Consumer Alert: Reading Lights

July 15th, 2007  |  Published in etc  |  1 Comment

Alison doesn’t sleep well when there’s a lamp on in the room. I don’t go to sleep unless I’ve conducted at least a few minutes of ritual reading. What to do? I don’t like reading in a chair then making my way to bed. I like to prop up in bed and read until I can’t. I kind of like the feeling of having to fight through to the end of the chapter.

Reading lights of the “Itty-Bitty Book Light” variety seem like a good compromise. I’ve had bad luck with the incandescent variety, though, so the generation that’s come along that uses white LEDs seemed worth investigating. Bright, clear light; less of a propensity to burn out. Since I didn’t take any time to do my research, what I ended up impulse-buying at Fred Meyer was an Energizer TrimFlex. I liked the graceful, bendy neck, and since it’s powered by lithium batteries, I reasoned that it must surely last forever on a single set.

For two or so months, I enjoyed my little lamp. It was going strong, providing plenty of clear lighting for my brief pre-sleep reading sessions. But on Friday night I noticed that it was beginning to dim, and badly enough that I needed to move the neck around as I read to make sure the part of the page I was reading was lit enough. So I went down to Radio Shack (the Woodstock Safeway bothers will little smaller than a AAA) where the clerk found the replacements I needed and told me they were $5 apiece. They aren’t available in a rechargeable variety (they’re the little 2032 coin batteries).

So powering my reading lamp based on the consumption pattern of the battery set it drank down in less than two months could cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $80 or $90 a year, which sounds insane when I say it out loud. Energizer obviously thinks that sounds perfectly reasonable, for transparent reasons.

So now I’ve got a nice reading lamp that’ll require a monthly contribution to the piles of spent batteries we collectively produce, and with the added indignity of realizing the good folks at Energizer probably engineered it with an eye to recreating the old razor/razorblade setup.

I think I’ll just put a set of batteries in it and chuck it in our camp kit or the glove compartment, where it will see sporadic use over a longer period of time. It’s still a scammy little device, but I can’t bring myself to throw it out and compound the error with more waste.

So I’m in the market for an LED reading light that will work with rechargeable AA or AAA batteries, or that does that and has an adapter, too.

The Mighty Bright Xtra looks sort of promising: It takes AAAs, and it has a flexible neck. The Itty Bitty Slim LED also looks promising, and it comes with an adapter, which gets rid of the battery issue completely. And the plain old Itty Bitty LED with no gooseneck looks o.k., too, but there’s no adapter.


  1. Ed Heil says:

    July 15th, 2007 at 2:01 pm (#)

    I impulse-buy these things ALL THE TIME. The two which have worked best for me were a $1.99 model from Walgreen’s which can actually clip onto the temple of my glasses, so I have light wherever I look, like a coal miner —

    and one I don’t have a link to which hangs around my neck like a necklace and illuminates from below.

    The ones that clip to the book never seem to do it for me somehow.

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