How Often Do You Have Your eBook Reader’s Frontlight Turned On?

Kindle Paperwhite vs Kobo Glo

I’ve noticed something interesting about my ebook reading habits. Ever since the Nook Touch with GlowLight was released, and now that the Kobo Glo and Kindle Paperwhite have come along, I almost always prefer to have the frontlight turned on when reading. The light always seems to make the screen look a little better, even in a well-lit room with plenty of ambient lighting.

I think that’s one of the reasons Amazon decided to make it so the light is always on when the Kindle Paperwhite is turned on—even at the lowest brightness setting the lights still glow slightly.

With the Nook and Kobo you can turn the frontlight completely off. But the first thing I always find myself doing after turning either of them on is to immediately turn on the frontlight. It seems unnatural not to.

Once you get used to the frontlight, the text background color with the light turned off looks too dark and gray. The light makes the background appear lighter, and the text easier to read.

The one exception is in direct sunlight the effects of frontlights are pretty much imperceptible. But now that we’re in the midst of cold crummy winter, it’s not like there are many opportunities to read in the sunshine.

None of the frontlights are perfect on today’s ebook readers. In fact I found things to complain about in each of the reviews for the Kobo Glo, Kindle Paperwhite, and Nook Glow, from shadows to uneven lighting and degraded contrast. But when it comes right down to it, despite the shortcomings, I find that I’d rather have the frontlight turned on 90% of the time, even if just barely.

So what about you? How useful do you find the frontlight on your ebook reader? Do you have it turned on all the time or just when it’s dark? And for those with a Kindle Paperwhite, do you like having the light turned all the way down so that’s it’s almost off? Or do you find that you like to have the light’s brightness turned up most of the time?

14 Responses to “How Often Do You Have Your eBook Reader’s Frontlight Turned On?”

  1. I don’t have a front light on my NST and I do a significant amount of reading in dim or no light using an external clip on light. I really am not sure I understand all the heartburn people are having over the uneven lighting for any of the lighted readers. Unless there is some defect that prevents the reader from seeing a part of the screen, it must be better than using and external light.

    I think if I had a Glowlight, I would have the light on at minimum setting all the time just like Nathan.

  2. I have a Paperwhite, and while the light is always on, I would keep it on. In fact, I keep it at the dimmest setting in the dark and a higher setting when in a lighted room. The front light makes a big difference in a lighted room, the screen almost looks like real paper – and the lights are almost invisible. In the dark the lights are clearly visible but not in an annoying way or in a way that detracts from the reading experience for me.

    • I know exactly what you mean. I wish the frontlight looked as good in all lighting conditions as it does in a well-lit room; that’s when it really lives up to the Paperwhite name. I’m hoping the second generation lighted ereaders can get closer to that all the time.

      • I’m sure they will… the refractive LED films are improving all the time. Eventually, something along the lines of the FlexLED will finally arrive. Me, I’m using the light on my Nook GL on a low setting, even in lighted conditions. It does add more contrast between the dark and light screen areas unless I’m outside and in really bright sunlight. For the next generation front lit e-ink readers, I’d like to see a light that’s actually white and more even coverage. Other than that, even with the uneven lighting, I’m digging the step up from previous e-ink reading experiences.

  3. I agree. I have a Nook Glowlight and I rarely if ever use it without the light on. I adjust the brightness according the ambient light conditions.

  4. Same here, Nathan, I prefer to have my Nook Glow light on at various levels anytime except when I’m sitting in bright sunlight. Increases the contrast a bit and makes the background a bit whiter.

  5. Sounds like I’m in the majority. I have a Kobo Glo and keep the light on probably 90% of the time. Sole exceptions are if I’m in a room that’s very well-lit and/or there is bright sunlight as well.

    The background is just whiter and therefore the contrast is better that way.

    I find I don’t need the brightness level very high. I don’t think I’ve ever had it higher than 1/3 brightness even reading in the dark. It’s soooo nice to have, though.

  6. I read with the front light on 24/7 now. But when I switch to my Onyx M92 or iRiver Story HD, I find that the background on those eReaders is much lighter than on my PW, and I don’t mind not having the light.

  7. (Kobo glo) during the day light always on at minimum to enhance the “white appearance” as a real book, during the night I prefer to use a little abatjour (small light near the bed I dont know the english word) and minimum+1 light
    in short light always on :)

  8. Paperwhite–I normally keep the light about 10 or 11, and I love it. Maybe in the summer I can go back to my non-lighted e-ink readers but for now, the paperwhite is the one I always want.

  9. Cybook Odyssey HD – Light on always. Regardless of lighting conditions, on the lowest setting. I think the lighting is a very nice, practical feature.

  10. I have a Basic, and find the reviews of the Paperwhite very interesting.

    Question: What does the light do to battery consumption?

    I chose the e-paper Kindle because it appeared to me (based on reviews) as though tablets used electricity at roughly five times the rate, so a Fire (or similar) would need recharging in under a week compared to the month for a Basic, reading rates being equal.

    Can anyone estimate the reduction in usable hours for a Paperwhite?

  11. I almost never turn the light on on my Kobo Glo, only when it´s really dark. When the light is on, it looks like an ordinary tablet. I like the “e-ink” effect”, so to speak.