On Saturday I picked up a printed hardback novel I ordered from my local public library. When I got home I sat down to read. And read.

I read for five hours straight. On Sunday I woke early and read for another three hours without disturbing my sleeping wife.

Which is more than I can do with an ebook

Neither would have been possible with an ebook. I know, I’ve tried three specialist ebooks, Apple’s iPad 2 and an Android phone. None work for me when it comes to a serious reading session.

This undermines my plan to be a paperless journalist.

I’ve found I can’t read an ebook for one whole hour, let alone five. There are three problems, two are physical, the third may be a personal failing.

Blurry vision, headaches

First, my eyes go blurry after about forty minutes. They weep. I don’t mean I’m crying, I mean water fills my eyes and runs down my cheeks. On some occasions the ebook experience also gives me headaches.

When this happens my eyes stay blurry for some time after I stop reading. At least an hour, maybe more. I can’t drive or do much that requires good vision.

This doesn’t happen with printed books.

Sleep deprivation

If I read a printed book last thing before switching out the light, I can usually fall asleep minutes after hitting the pillow. If I read using a screen I struggle to sleep at all. I suspect the colour and brightness of the display has something to do with this. You may have another idea. Please share it if you do.

Butterfly concentration

My third problem with sustained ebook reading is I get distracted. This may be a failing on my part or it may be related to the discomfort described above. Either way, I find it hard to concentrate on an ebook. This isn’t a problem reading novels, it is a problem when I’m reading non-fiction.

I’m in a race to see whether I lose my concentration or my vision first. It turns out I’m not alone.

Backlighting blues

When I read a printed book in bed early in the morning, it doesn’t disturb my wife. When I tried reading an ebook early one morning, it woke her.

I should confess I haven’t tried a specialist ebook device in months. The technology may have improved. Perhaps I should try again. In recent weeks I’ve read books on an iPad – I took one loaded with a library on a recent trip.