How to make reading long books ergonomic?
January 19, 2010 5:50 PM   Subscribe

What is the best ergonomic setup for reading heavy (literally!) books for long periods of time? Are some chairs better than others? How high should the table ideally be? What kind of lighting is best - direct, indirect, or something else? Are there other helpful tools (eg something to hold the book flap down as you're reading)?
posted by shivohum to Health & Fitness (5 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Sometimes I use a book holder--a little metal stand that holds your book upright rather than flat on the table, so you don't have to bend your neck down to read. It sounds silly but it can be quite helpful if you read for a long time. A popular one (not the one I have) is the Bookgem, but others might be better. The only problem with a book holder is that it may not hold very large or very small books very well (I have a particularly big one for that reason), and it can be hard to turn the pages when they're held down.

I think the table should be higher than for a computer keyboard, because you want the book at eye level, not hand level. I'm not sure about lighting.
posted by k. at 5:57 PM on January 19, 2010

Check out the products at Levenger.
posted by melissasaurus at 6:11 PM on January 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

This may not be the answer you're looking for, but my solution to that problem was the Kindle. I had been putting off reading Stephenson's massive books (Anathem, et al) because they were just too damn heavy to hold up for the lengthy time required. I'm completely satisfied with that solution, which also has many other benefits already discussed in these pages.
posted by spasm at 6:29 PM on January 19, 2010

There's a reason why research libraries have book stands or rests.

The classic Bodleian windowpane bookrest is a wallet-busting £150 -- Levenger's smaller, lighter version is $28 -- but it works, and it's the sort of thing that might make a nice woodwork project if you're that way inclined or know someone who's handy with hardwood. Not great with folio-sized volumes, though.

For those, as long as they're not perfect-bound, you're better off with angled foam cushions on each side, with thin, flat supporting cushions for when the volume's open near either end. That's something you might be able to fabricate out of upholstery foam. To hold down the pages, I swear by "book-snakes", which are harder to find in the US, but might be obtainable from abroad.
posted by holgate at 8:37 PM on January 19, 2010

Levenger: the editor's desk (without the back ledge (it comes unattached)) and, if needed, the book weight. I've been reading huge books since before you were born, and these have been my primary tools.

Indirect light.

Also, if you're going to be reading for a long time, you don't want to flex your neck much, i.e., don't look down at the book.
posted by neuron at 10:03 PM on January 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

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