Can reading electronic displays be made more comfortable?
There are successful attempts that have been made by implementing electronic paper devices, which bring the experience as close to paper as it could be. If you have the money for it, consider buying one of those devices.
If, on the other hand, you want to read more comfortable on a computer screen, read on...
We all have to handle large amounts of information on a daily basis but some of us find it hard to focus on information displayed on electronic devices. It's easy to read through tens of pages in a book for a few hours but when it comes to a small article online it's easy to yawn all over a few pages.
I've been going through a lot of study material over the past five weeks, most of it on my laptop screens. The only yawning was where I was trying to learn too much without a pause, which boils down to a first point that I want to make:
If your eyes feel tired from staring at the PC screen, it's important to take a small pause. If you are doing the pomodoro technique, the small pauses scheduled there are excellent for that matter...
Room lightning has an effect too. While I've been happily reading the whole day, I'm now in a darker room which kind of strains my eyes. Putting the back-light lower does help a bit, but on the other hand, makes it too dark and thus harder to read things.
Please note that the type of lightning plays a role too, I could subjectively compare them from good to bad: LED > Mh > T5HOs > T5 > VHO > CP > T8 > T12 > Incadencent > Candles > Matches.
I usually have to rely on printing important articles but that's counter productive in the long run. So what can be done to improve eletronic reading? Does font type matters at all? Any software helps sorting out the information better?
It's important that your screen is set right; the various characteristics that play a role are back-light, brightness, contrast, sharpness and refresh rate:
The refresh rate should be set such that your screen won't be flickering at you, I believe this is 60 Hz for USA and 50 Hz for Europe but I'm not entirely sure.
Next, you should set your back-light according to your light such that your monitor doesn't come out too bright or too dark. Then, you can verify and fix the other characteristics with Lagom LCD test.
For Windows XP, get through the ClearType Tuner. For Windows Vista/7, look it up in your start menu.
As for fonts, it (subjectively) boils down to serif fonts for prints and sans-serif fonts for the web.
When typefaces are digitised for use on computers, the letter forms have to fit within a relatively small pixel grid, often leading to what are called the “jaggies” ( Rubinstein, 1988 ).
Many web professionals such as graphic designers claim that this relatively low resolution cannot render effectively enough the fine finishing strokes of serif typefaces, and that sans serif typefaces lend themselves more naturally to being digitised, and come out cleaner and thus more legible.
— Which are more legible? Serif or sans-serif typefaces?
Legibility plays a big role here as outlined in the above article, Humanist Sans-Serif fonts feature this mostly.
These are the most calligraphic of the sans-serif typefaces, with some variation in line width and more legibility than other sans-serif fonts.
— Wikipedia - Sans Serif
The most famously used Humanist font is Verdana, there are some variations and a paid version which might feature better readability.
Other Humanist fonts that you could check out include the more recent Calibri, Johnston, Lucida Grande, Segoe UI, Gill Sans, Myriad, Frutiger, Trebuchet MS, Tahoma and Optima, a.k.a. Zapf Humanist and Ubuntu.
I don't know what you are exactly looking for that sorts out information better...