Every few years, I have trouble with my eyes getting tired when I’m really busy. For me, “really busy” means spending a lot of time in front of a 30-inch monitor working. The last time this happened, I made some changes to my reading habits. I’m not sure if it contributed to my eyes getting better, but the changes have made my reading much more productive and I wanted to talk about it here.
In the past, I’ve done a lot of reading on the computer. My original theory about why my eyes were getting tired was that staring at the bright screen was just wearing them out. As a result, I was looking for a way to get my reading off of the computer.
I have an old Sony e-reader that used e-ink technology, much like what is used in the non-lcd Amazon Kindles. The molecules can be flipped one way to make them white (actually a light grey) or another way to make them black. The end result is something that is similar to reading a newspaper.
While I liked the reading experience on the Sony Reader, there wasn’t a good way to get content onto it. I ended up ordering a Kindle because it had the same type of screen. I specifically got one of the older “keyboard” style devices with the 3G and Wifi. These still offer Internet access over 3G at no charge and I thought it might be useful if I wanted to read Wikipedia articles.
The tricky part was trying to figure out how to get content from the Internet to the Kindle. I tried a few things, but eventually settled on Readability. This application lets you simplify a page to make it easier to read by stripping out advertisements and navigation. It also takes multiple-page documents and combines them into one large document. But the part I was interested in was the way it lets you send a web page to the Kindle.
Readability has a browser plugin that lets you send a web page to the Kindle with a shortcut key. There are two ways to do it. One way puts it into a daily magazine of sorts that contains all of articles you’ve sent to the Kindle that day. The other way sends it to the Kindle immediately.
Readability does the transfer by sending it to your Kindle email address. You can choose if you want it to go to the free address, which will only work over Wifi, or the address that will charge you if it goes out over 3G.
My current setup sends a collection of the day’s articles at around 6pm. During the day if I see anything I might want to read, I just send it to Readability. That evening all of these are sent in a single document to my Kindle and I can read them before I go to bed. If I run into something that I need to read right away, I can send it directly to the Kindle without needing to wait until 6 for the daily transfer.
All in all, this system seems to have made me more efficient in my reading. When I find articles during the day, I ask myself “Is this something worth spending my time reading?” If it is, I send it to the Kindle and continue with my work. When I pick up my Kindle in the evening, I once again ask myself if each article is worth my time before reading it.
This has done two things. First, I’m being more careful about what I read by deferring it. I have to decide that something is worth reading twice before I actually put the time into reading it. Second, it keeps me from skipping longer articles by pushing my reading to a different time of the day when I’m not as pressed for time and if I stop reading, the Kindle remembers where I was. This is much more effective than just trying to leave tabs open in my web browser.
Since I’ve started doing this, I haven’t had nearly the same amount of eye fatigue. I’m not sure how much of this is due to reading on the e-ink device. I also started making a more conscious effort to get more sleep, which probably isn’t hurting either. But even if the change didn’t have anything to do with helping my eyes, it has been well worth it in terms of making my reading process more efficient and focused.