I’ll preface all this by saying that I’m an almost accidental collector of book lights. I have dozens of the things. Some have been with me for years, right back to a gigantic plastic contraption suitable for only sturdy hardcovers that I feel like reading near an outlet, and some are pretty much brand new, like the plastic piece of junk that runs off of watch batteries I got as a free gift when I bought some Snuggies as gifts last month. For the most part, they’re all sitting in a pile on a shelf in the closet and see little use. I’d rather head to another room where I can turn on a lamp than disturb my partner in bed at night, and even the best of these lights is usually a little awkward. Still, the travel season is coming upon us quickly and there’s nothing worse than being stuck on a train for 10 hours with nothing to do because it is too dark to read your book. So, I tried out a Beam N Read.
Keep in mind, all of my comments here are related to the 3-LED model of the brand. There is a 6-LED version, as well as a Classic version, but they didn’t strike the right balance for me. I’ll explain why in a bit.
Initially, the Beam N Read looks more than a little odd. If you’re used to traditional book lights, it feels more than a bit strange to be strapping this comparatively huge contraption to your neck. Still, in spite of its requiring four AA batteries, it wasn’t too heavy and went almost unnoticed after a few minutes. It’s a nice change to get a portable lamp that doesn’t weigh down your book(in this case I was using my Kindle but the field of view seemed wide enough to cover both sides of a hardcover book with little adjustment) and also still does the job well. The light was fairly bright, though not something I’d want to use for more than a few hours at a time. Definitely a positive initial experience as far as book lights go.
Three LEDs use surprisingly little power, of course, so users can expect about 120 hours of battery life from their Beam N Read. If you’re keeping up with this site, chances are you’re an eInk device user which also implies, to a certain extent, that you may be interested in minimal charging and/or battery changing, so that works out well. This number is supposed to be rather dramatically reduced when you’re using the 6-LED model, which is advertised at noticeably less than half the expected life of the 3-LED. Nothing much is advertised to be used as comparison for the Classic beyond that it is long lasting.
I can’t say anything against this light when it comes to reading. It’s bright enough to read by and broad enough to cover pretty much any reading surface. I would feel fairly safe in saying that you could read a newspaper with little trouble using one of these. It came with a filter to turn the light red. This still confuses me slightly, though I get that it’s meant to soften the light and help preserve night vision. While I appreciate having the option, I suppose, it seems like one of those features that will be useful for such a small percentage of users as to be almost pointless. Still, better to have more options than needed. I would imagine that it’s even brighter using the 6-LED model, of course. One thing related to this with regard to the Classic that I would point out is that reviewers on the Amazon product page claim that the non-LED bulbs are extremely unreliable.
As is almost always the case, there’s an upside and a downside on this one. The fact that it hangs from your neck makes the Beam N Read an accessory that will take some getting used to, but this also ensures less strain on your wrist compared to a clip-on book light. You also have to hold your book fairly far away from your face to work with this one. Yeah, I know it’s better for your eyes, but some people have whole lifetimes of bad habits built up and a bit of nearsightedness to deal with on top of that. If you’re prone to holding your book right in front of your face, this might be problematic. The only other complaint that I’ve been able to find is that the light tends to shift with you when you change reading positions. Basically expect to adjust your reading light along with everything else when you’re feeling a bit restless. Doesn’t sound like too big a deal.
My conclusion would be that if you have need of a reading light, the Beam N Read might well do the job for you. It’s small, feels pretty durable, and provides a novel solution to the aggravating problem of lights getting in your way that I personally feel is far superior to a head lamp. Best of all, at $19.95 on Amazon(NASDAQ:AMZN), it’s affordable enough for anybody. Probably useful for more than books too, though why would you want anything more?