Amazon is going to be pushing out a new firmware update for all modern Fire Tables within the next few weeks. This is a feature that will limit the amount of blue light that emits from the screen, making reading on a tablet a little bit easier on the eyes.
Amazon explained the essence behind Blue Shade, stating that it “uses specialized filters to limit exposure to blue light. It also offers warm color filters and the ability to lower the display brightness to an ultra-low level for comfortable nighttime reading—even in a dark room,” Amazon said in an emailed statement. “Customers can also fine-tune the color settings to their personal preference, with the device intelligently adjusting the color filtering so that at any color or brightness, the blue wavelength light is always suppressed.”
“Studies have shown that evening exposure to blue light from tablets may suppress our bodies’ production of melatonin,” Amazon said in its press release, “which can prolong the time it takes to fall asleep, delay REM sleep, and reduce the level of alertness the next morning.” Blue Shade is supposed to fix that issue.
So what is melatonin and why should you care? Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland at night and under conditions of darkness in both diurnal and nocturnal species. It is a “timing messenger,” signaling nighttime information throughout the body. Exposure to light at night, especially short-wavelength light, can slow or even cease nocturnal melatonin production. Suppression of melatonin by light at night results in circadian disruption and has been implicated in sleep disturbances, increased risk for diabetes and obesity, as well as increased risk for more serious diseases, such as breast cancer, if circadian disruption occurs for many consecutive years, such as in nightshift workers.
Amazon is not the only company trying to solve the blue light issue. Oyster is an e-book subscription service that has been running for a number of years. The company is going out of business and most of their executive team has joined the Google e-Books group. One of the last projects they worked out was software technology called Lumin. It automatically adjusts your device’s light levels based on the time of day and decreases the amount of blue light.
F.lux is a very popular desktop program and reportedly has been downloaded 15 million times. It was one most downloaded apps on iOS devices, until Apple told its development team to nix the app.
f.lux makes your computer screen look like the room you’re in, all the time. When the sun sets, it makes your computer look like your indoor lights. In the morning, it makes things look like sunlight again. It controls the entire lighting display of your computer, allowing you get a Sepia type of experience.
Many of the top e-reader apps such as Aldiko, Kobo, Moon+ Reader and Cool Reader all have nighttime reading mode. Nighttime reading mode changes the color of the screen from white to black and the text to white. This is meant to provide users with an easier reading experience when in low light conditions or in complete darkness. There are a lot of people that swear by this, but it actually does very little to prevent blue light, it only creates the illusion.
Amazon has not disclosed if their Blue Shade technology will come to older models of the Fire or their complete line of apps for Android and iOS. I think it will, but here is what Amazon normally does. They push out the latest features to only the new hardware, in a bid to push people to buy them in order to get the latest updates. When device sales start to slow down they release the update to older Fire models. Normally a few weeks or months later they will finally update the apps. This is a controlled effort by Amazon to get people to buy the latest and greatest and get quick software updates.
Michael Kozlowski has written about audiobooks and e-readers for the past twelve years. Newspapers and websites such as the CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and the New York Times have picked up his articles. He Lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.