The Android tablet as an e-reader…ouch?

The question recently came up again, as it occasionallydoes, on a friend’s Facebook page: which e-reader should one go for? And I gavemy stock answer, as I often do: whichever company you choose, go for the modelthat uses e-ink, if you plan to read a lot.

As a guy who loves tablets, that still hurts a bit to haveto type, but I stand by it, even as many of the e-readers are moving tobeautiful colour screens. Amazon has come out with the Android-based KindleFire, which retails for just under $200. Then there’s Canada’s Kobo, with theKobo Vox, which comes in at around $180, again using Android as its foundation.

That’s not to mention the variety of other tablets outthere, like the Sony Tablet S, or the new Nexus 7 from Google, which haveaccess to a ton of content through Google Play, proprietary content stores, orcontent purchased from either Amazon or Kobo using the Android apps availablefor those services. There are a ton of options out there, and there’s a huge contentpool to pick from, no matter which device (or service) you choose.

My new Nexus 7 tablet is just about the right size tofunction as an e-reader – it fits nicely into the palm of my hand, and doesn’thurt my arm or wrist if I hold it for any length of time. The screen size isjust about the same size as the page you’d see in a typical larger-format tradepaperback. In short, it’s a much nicer size and weight than the iPad, when itcomes to reading. Plus, it runs all my apps! So, it’s perfect, right?

Well, no.

I’ve tried to read on a tablet…I really have. But ultimatelyI just don’t find it a comfortable experience to be staring at a screen that’sblasting away at my eyes with a backlight.

For everyday apps, sure, it’s no problem. But when it comesto the focused experience of reading, it’s tiring, both to my eyes and my brain.That’s even after adjusting the brightness level of the screen down to minimallevels (as many say you should, if you’re experiencing eye fatigue using abacklit screen), or switching to white text on a black background (to cut downon the amount of light). It doesn’t matter. I can’t read on this screen for 30minutes, let alone three hours.

While I realize that I’m not alone in this experience, I alsorealize it’s not universal – there are a lot of people out there that swearthey can read on a backlit screen with no ill effects, even after extendedusage. Some even go so far as to say that it’s a myth that backlit screenscause eye fatigue. So there’s obviously divided opinion on this; for what it’sworth, though, my eyes come down clearly on one side of this issue.

So I throw it open to you: what’s your experience been? Doyou like reading on your Android tablet? Or would you rather have your kidneysripped out by rabid dingos than continue to subject yourself to the torture ofthe backlight?



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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada
Sean Carruthers
Sean Carruthers
Sean Carruthers is a freelance writer, video producer and host based in Toronto, Canada. Most recently, he was a Senior Producer at, where he was responsible for the conception, writing, production and editing of a number of web video shows, including Lab Rats, How Do I?, Status Update, The Noob, and more.

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