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The Booklight: A Not So Bright Idea

My relationship with the booklight was short lived — and I don’t think we are better off as friends. For one excruciating week, I tried my hardest. Every night, religiously, I attached the thing to my paperback, and every night, I would be compelled to turn it off. I simply could not stand it. It is my deepest hope that I can deter every person from trying to make things work with this catastrophe of a device.

I was slightly intimidated when I began the online shopping process for the booklight — there is a disorientating amount of choice. The lights vary from about one to ten centimetres across, and the necks of the lights vary in length as well — suited, it seems, for differently sized pages. Even the batteries are different: some use the AAA battery, whilst others (as they can be quite small) use the dreaded circular battery. I could not find a non-plastic variant, unfortunately. The pricing was slightly frightening, but I summoned the courage to part with £8.99, and prepared myself to become acquainted with Kikkerland’s Mini Folding Booklight. Pricing nerves aside, I entered the week with great hope.

We did not, admittedly, get off to a very good start when the week began. I made the seemingly harmless mistake of assuming the two tiny circular batteries for the light do not come pre-installed. This meant I purchased a pack of the batteries (which is no small expense, especially immediately following the purchase of the light itself), and went through the ordeal of finding a very small screwdriver to open the hatch. This ended up, irritatingly, being unnecessary — but it did give me an insight into how difficult prolonged use of a booklight is. There is a lot of peace of mind which is sacrificed during the battle with a tiny screwdriver, and then there is the terror of the tiny screw. If you must use a booklight, either buy one without a screw-back, or at the very least, do not change the screw over a carpet. You will never see it again.

I was a little bit frustrated then when I got to actually using the light — but the components involved would surely be enough to test the patience of a mechanic. The clip, for example, to attach the light to the book, is, one would think, the most important aspect of the booklight. And yet it is infuriatingly difficult to use.

How many pages go under the clip? Not too many, or they will not fit at all, and not too few, or it will constantly fall over, and not too close to the front, as you will have to change the placement every five minutes, and not too close to the back, or it will leave a horrible bend in the cover page. Do not dream of using it on a library book if you have any respect for the longevity of the books there. Give up, too, on hardbacks — I am sorry to say it will not fit.

If one could, somehow, get the clip to function properly, there would be the light itself, a rather central consideration. Perhaps the bright white colour of the light would suit those trying to work for an extended time, but for those of us trying to read before sleep, it is an aggressively potent shade. Gentle yellow lights are hard to come by in the booklight industry, owing to the limited power of the LEDs. And it is impossible to find a middle ground in brightness through the settings. Either too dim, and nothing is readable, or too bright, and the light burns itself into your retinas.

Is the booklight trying to solve a problem that doesn’t exist? There are alternate forms of lighting which aren’t infernally aggravating, and which actually light up your page without hurting your eyes. I think more fondly, now, of the trusty desk light, who will never ruin my week by leaving a tiny screw in the carpet which I spend the next week afraid of stepping on. Don’t waste your money or your stability. Know, and appreciate, who your real friends are.

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