlight, as mentioned by Fluribus, causes causes more strain when shone directly into your eyes than when that light is reflected off an object and bounces back to your eye.
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Old 09-08-2012, 06:48 PM   #6
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If the problem is merely how bright LCDs are then why can't we simply dim them close to the brightness of reflected light? I can't test the results of this by the way, my laptop can't be made very dim, so I can't see for myself why it wouldn't work. I just assume that it doesn't because I don't see people touting that as a good solution. I will take a guess though that if I made my LCD very dim then the reflections on the screen would overpower the images that I actually want to see. In which case the solution is to reduce reflectivity.

I don't want this to be merely a battle between LCDs and eInk either, their relative pros and cons may actually be unrelated to my issue, the majority of my activities are on my laptop so I am limited to LCDs specifically unless I can use eInk with my laptop. (I don't suppose there is some sort of eInk screen that I could use as a second monitor? Or maybe an eInk typewriter of sorts that I can connect to?) Thus I want to minimize the negative impacts of LCDs.

Edit:
By the way, there has been no comment yet on that article I linked to. I thought it was interesting since it suggests that brightness has nothing to do with the issue. Perhaps we can put a sheet of the material those Gunnar glasses are made of on top of LCDs. Of course then they would be discolored as compared to everything else. The more important detail though is that those glasses apparently remove the strains caused by LCDs so therefore it really must be possible to make using an LCD eye-strain free.

Last edited by Silhalnor; 09-08-2012 at 07:26 PM. Reason: Additional thoughts.
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Old 09-08-2012, 07:23 PM   #7
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I have absolutely no problems reading from my 22" LCD pc monitor. I have never had any problems reading from one. I think a lot of it is mind over matter, or simply listening to what other people complain about. I'm focusing on what i'm looking at not on the fact that I'm reading from a backlit screen.

Most of the time it's the same way when I'm reading an ebook, I'm focused on the story & characters not on the fact that it might not be perfectly formatted or spell checked. Now if I'm not engaged in the story or characters, naturally these other factors might contribute to my unhappiness, but I know it's the story not the formatting that is failing to keep me engaged.

People spend way too much time looking for things to be wrong to complain about rather than the positive things in life.

I try to avoid/ignore these people like the plague, whether on a internet board or in life!
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Old 09-08-2012, 07:41 PM   #8
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I have the brightness turned down about as low as it will go. It is still too bright for comfortable reading.

Look into changing the color scheme. Setting the background to black will cut out much of the brightness. Check the settings for your OS or your web browser. You could also paste stuff into a word processor and change the colors.
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Old 09-08-2012, 07:47 PM   #9
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I have absolutely no problems reading from my 22" LCD pc monitor. I have never had any problems reading from one. I think a lot of it is mind over matter, or simply listening to what other people complain about. I'm focusing on what i'm looking at not on the fact that I'm reading from a backlit screen.
The fact that I have light sensitivity doesn't mean that you do. The fact that you don't have light sensitivity doesn't mean that I don't. One should not tend to assume that one is universal to all.
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Old 09-08-2012, 07:59 PM   #10
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cfrizz, so you believe that LCDs have no negative effects on people's eyes? (Or no significant effects at least.) So you would see no benefit to using an eInk display then? I should mention that I do not actually have any problems reading from an LCD right now, not counting a couple times recently where I found myself unable to read, I am more concerned about developing a problem later as a result of long exposure to LCDs. I am trying to take preventive measures now rather than remedies later on. I am doing this partly because I have heard that a lot of people have problems with LCDs and I don't want to risk developing problems of my own in the future and partly because of those two instances when I was temporarily unable to read.

If you are right and people only think that they are having problems (similar to the placebo effect I suppose) then that would be great. Nonetheless, a lot of people have complaints about LCDs so your singular opposing view wont be able to convince me that I am safe. Not without evidence at least.

Fluribus, I cannot make my screen very dim either but I should be able to hack it by connecting a variable resistor to the backlight. Is that really the issue though? That article I linked to gives a few other possibilities and I don't want to void my warranty for something that wont have any positive impact.
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Old 09-08-2012, 07:59 PM   #11
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I have the brightness turned down about as low as it will go. It is still too bright for comfortable reading.
I have the same problem; my 15" TV monitor is turned down all the way and in the mornings it can still be painfully bright. I also usually turn my laptops' brightness down to the minimum. One thing for sure, this almost never happened with the old active- matrix and passive- matrix screens. Most of them were easily readable with the backlight turned completely off, especially in bright sunlight.
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Old 09-08-2012, 09:41 PM   #12
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Try white text on dark background.

Alas, the default is usually black text on white background, so you have to do some fiddling to achieve this. In my web browser, for example, I override the colors of all web pages to white on dark.

Many programs don't let you have this option. I avoid using them.
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Old 09-08-2012, 10:10 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cfrizz View Post
I have absolutely no problems reading from my 22" LCD pc monitor. I have never had any problems reading from one. I think a lot of it is mind over matter, or simply listening to what other people complain about. I'm focusing on what i'm looking at not on the fact that I'm reading from a backlit screen.

Most of the time it's the same way when I'm reading an ebook, I'm focused on the story & characters not on the fact that it might not be perfectly formatted or spell checked. Now if I'm not engaged in the story or characters, naturally these other factors might contribute to my unhappiness, but I know it's the story not the formatting that is failing to keep me engaged.

People spend way too much time looking for things to be wrong to complain about rather than the positive things in life.

I try to avoid/ignore these people like the plague, whether on a internet board or in life!
And that's just more anecdotal evidence... fine for you but hardly proof of anything and certainly irrelevant to my anecdotal evidence of preferring eInk for long term recreational reading to LCD (fine for work but I don't concentrate in the same way as I do when reading for recreation)... and also not relevant to getting a screaming migraine or two from extended reading on LCD compared to never getting a migraine whilst using eInk... all anecdotal but my anecdotal doesn't give me migraines whereas yours does.

This is one reason I kept to paper books because long term reading problems, using LCDs, predate the invention of eInk so hardly looking for something to complain about except people assuming their personal experiences should be treated as universal facts... hardly mind over matter or listening to other people when the problem predates the method (eInk) which negates the problem...
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Old 09-08-2012, 10:14 PM   #14
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For text, the widely neglected best solution--known since the 8-bit computer days--is to change the text and background colors to shades of the same color. Just changing the bright-background white default to a light gray makes a bigger difference than dropping the backlight.
Try different color shades and combination: some popular combinations are amber on black, pale baby blue on medium blue, black on gray, or white on black (or gray).
Easy to try, no added cost.
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Old 09-08-2012, 10:14 PM   #15
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I'm a recent convert to e-ink, though I don't have any problem reading on LCD (I've done all my e-reading until now on it). I just wanted more screen state and, sure enough, have a taste of that glareless blue sky reading.

The fun thing is that the glare on LCD's is not a fault of LCD screens: indeed one of the strong points in favor of LCD for TV screens rather than Plasma is that it is mostly matte and glareless. In mobile devices though they have that capacitive touch screen on top of the LCD and they protect it with a glass surface. Bummer for outside reading, no matter how much flashlight you throw at your eyes.

I do remind now the countless times I've read on the smartphone before sleeping. I then resorted to night vision mode which would mean instead of having a flashlight throwing letters from a transparency onto your eyes, you'd get instead fiery letters over a sinister-coal surface. Worked well enough for Lovecraft's stories.
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