Revision: Moleskine USB Rechargeable Booklight–Not So Awesome after all.

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Last September, I posted what might be the most in-depth review I’ve ever done, or ever will do of a product. The Moleskine USB Rechargeable Booklight.

Based on my order history, it died in May of this year.

Well, I say ‘died’. I mean ‘fell victim to a known flaw’. It suddenly, for no apparent reason, decided that ‘off’ was not an option. I tried everything. I let it discharge, and then recharged it. The instant I plugged it in? Right back on.

I don’t know for sure if roughly eight months of light-to-moderate use is worth almost twenty bucks to you, but it’s actually fairly disappointing to me.

If you’re in the market for a book light, and you’re researching this one, I hope you find this post instead of my other post. I have updated recommendations.

If you have a Kindle that isn’t a Paperwhite, get either an authentic Kindle lighted case, or one of the cheap Chinese knockoffs. The ones that run off the Kindle’s battery. They’re actually pretty well designed, and even the cheap Chinese knockoffs seem to be good. They can be about the same price [mine was, at the time], and they protect your Kindle at the same time.

“But what about non-Kindle books?”

Do you live near a dollar store? One of those for-reals everything-one-dollar type stores? If so, go there. Don’t worry, it shouldn’t hurt too much. Just go. There should be a ‘shitty little gadgets’ section, and a ‘books’ section. In one of those two sections, you should be able to find a curious little grey book light with a metal clip and a button on the right side. It’ll look like the one I call ‘Flippy McAwesome’ in my previous post on booklights.

These lights go for four to six dollars in other places [sometimes, in grocery stores]. You can pick up a few of them at the dollar store if you want.

When you get home, check and see what batteries your model takes. Then, order a pack of 100 of those batteries from Amazon.

I did that a couple of years ago, and I still have plenty of batteries.

As for the Moleskine, I did not return it. Given the length of time…I didn’t think it was possible. So I did what I normally do when shit breaks: I took it apart to see if I could figure out what went wrong.

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There are no visible screws holding this thing in place. That usually means I’m supposed to heat it to soften the glue, or something. But I’m a little beyond caring at this point. So let’s just pry it off.

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I was right. It’s barely even glue. It’s basically a double-sided sticker. Which, I suppose, is glue, but it seems like awfully cheap glue.

And, finally, screws. Tiny little screws, but that’s not a big deal. I’ve already removed a couple, because I forgot what I was doing and was investigating instead.

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The board/light/battery piece just comes right out, leaving a shell. And not a very comforting shell. Look at those two broken connectors at the bottom.

That’s not a good thing. And I think that’s a symptom of poor design. The entire thing is intended to be flexible, but the charger’s at the other end of the flexy-bit. And metal doesn’t seem to handle repeated bending very well. I’m no metal-expert, but I know that you can break a paperclip by bending it back-and-forth-and-back-and-forth a whole bunch. That appears to be what’s happened here.

I do not know if this is what caused the switch to fail. I’m not sure why that’d be connected, but I’m also not an expert in ‘how shit works’. I just know that I’m looking at a broken thing, and that this is the first evidence of ‘broken-broken’ that I’ve found.

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Here’s the back of the piece that sits in that little hole. It’s probably a fairly simple circuit, but, again, not at all educated in circuitology. I can tell you that the thing at the bottom must be the battery, and that the thing in the middle is the switch that fails to switch. I kinda wish I knew more about switches [again, no degrees in switches], but I think it’s simple. I mean, the thing turns on with one press, then off on another of the same button. The depth at which the button sits does not seem to change with each press, which might tell someone who does have a degree in switches more about it.

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Here’s the battery moved out of the way.

Not a lot of stuff behind it.

And if the board looks cruddy, it’s because I kinda threw it away, and then had second thoughts about throwing it away, and a little soda got spilled on it in the trash bag. Basically, “Oh, this thing. Fuck you, thing. You broke, and you are trash.”

One day later: “Wait, where’s that thing. I could get a blog post out of that thing. Shit, I threw it away. Ew, it’s all sticky. Where’s my rubbing alcohol?”

No spills before it broke, so that’s not the cause of the breakage. The cause is somewhere in the design, I suspect. Either in the switch, or, somehow, in the pieces of metal that get fatigued and snap after being bent too much.

If it’s the switch, then Moleskine should upgrade that. If it’s the two connectors at the bottom…I’m not really sure what can be done about that. Reinforcement would probably help a little, to keep it from bending right there [and it really will bend right there]. I don’t know if there are materials that will conduct electricity that don’t suffer the same fatigue issues, but something like that might also help.

So that’s that. I won’t tell you not to buy it, because it’s your money, and it’s up to you if nearly twenty dollars for under a year of usefulness is good. I, personally, recommend the dollar store/bulk battery route. It’s cheaper, and, if the dollar store light breaks [mine lasted for years], you can replace it for very little.

One warning: if you use the dollar store booklight with a Kindle, you will scratch your Kindle. Wrap the clip in some sort of tape before using it that way, just to be safe. Duct tape works fairly well, and now comes in all sorts of patterns and shades.

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