E-readers are miraculous inventions, allowing us access to all the literature in the world via a single device. And even before the Kindles and Nooks entered the scene, news articles, blog posts and other digital versions of the written word were bouncing off screens and into our eyes.

While print remains the most popular format for reading books, nearly everyone is reading some content on their screens every day. And most people have a strong preference one way or the other, opting for print or digital copies of written works depending on their preferences.

But why is this? What are the key differences between how our eyes and brains react to these different formats? Which is better, digital or paper reading? There may not be a clear-cut answer. In this post, we’ll go over the major differences you probably experience between reading digital and paper print.

Old-fashioned paper print

Paper print has been the go-to medium for reading for several hundred years. By now we’ve basically perfected the art. You’ll notice that there are only a few variations of page color and texture to contend with. This is because we’ve zeroed in on the materials that feel most comfortable for our eyes to read from.

Paper print can cause eye strain if you’re not careful. Reading in low-lighting puts you at an especially high risk. And while reading in low light will not damage your eyes permanently, it will cause eye strain, which can lead to headaches and other symptoms.

The one area where print lags behind its digital counterpart is in backlighting. With physical pages, you are dependent on the lighting around you, whereas digital screens can provide different backlights capable of greatly altering contrast.

Digital print

Digital print is a much newer technology, and so we’re still working out a few of the kinks. For years, people have noticed that attention spans seem to drop drastically when we’re reading on screen. Digital screens also put us at a much higher risk of eye strain. This phenomenon has a name: computer vision syndrome.

Computer vision syndrome manifests worse in those with uncorrected vision problems. For example, a near- or farsighted individual who is not wearing corrective prescription glasses. This is because the eyes are strained even further as they try to make up for the lower visual acuity. However, even people with perfect eyesight can be affected by computer vision syndrome. Symptoms of computer vision syndrome include headaches, fatigue, red or dry eyes and trouble concentrating.

Computer glasses

One of the big concerns with too much screen reading is blue light. Some research suggests it may be harmful to our eyes, potentially contributing to macular degeneration. Special glasses can filter blue light out for you. The anti-glare technology in Blue495 lenses can block the effects of blue light and lessen eye strain. Many digital devices also have special screen settings that limit blue light exposure.

However, by far your largest dose of light (blue light included) comes from the sun. You should always strive to wear 100 percent UV-blocking sunglasses when you go out in the sun, even on overcast days. Damage to your eyes from sunlight is cumulative, so the more you protect them, the lower your risk of damage later in life.

Give your eyes a rest

Whether you do your reading on a screen or a page, you should give your eyes a rest. Eyestrain will not permanently dull your vision, but it is unpleasant. To avoid eyestrain, take frequent breaks while reading and allow your eyes to focus on something in the distance. Try to do this at least every twenty minutes.

And make a concerted effort to blink. This is most important for screen reading, but even those of us who curl up with a good paperback novel should be conscious of how frequently (or infrequently) we are blinking. If you spend a lot of time using screens, you may notice increased dry eye. Over the counter eye drops can help in this situation.

Reading glasses

Whether you read on print or digital media, you’ll want to make sure you’re using an up-to-date prescription. Schedule an eye appointment with an optometrist every one to two years, even if your eyes seem fine. Many eye problems can be caught early with routine eye exams, and your doctor will make sure you’re using the right prescription.

And once you’ve got your updated prescription, you’ll be free to shop all the latest styles and brands of eyeglasses and contact lenses on 39DollarGlasses.com. Enjoy custom-made eyeglasses fitted to your exact prescription and delivered right to your door for a fraction of what you would pay in a clinic.