On August 25th, at 4:34 AM, Flippy McAwesome died. A technopsy confirmed that there was no hope of gadget-necromancy.
Flippy McAwesome: you will be missed. You were a damn good book light, even if you did scratch things.
So, there I was, no book light, and with a burning desire to read. I could turn on a lamp, but what would I do when I wanted to read and someone else wanted to sleep?
Obviously, I needed another book light.
Ideally, I needed an exact replacement, because I have a bunch of batteries for it.
To Amazon! Because I don’t want to scour every dollar store I can find to replace this thing.
This is when I made some rather unfortunate discoveries.
1. I’d have to pay five dollars plus shipping for what might or might not be the same book light.
2. Almost nobody likes making the battery type of their book light really obvious.
3. Rechargeable book lights are not a thing? Why aren’t they a thing?
Then I found the subject of this post. The Moleskine USB Rechargeable Booklight. Purely by accident, and many hours into my search, it just happened to come up on the fifth or sixth page.
I’m pretty sure I was doomed to buy it the instant I saw it.
There was a problem, though. That problem wasn’t that it was an almost-twenty-dollar book light — I was just about willing to eat that price to avoid having to pay for batteries.
No, it was the lack of good reviews. Good reviews in both senses: nobody has bothered to clearly state what this thing can do, and nobody’s really liked the thing. I mostly found blogs that are nothing more than ‘look a new product’, one terrible, incomprehensible website that recommended some bulky, non-portable, tethered-to-the-wall alternative [or something that needed to be charged by solar power], and one video where the guy wouldn’t stop smacking the thing against the table and ranting about how rude it was of Moleskine to not acquiesce to his demand that they give him his money back so he didn’t have to drive to the store to return it.
I had to think about it for a little bit, but, obviously, I bought it. It seemed to be exactly what I wanted, and, if I was disappointed in it, I was pretty sure Amazon would accept a return.
And, because the internet is lacking in information on this particular item…I’m going to try to review it.
But how do you review a book light, exactly? There really isn’t much you can say, on the surface. It either lights the goddamn page, or it doesn’t. If that’s all you need to know, then, well, it lights the goddamn page.
I wanted to do more than that, though. I wanted to test this thing, see how long it actually lit the page — or, in my case, the screen of a Kindle Touch — before draining to the point that it was no longer useful.
And here’s where we get to some criticisms already. Moleskine could really improve this product by including some information on the packaging. Information like ‘how long does it take to charge?’ and ‘how long does it last on a full charge?’
They apparently thought that this wasn’t important, and used the back of the package to show how it could be used, and point me to their website to talk about their ‘legendary history.’
In at least three different languages.
So, great. I can use it to light a laptop — that means it can be used while plugged in. And the blue LED that comes on when it’s charging does not go off when it’s done charging.
This is a flaw.
So I decided to go see if I could, I dunno, ask someone if they knew what to expect from this thing’s battery.
Apparently, the two questions I wanted answered have been asked enough that they’re default questions.
Seriously, what does that mean? Does that mean I shouldn’t leave it plugged in for more than four hours, or does it mean that it shouldn’t take longer than four hours?
Four hours to charge for two hours of reading time does not seem like a good thing.
So: the test. I would charge it for a while [I wasn’t very scientific about that part — it may not have been four hours, because I wasn’t keeping track], and then…find a way to keep time. My Nexus provided that with the stopwatch. I would use the ‘laps’ option to ‘reset’ it when I reached a new stage of the test.
I waited for dark.
Full Charge, No Stars.
I wasn’t going in blind — I’d already played with it a bit, to see if I could replicate the problem that the table-banging guy hand with it. If that’d happened, I would’ve tried to replace it with Amazon. Instead, it lit fine, and shut off equally fine. It does occasionally get a bit…fiddly. Touchy, even. I’ll brush the back of the light, where the switch is [it’s got this good, beefy feeling switch that gives a very satisfying ‘click-click’ with each ‘on’ or ‘off’ push], and it’ll flicker — on, if it’s off, and off, if it’s on — but, obviously, this isn’t enough of a ‘thing’ to make me want to return it.
I had a collection of ghost stories that I wanted to read — sent to my Kindle by Amazon’s Send To Kindle add-on for Chrome, from a website that’s archived several years of Something Awful Forum Ghost Story threads. So, I settled in.
Initial impressions: It works well with the Kindle Touch. The lighting may look odd in the picture — not lighting the full screen, glare-ey at the top — but that’s more due to the camera and my inability to take good pictures. In person, it lights the full screen nicely, not causing the bezel to cast a shadow, and reaching the bottom of the screen nicely.
This is largely because it’s fully poseable, and able to stay in whatever position you put it in.
I don’t think it would work well if you don’t have a cover for your Kindle, however — specifically, a book-style cover.
It doesn’t seem to add weight to the device, which is also good.
With the style of cover that I have, it would work without modifications — I confirmed this before modifying my Kindle cover [hot glue and two pieces of black elastic] so I have a place to keep it when it’s not in use.
So far, so good.
Oh, and, since I feel the need to explain it, the heading for this section is a play on the title of a Stephen King book — Full Dark, No Stars. Because it was fully charged, and I’m pretty sure every reviewer I read talked about how they’d give it no stars if they could.
Still good, after an hour of use. I’d made a few minor adjustments to the bend — which is really a nice feature. Flippy McAwesome didn’t have a lot of range, and would often cause the bezel to cast a shockingly long shadow.
I didn’t get a lot of reading done in that first hour, because I spent some time talking to a few people on Facebook between stories. I learned that cheesecake pudding existed [and I now wonder if chocolate cheesecake pudding exists, and if you can get them in single cups with side-containers of crumbled-up graham cracker crust], and a few other things.
It was during this time that I realised that I was not returning this light. Because, without meaning to — without even knowing I was going to do it — I named it.
No-Face. Its name is No-Face.
Yes. I name things. Things that aren’t cars. I think they have personalities.
I may have undiagnosed mental issues to go with my diagnosed ones.
So, here we were, one hour in, and I have to potentially reconcile ‘keeping it’ with ‘not recommending it’.
Fuck it. I’m reading. I’ll think about it later.
Here we are, right around when it should start going, based on what the super-secret-hidden-information from the website told me.
It occurred to me that I could get a picture of the light with the Nexus in the shot at this point, because I am apparently very slow. Such things probably occur to real scientists who’ve gone to Science School for their degrees in Doing Science, but that’s not me. I haven’t even taken the course that teaches me how to review things.
At this point, I accidentally figured out how to get the ‘time left in book’ thing back on my Kindle Touch, and discovered that I had 1 hour and 42 minutes left.
Wouldn’t it be neat if I made it through the book before the book light started dimming?
Not gonna happen, kid.
The good news? The information is technically correct. It did last more than two hours. And that ‘more than’ was not measured in Planck time.
The bad news? Once you start noticing the dimness, it starts accelerating.
However, it is still putting out enough light to read by. Enough light for me to read by, anyway.
And it continued to put out enough light for another half hour.
It’s now too damn dark to read. At three hours. After an unmeasured charging.
I wasn’t ready to go to sleep, though — or finish this little test. I’d already figured out a solution to this little problem.
A USB wall plug, and a male-to-female USB cable.
This technically brings back those ‘oh my god, I’m tied to one place’ concerns, but the cable is long, not heavy, and it’s really not all that tether-ey. And it only has to come out if you’re a marathon-reader like I am…and I doubt there are that many of us.
This is the blue light. Sadly, it is not good for reading — at least, it’s not good for me for reading.
And the blue disappears when I turn the light back on — which comes right back at full power when plugged in.
I read like this for another hour.
At the four hour mark, I unplugged again. I wanted to see how long it’d last on an hour of ‘charging while in use’. Upon unplugging, it was just as bright as it was while plugged in, and at the beginning of the trial.
Thirty minutes, and the dimming started. Which is better than I expected.
Obviously, I’m keeping No-Face. Two and a half hours of full light, with another thirty minutes of dimming light isn’t terrible. It could be better, but I suspect that a better battery would add weight.
Other book lights might last longer — especially the LED-based ones that run off AA or AAA batteries, but the extra cost of the batteries are a major drawback, and the weight the batteries add, plus the bulk required to house the batteries are pretty major flaws.
The fact that I can pose it and it stays posed is another point in No-Face’s favour. I’ve played with other poseable bendy-lights [and I have one for the GameBoy Advance], and they tend to ‘relax’ and waggle a lot with movement. No-Face stays where you put it, and I imagine it’d stay really well in a regular book.
The ability to recharge by USB was a major selling point for me, and the way it recharges — with a thin little USB plugin — lets me plug in while reading. Another point in the ‘good’ column. A USB extension cable is good to have on hand, and maybe five dollars — you will have other uses for it.
I wouldn’t have wanted a rechargeable book light that couldn’t be used while charging.
The negative reviews? They may be valid. I might’ve gotten a freakish good one — the only flaw is that occasionally fiddly switch. No-Face turns off when I click it off, and turns on when I click it on. None of the Always On issues that others have reported.
I think Moleskine have a decent product here. There’s room for improvement — I don’t know how much room — obviously, if there’s a problem with the switch [and there might be], they could iron that out. Battery technology is improving, so they might be able to improve the battery life. They could set it up so that the blue light turns off when it’s done charging.
If I were redesigning it, I’d do one more thing. As fond as I am of the appearance of the book light — the way the two little lights make it look vaguely human — I would have it be more like those mysterious night lights that are just flat panels that glow. Instead of two very bright LEDs glowing down, I’d see if there was a way to have a more diffused, even light coming from a solid white panel. It’d be smoother, and potentially easier on the eyes. And better for reading in bed while someone else is trying to sleep.
I doubt Moleskine cares much about my opinions, though.
But, yeah: I actually recommend this light. With caution. If you want a slim, rechargeable book light, this is pretty much the only game in town. If you buy it, make sure you buy it from a place with a good return policy — a nearby store that you trust, or Amazon — just in case some of the reported problems are real, and you have to exchange it, or want to give up on it entirely.
Or get a Kindle Paperwhite.