Friday, January 07, 2011

Reading Spaces

I found this amusing video over at The Presurfer. It features a robotic smart chair that was evidently a graduation project at the Design Academy Eindhoven in the Netherlands (completely work safe, but it does play some music in the background.)

Now if the take-a-seat came with a little side-arm desk to use for a notepad, laptop or other writing gadget, it might just be the perfect portable writing space that never lets you wander away from it.

While the idea of a robot chair is fun, I've been looking at more no-tech devices to help me out with the work. I mentioned on the photoblog last year that a plastic clear-fronted cookbook holder doubled nicely as a holder for a pattern book. I also regularly use Gimbles. My current problem is propping up books to read from them; my hands get tired pretty fast these days, and my trifocals it hard to read from a book that's flat on the desk for any length of time.

Recently I was at BAM and decided to pick up these three gadgets and try them out:

This Wooden Reading Rest (made by that company called if) is 13-1/2" X 9-1/2", and folds completely flat to 3/4". The back of the rest adjusts to three different positions to give you a choice of viewing angles, and does hold large/heavy hardcover books. There are also two small movable pegs at the bottom to keep the pages in place. It's also a nice holder for a book you want to display opened.

The main problem I had with this one is the page space allowance in the width of the holder; the page holder pegs are screwed in place and not adjustable, so they can't be used if you're looking in the back pages of a very thick book. I'm going to write to the company and suggest they put the pegs on sliders so they can be adjusted out as well as up and down. Also, while it appears to be well made, I thought the price at $29.95 was a bit high. For what you get, I felt $10.00 - $15.00 would be more reasonable. Maybe they should make it out of something less expensive than Canadian Alder wood.

The Paperback Caddy (there are any number of book rests using the same name; this one was made by Great Point Light) is also intended for hands-free reading, although as the name says, strictly for paperback books. It does hold any size paperback from mass market to trade, as the clear outer arms slide in and out for adjustment. It's also small -- with the arms pushed in, about 7-1/2" X 4-1/2" -- and made of lightweight plastic, with a kickstand in the back to provide support and give you two different reading angles.

The company claims on the packaging that the Paperback Caddy is "Designed for one-touch page turning." If that's true whoever designed it screwed up, then, because I had to use both hands. Getting the page I was turning tucked under the arm was difficult enough to make me almost wrinkle the page in the process. Just to be sure it wasn't being caused by me and my lack of dexterity, I had a fully-abled friend try it, and she had the same difficulty. I also felt this one was overpriced at $12.95, considering how troublesome turning the pages were, as well as the quality of the plastic (the arms are pretty sturdy, but the back component is thin and cheap, and I'm not sure how long that kickstand is going to last.)

The PageKeeper (by Pagekeeper Inc.) bills itself on the front of its blister packaging as "The Amazing Automatic Bookmark!" that "follows you from page to page." I'm pretty sure it was invented by someone sitting in a cubicle and messing around with a money clip and a bent paperclip, because that basically describes the entire product. You slide the money clip part to the back cover of your book, and position the bent paperclip part over the last page you've read. When you open the book and want to turn the page, you just slide it out from under the bent paperclip and it clutches the next page until you're ready to turn it.

This one actually did exactly what the manufacturer promised, fitting snugly to the back cover and keeping my place marked with the bent paperclip thing. It was also easy to free up the page I wanted to turn, and the clip didn't fall off or move much at all when I did. For that reason I got over the rather startling price of $6.95; I don't mind paying a little more for a simple invention that actually does what the package says it will.

I think the main drawback to this gadget is its limitations. It's designed to be a bookmark, not a book holder, so it won't keep the book open for you or do anything about the pages you've already read. Also it doesn't work on marking the front pages of huge thick books; the bent paperclip part doesn't stretch that far. I also wonder how long the snugness of the back cover clip will last with constant use. But if you're one of those readers that for whatever reason endures paper bookmarks constantly falling out of your books, then this is one possible solution to your problem.

Have you guys noticed any new/exciting no-tech gadgets out there for books? Let us know in comments.


  1. Great reviews on some really interesting products! I recently got a book light that opens and resumes position with just a click on the side, and it works really well! It slides in between pages so you don't have to hold it over the pages yourself. You can also adjust its position up and down however you want. It's pretty cool!


  2. Anonymous5:21 AM

    I like your piece on book gadgets and holders.I love using those sorts of things while I'm busy with something in my workshop. I have also come across some great products online at recently bought a bookchair from them and it has made crafting easier for me as I dont have to foul my books with my dirty hands. I see that they also have an automatic bookmark that comes in different designs.Really handy stuff. I hope you find it all useful.

  3. There's a thing here in Australia called "the book seat" which you see in all the bookshops. It's like a beanbag for your book, with a plastic thingy to hold the pages open. We have three in our house, but I've never used one because the kids always swipe them first. They seem to like them.

    Hard to describe, but there's a website if you want to have a look, at I don't know if it would be any better than what you have, except that the squishiness might make it comfier for reading in bed or lying on the lounge (which is where the kids mainly use them).

  4. I don't have so much trouble with paper bookmarks falling out, but I did have DREAM CALLED TIME lying beside me, and one of my kittens decided she wanted to chew on the bookmark -- which also conveniently removed it from holding my place.

    Fortunately, I knew where I was and was able to quickly restore things to their proper order.

    Kittens keep life so adventurous!

  5. Destiny7:50 AM

    My mum over here in the UK has arthritis in her hands and finds it hard to hold books and turn pages. She is passionate about reading though and we got her a bookstand a few years ago called a READEZY Bookstand, it was held all sizes and thicknesses of book either hardback or paperback, it was super easy to turn the pages and yet they were held securely in place without damage to the pages. Unfortunately after quite a few years of use she now needs a new one and they are no longer available but they were an amazing thing for people with less ability. Now all we have to do is find something that works as well....