Writing Gear Review
An Open Book, Part 2
Yesterday I wrote about a problem that bedevils academics and authors alike: how to prop open the pages of a book on your desk or on a bookstand so that you can type or write notes in another document.
Book weights or page weights, whether the fancy leather-clad kind offered by Levenger, or the cheaper silicone-sheathed models available on Amazon, look great in the advertising photos but are somewhat less robust a solution in real life. Yesterday I heard from one friend on Twitter who uses three leather book weights to hold a book’s pages open.
For me, that’s too many little do-dads to keep track of on my desk, and too much to fiddle with when I have to turn the page and type some more.
When I think of desk clutter, I always think of Thoreau’s dramatic austerity in Walden: “I had three pieces of limestone on my desk, but I was terrified to find that they required to be dusted daily, when the furniture of my mind was all undusted still, and threw them out the window in disgust.”
I personally think he could have skipped a day of dusting and the rocks would have looked okay. But I do appreciate his dictum to simplify. And after cleaning off my desk completely, I am loath to add unnecessary clutter to its comfortingly bare surface.
But I have research to do and history to write, and I must be able to work with two open texts at the same time: the text I am writing, and the text I’m writing about. So, clutter or no, I need to have something to keep a resting book open to a particular passage.
Reader, I may have found it.
I present the COLIBYOU Clear Acrylic Book Weight. It’s no flying car, but it is a space age solution to my age-old nemesis: book pages that won’t lie open.
This is basically nothing more than a thick, heavy piece of super-clear plexiglass, with two convex wings curving toward a sunken trough in the middle of the piece, so that the object itself mimics the shape of an open book.
This item is lighter than the book weights I bought online, but it works so much better.
The reason, again, is physics. A book weight tries to wrangle a book page in place by concentrating its force in only one corner of the page. But if the book’s spine is stiff enough or stubborn enough, that page will slip its anchor and sail right past you as you are trying to type. But with this plexiglass contraption, the force of that stubborn book page that wants so badly to close is distributed evenly over the surface of the bookmark, which easily holds the page down.
Yes, you do have to resort to plopping some object down in the middle of your book, right across the text. But in this case, you can see through the text.
I have also found that the COLIBYOU works reasonably well at an angle. As long as there is enough of a shelf at the bottom of your book stand to accommodate your codex and your acrylic page-spreader, you are in good shape.
Now, I have to say: I am much less fastidious than Thoreau. I will not be dusting anything every day, and certainly not this acrylic book weight. So I don’t know what will happen down the road as the object ages.
And I don’t know (and don’t want to find out!) if this object is very easy to scratch. So its transparency may be a fleeting feature.
Still, while this clear and simple tool lasts, it works wonders. It feels like I am looking into the future, even as I look to explain the past.