Reading in Bed -- Stealth Edition
December 8, 2017 11:22 AM   Subscribe

I would like to be able to read books on my iPhone while lying down in bed, without ambient light disturbing anyone, and with some form of hands-free page turning. Ideas?

I bought a generic virtual reality headset (similar to this) and found that I could not open iBooks in a way that made it readable, and that the included remote would not turn pages.

Creative solutions for hands-free horizontal reading with minimal light spillage and some form of remote page-turning are also acceptable! It is essential that the solution work with iBooks, as I am not interested in getting an Android device at this time, and I have a lot of books in iBooks that I imagine are stuck. I have an iPhone SE and an older iPad mini. I would potentially be willing to buy a Kindle or Nook if there's a legal way to move my iBooks and a remote page turning feature.

I am aware that reading on a back-lit device is bad sleep hygiene but I work nights and usually don't switch back to a regular schedule in between shifts. I like to spend some time at least in proximity to my husband, but he is disturbed by the light from my reading even on night mode and low brightness.
posted by charmcityblues to Technology (19 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I know this is skirting the question, but is getting your husband to wear an eye mask to sleep an option? It was pretty life-changing for my husband and me who have different schedules but are both light-sensitive. (Also way easier than successfully blacking out a bedroom).
posted by brainmouse at 11:27 AM on December 8, 2017 [3 favorites]

I would like to be able to read books on my iPhone ... with some form of hands-free page turning.

Turn pages with your nose.
posted by w0mbat at 12:18 PM on December 8, 2017 [2 favorites]

Why the hands-free requirement?

Without that, you could just drape a light-proof cloth over yourself.
posted by beagle at 12:19 PM on December 8, 2017

For minimal light spillage, go to Settings > General > Accessibilty > Invert Colours.
It turns white pages into black pages with white text- much less light bleed.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 12:19 PM on December 8, 2017 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: The phone is already on night mode and the reader is set to night theme (black pages, white text). Would strongly prefer not to drape anything over myself.

Maybe the answer here is that there's no possible way to get what I want (a hands free e-book reading experience with no light bleed) but surely I'm not the only one who would find this useful?
posted by charmcityblues at 12:32 PM on December 8, 2017

In the past, when reading a real book, I've had luck with a camping headlight that has a red light. Its both easier on your eyes and much less likely to disturb the other person.

For minimal light spillage, go to Settings > General > Accessibilty > Invert Colours.

That is awesome.

On my iPhone and iPad there is a Display Accommodations step after Accessiblity. It would be sort of nice to control this from within the night shift settings.
posted by TORunner at 12:37 PM on December 8, 2017

Could you switch to audiobooks after your husband goes to bed? That would solve the light and hands free issues.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 12:38 PM on December 8, 2017

Not sure with the iPhone details, but Kindle app on Android allows you to use the volume buttons to turn the pages. So while it's not hands free, you may be able to still use your phone holder without light spillage.
posted by ethidda at 12:56 PM on December 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

Not sure how you could read an electronic screen at night with no light bleed - you've ruled out color inversion, VR googles and a blanket. My suggestion is one of those gooseneck phone holders you clamp to your nightstand or headboard, you can adjust the angle away from your bedmate. has these for a few bucks or free (with shipping).

For the page turning, I use a bluetooth footpedal to turn pages on a tablet while performing, about $60.
posted by chonched out at 1:08 PM on December 8, 2017 [3 favorites]

Honestly, I'd first check if other ebook apps can both scroll/flip pages automatically* and also let you set a black background and non-white text color, and see if there's a text color that works for both of you. If so, then I'd explore ways of either removing the DRM on your ebooks to allow you to read them with any app or, if that's not possible, ways of getting electronic copies for free (via libraries, or piracy).

* I saw a Kindle (device) tip once where you could turn on text-to-speech but set the volume to zero, and you'd get the effect you're looking for. That might work on the app? You could also ask on for recommendations.

On preview, using a bluetooth controller is an interesting idea!
posted by trig at 1:17 PM on December 8, 2017

This weird clunky solution for VR (not hands-free tho) could work if you get a Kindle app and transfer your library there (which I think it's easy): Now you can read your Kindle books in Virtual Reality
posted by TheGoodBlood at 1:18 PM on December 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

I wonder if taking the lenses out of the VR goggles would help? The phone may be a little too close to your face. You may be able to use a Bluetooth keyboard for page turns.
posted by jmsta at 1:20 PM on December 8, 2017

A privacy screen stuck on your phone's screen will block most of the light from going anywhere but straight towards your eyes. It'll also stop the peeper sitting next to you from reading your book along with you on the bus.
posted by moonmilk at 1:23 PM on December 8, 2017 [10 favorites]

Using a Bluetooth anything is still not going to be hands-free, is the thing.

The cheapest and least tech-fiddly thing to start with is to see if your husband will try using a sleep mask. Maybe after a few nights of good-faith efforts he finds he really can't abide it, but at least it's only cost about $5 and no tech headaches.
posted by rtha at 1:25 PM on December 8, 2017

There are a few ways to make your iPhone display much dimmer than just sliding the brightness down.

Invert Colors was mentioned above, and iOS 11 adds Smart Invert Colors which doesn't invert images. It's at

Settings > General > Accessibility > Display Accommodations > Invert Colors > Smart Invert

You can reduce the brightness of white areas by turning on

Settings > General > Accessibility > Display Accommodations > Reduce White Point

and sliding the slider that appears to 100%.

There's another older trick that makes the iPhone's screen much dimmer than the normal lowest brightness setting:

Settings > General > Accessibility > Zoom, then

1. Zoom Region > Full Screen Zoom
2. Zoom Filter > Low Light

Combine that with Reduce White Point and Smart Invert Colors and slide the brightness down, and the iPhone puts out hardly any light at all.

To make these features quick to activate and deactivate, you can set them as your Home button's triple-click shortcuts:

Settings > General > Accessibility > Accessibility Shortcut (it's way at the bottom!) > Zoom

and check Zoom, Reduce White Point, and Smart Invert Colors. Triple-click the Home button to see the menu that lets you turn them off and on. If you find yourself using only one, unchecking the others in Settings will skip the menu so that triple-clicking Home immediately toggles that feature.
posted by nicwolff at 2:06 PM on December 8, 2017 [16 favorites]

I know this isn't exactly what you're looking for, but when my last Kindle died I upgraded to a Paperwhite, and HOLY CRAP is it great for non-disturbing reading in bed.
posted by uberchet at 3:45 PM on December 8, 2017 [6 favorites]

The privacy screens mentioned by moonmilk above are very effective at making the phone screen black from side views. Combine with Bluetooth clicker or footpedal?
posted by Red Desk at 10:54 PM on December 8, 2017

Seconding using red light as a way of not disturbing others. Similar to nicwolff, I have set up the triple press home button shortcut to red shift the light on my screen. This was to prevent me from having trouble falling back asleep if I read on my phone while feeding the baby, but I've noticed that it has the added advantage of disturbing the baby and my husband very little.
posted by peacheater at 11:44 PM on December 8, 2017

Seconding Kindle Paperwhite. I got one for my birthday after using a regular Kindle and it is stunningly good for reading at night. It has a huge range of backlight visibility. I generally turn the lights off, let my eyes adjust and then slowly turn up the backlight. Around level 5 seems to be the sweet spot for me in terms of brightness vs readability.

One thing to note is that the Paperwhite's 'backlight' is not actually behind the screen - it is very tiny LEDs arranged around the e-ink screen casting light across and through the screen. This makes for a very, very subtle light. It's a real pleasure to read, to the point that I often turn off my light and read by the backlight even if my wife is also reading on her iPad, because it seems to be easier on my eyes than our bedside light.

I read next to my wife, who is woken up very easily, with absolutely no issues. If I face towards her, then the screen light is blocked by the Kindle itself and doesn't cast enough light towards my face to wake her up.
posted by Happy Dave at 6:07 AM on December 9, 2017

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