Briefly Noted: iPads, Desktops, and reading on screens

Interesting observations from craigmod, “The iPad screen is not your desktop screen” on the reading experience seen through the iPad screen: “if the iPad’s screen uses the same technology as our desktop screens, how can it possibly be more comfortable for reading?”

We’ve talked about this previously (see also: Thoughts on the iPad and Eyestrain), but the line of thinking here is — yes, they are both backlit screens, but reading on the iPad is different. Why? Per craigmod —

“I think there are five reasons why we’ve never enjoyed reading books on our computers:

  • The distance between reader and the text is too large
  • Vertical orientation is unnatural for book consumption
  • Using a mouse to manipulate position in a book is sterile
  • Computer screens aren’t technically optimized for text
  • Desktop OSes aren’t optimized for concentration”

Distance between eyeballs and screen is a contributing factor in the reading experience, for sure. And, with an iPad, the fact that you move the screen, instead moving yourself to fit the screen’s position, means that in theory, you can make yourself more comfortable. How much does that measure of control mean to our overall reading experience?

(I also agree that the removal of the mouse — remember when they were called “human interface devices”? — means that glassy, fingerprint-prone surface is all that stands between you and the text. So, a closer, less sterile experience).


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I run the ThinkLab at the University of Cambridge, and research digital habits, productivity, and wellbeing.

tyler shores cambridge

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