Lightbulbs they use in bookstores?
December 22, 2005 4:06 AM   Subscribe

Why is it that one can go into the library or a bookstore (Borders/B&N) and read for several hours without getting tired or distracted? And yet reading at home for half an hour can be a chore because your eyes get tired, or you fall asleep? Is "Full spectrum" lighting the answer?

I've read a little bit about full spectrum lighting and natural spectrum lighting. Nowhere does it say what the difference between the two are, or if there is any difference. In conducting these searches, there seem to be many claims that full spectrum lighting is extremely effective, but have not seen many user reviews or opinions.

I notice in the bookstore or library they just have standard recessed lighting, but when the light shines on a book it seems to be clearer than with using a halogen desk lamp.

Can you get these kinds of bulbs for standard recessed fixtures or lamps? If so, which companies make them and are they available in a regular store? Thanks!
posted by Quami77 to Home & Garden (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Phillips has a "Natural Light" line that you can get at the supermarket these days.

I have the opposite of your experience though. I find it very difficult to concentrate on reading when I'm in a public space, but I don't think lighting is a factor either way for me.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 4:18 AM on December 22, 2005

I can read just about anywhere except for a car. Perhaps what makes you more comfortable is the atmosphere of the bookstore?
posted by pemdasi at 4:27 AM on December 22, 2005

Best answer: I wonder if it has to do more with the fact that you're not at home, and therefore not in your comfort zone. You may be alone at the library or at the bookstore, but you're still in a public place, and therefore you're exhibiting your public behavior, which probably doesn't usually include falling asleep.

We have this full spectrum natural light reading lamp in my bedroom and at the desk where we pay bills, and we absolutely love it. It's great task lighting. I was thinking of getting one for the work area of the kitchen, too. I'm not aware of there being any difference between full spectrum and full spectrum natural either.

You can buy replacement bulbs for the specific lamp that I linked to here (where they sell a burled version of the same lamp that I have), and there are always lots for sale on eBay. I can buy them in a lamp store right down the block from me, and possibly stores like Home Depot and Lowes have them as well.

Why is it that one can go into the library or a bookstore (Borders/B&N) and read for several hours without getting tired or distracted?

Can you do that? I am very easily distracted when I try to read at the bookstore or at a library. I'm much more interested in the goings-on and what everyone else is doing, and find it really difficult to stay on task.
posted by iconomy at 4:31 AM on December 22, 2005

I second pemdasi, the atmosphere has a lot to do with it. The home always has a thousand distractions that are absent in a public place. Not to mention the fact that being at home can make you fall into certain routines. Once you are somewhere else, you aren't driven to do the same things.
posted by gregb1007 at 4:56 AM on December 22, 2005

I read anywhere, but I read more effectively in public places, because when I take a little eye break every so often, I can people watch a little, which distracts me enough but also maintains my interest. I've done most of my best adult reading /writing in public: coffee shops, bars, parks.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 5:21 AM on December 22, 2005

Also consider the time of day and your general mood. If you're like me, you're a lot more likely to be tired to begin with when you're at home than when you're out at a bookstore.
posted by fidelity at 5:34 AM on December 22, 2005

Is your chair at home "too" comfortable?
posted by Carol Anne at 5:40 AM on December 22, 2005

I'm guessing here, but wouldn't "natural spectrum" light emulate the spectrum of sunlight, wheras "full spectrum" would represent all frequencies equally across the range of human vision...
posted by phrontist at 5:40 AM on December 22, 2005

Surely you wouldn't go to sleep in a library or bookstore? If you're thinking about it, I can attest to it's undesirability. Someone wakes you up almost immediately. And sometimes, if the person waking you up is extra-mean, they kick you out. No fun, let me tell you.
posted by panoptican at 7:33 AM on December 22, 2005

Perhaps it's the scorn of booksellers that keeps you focused on reading (well, the scorn if you grab a huge pile of books).

I can attest to the fact that in our store it's just regular light bulbs, nothing fancy.
posted by drezdn at 8:00 AM on December 22, 2005

I'd have to say it's strictly the aspect that you are the manager of your home and thus have loads more duties and noises and/or side glances remind you of stuff you should be doing, while at a bookstore or library, you just see books, hear little, and don't have to manage anything.
posted by vanoakenfold at 9:51 AM on December 22, 2005

Best answer: My best guess: the bookstore has lots more light than your home. Retail shops, and bookstores in particular, are very well lit, and most homes are not, unless you've gone to lots of trouble.

The light in your home might seem adequate, but that doesn't mean it's bright enough to avoid eye fatigue.

(As for becoming distracted or falling asleep, that's more likely a social thing, as everyone else said--there are no at-home concerns to distract you in the bookstore, and being in a public area, you're not likely to fall asleep.)

At my old house I had an office lit up with a bunch of full-spectrum fluorescents, and I rarely had fatigue from reading there.

Full spectrum lighting is better, but quantity is more important than quality. Try a nice fluorescent light or two and see if that helps.
posted by mmoncur at 10:51 AM on December 22, 2005

I've noticed the same phenomenon. I figure it's because of the amount of choice available in a bookstore. You're reading something you've actively chosen, and you don't feel like, "gee, it would be nice to have something a little _____er."

I tend to have more fun reading at home when I have several unread books or magazines, instead of one or two. Maybe it's a psychological thing, or maybe the last two reading items are usually the least interesting.

After rereading the above posts, I also think vanoakenfold is correct. Maybe I like his/her answer even better than my own.
posted by wryly at 1:40 PM on December 22, 2005

Maybe you could put on some (strong-smelling) coffee and pop a classical CD in the stereo?
posted by SuperNova at 9:44 PM on December 22, 2005

Cf. Barnes & Noblin’.
posted by joeclark at 7:51 AM on December 23, 2005

Response by poster: Thank you everyone, for the responses. Many of your answers helped me realize that I need more self-discipline and have to stop making excuses to go get something done!

Back to the original question though, I have had some luck with a lamp that I got at Sharper Image, its called "Bright As Day". I dont know if its the placebo effect, but it definitely seems to work well and keep me awake longer while reading.
posted by Quami77 at 4:30 PM on December 27, 2005

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