It’s interesting to consider how much people’s reading habits have changed, particularly with the advent of mobile reading devices and mobile computing devices in general. When the very first cellular phones were created, I would wager that very few people would expect anyone to be reading full novels on devices that were not much larger than the brick-phones they were struggling to read the screens of. It’s a certainty that when the first printing presses were invented, it’s very unlikely that anyone expected that the desired way of reading a book would gradually change to taking a look at words on a screen: but that’s exactly what’s happened. More and more people want to read their books on a screen rather than any kind of actual movable print.
It’s easier and easier for people to do this, as well – almost any smartphone or mobile device on the market can download and read many kinds and types of e-books or at the very least use their web browsers to read stories and novels online. It’s an interesting spectacle to see people on trains, trams and buses reading from a phone, right next to people flicking through a book or magazine – and who’s to say they’re not achieving the same thing? It’s still all movable press, to be sure. However, there are many sides to this debate – and many people who don’t believe it’s a debate at all.
Health-wise, there are still no conclusive, well-researched or extensively peer-reviewed studies to show whether digital or book-based reading is better or worse for people’s eyesight. Eye strain is a known effect of staring at monitors for too long, but it’s not known if the same thing is achieved through looking at phone screens – or particular at devices such as the Kindle, which are not backlit and can’t be considered to be the same thing as a LCD or CRT monitor. No matter what you’re using to read – even a book – you’re still staring at a stationary object for a long time.
As technology progresses, mobile reading devices move closer to being similar to a conventional book. There are plenty of layout and reading options with many mobile applications and devices that effectively simulate a book, and even screens and devices that are very close to reading movable type. Soon, it’s going to be very difficult to find the difference between reading a book and using a mobile e-reader.