Seeking one-handed e-reading solutions

I haven’t posted much over the last few days, partly because of some trying times my family is going through right now. On New Year’s Eve, my Mom was in a farm equipment accident and ended up having her right arm amputated a few inches below the shoulder. It’s been hitting the family pretty hard, but we’ve had a lot of support from friends and family. It may take some time, but sooner or later we’ll be all right—or at least as all right as we can be under the circumstances.

We’re all trying to think of ways that we can make her life easier now that she only has one hand (and her non-dominant hand at that). Needless to say, I’m suddenly a lot more interested in e-reading solutions that can support one-handed use.

We had given Mom a Kindle Touch for Christmas, and she has it in the hospital and has been using it to read some, and I showed her how to check her Facebook with the built-in web browser. I watched her using it some last night, and it was still a little awkward for her to hold and operate it at the same time. She kept tapping the wrong areas on the screen by accident, and I wondered if she might not have been better off with the non-touch version that has forward and backward buttons on both edges of the case. Of course, she can easily operate it if it’s sitting on a flat surface, but holding and working it at the same time seemed to be a little problematic.

I also wonder if it might not be a good idea to get her an iPod Touch and teach her how to use it. As Steve Jobs planned, the 3.5” screen allows one to hold it in one’s hand and touch any part of it with his thumb. It could be very handy for her for e-reading, and also for checking email and Facebook.

I did see a story about a congenital amputee who found great reading success with a Nook, and tales like that give me hope something like that will work for my Mom. And even the Kindle Touch will still be easier for her to handle than a paper book. But I’m very interested in other ways that e-reading and tablet technology can help make her life easier, and any that folks want to point out in the comments will be greatly appreciated.

20 Comments on Seeking one-handed e-reading solutions

  1. I’d suggest returning the Touch and getting her a plain-jane Kindle 4. The side page turn buttons make it easier to hold the reader steady and turn the page one handed. For other chores, go to the nearest crafts store and get her a wire easel (about $5) so she can set the Kindle up and push any buttons needed. I usually read one handed while eating lunch using my K3 and the K4 works similarly.

    Best wishes for a speedy recovery,
    Jack Tingle

  2. So sorry about your mom!

    I prefer to read one-handed, and found the Touch a little more difficult to use at first than the Kindle Keyboard, but I’ve gotten used to it. At first I hit the wrong part of the screen, but now I seldom do. Putting the Touch in a case might make it easier; I found it was a little difficult to hold, because there was no good place to rest my thumb. A case that has a band to wrap around the hand might make it easier to manage one handed operation.

  3. consider – larger screen than a ipod touch, cheaper, lighter than a smartphone with the same size screen:

    http://www.archos.com/products/ta/archos_43it/index.html?country=us&lang=en

    read through the wiki and forums at:

    http://archosfans.com/

  4. What a terrible thing to have happen!

    Like Sherri (above) I have a Kindle Touch (my 4th Kindle; I’ve have every iteration except the current bare-bones Kindle). One-handed reading is very important to me for a much happier reason than your mom’s. As soon as I start to read, I have a cat in my lap, who expects to be patted. The KT took a little getting used to, but I am using it in my right hand, not my left. However, the fact that so much of the screen is given over to the “next page” function should make it usable with the left hand. I can’t see where an iPad would help with reading because it is so much heavier, except that there are a lot of iPad accessories that could hold the device for you. It would be great for web browsing and email, though.

    Another alternative is the Kindle Keyboard because you can turn on the text-to-speech function, turn the speakers way down, and let it turn the pages for you as it reads. the speed is somewhat adjustable (slow, medium, fast). A lot of folks do that when reading while on a treadmill or elliptical trainer. The Touch doesn’t work as well for that because it keeps the menu on the screen while in read-aloud mode, and that hides some of the text.

  5. Your poor mom!

    Have you considered a bookstand? I use them even with my Android tablet (aka Nook Color) because they keep my wrists from aching.

    This one looks sort of promising:
    http://www.amazon.com/Book-Seat-Holder-Tan/dp/B004HUBOKO/ref=pd_ecc_rvi_cart_f

    This is the one I have, but they don’t make it anymore.

    http://www.stumblingoverchaos.com/archives/26

    You could probably cobble something similar together with a plexiglass cookbook holder, a beanbag pillow, and some velcro to attach the two pieces but leave them adjustable.

  6. Another thing: a great place to check out experiences with Kindle accessories are the forums at http://www.kindleboards.com. I always go there to read what people have to say about various covers before I buy.

  7. James Sprague // January 4, 2012 at 9:48 pm //

    I don’t have the new Kindle Fire or the Touch devices. (I have the old Kindle DX.) But I find I easily read my Kindle (and other ebooks) with my iPod and iPad2 – often with one hand with no difficulties at all. While at coffee shops and otherwise “oot and aboot” I always read my Kindle books on my iPod one handed – holding the iPod in one hand and doing the turn pages with my thumb of that hand. It just seems natural. The small screen on the iPod may be an issue if eyesight is in question. (Mine is poor but the larger font makes it o.k. to read – albeit increasing the number of page turns.) If you mother would prefer a larger screen I also often read my Kindle books on my iPad2 using only one hand. If sprawled on the couch I rest the device on my chest had hold it with one hand, working the page turns with my thumb in the same way as the iPod. If at the table (eating breakfast for example) I prop the iPad up with the cover and generally work the page turns with one hand while using the other hand for the other meal related tasks.

    An iPhone will have all of the multiple uses of the iPod and have the added advantage of the phone which your mother might find useful at times. I have found both of these types of devices quite workable with one hand.

  8. I have read for years on my iPod Touch, one handed most of the time. I recently passed it on to my wife who upgraded from an old Palm and I bought an off contract used iPhone 3GS that I now use for books (along with all the other neat things I was doing on the iPod). Put a reseller Sim in for just basic pay as you go cell phone use. If you go with the iPod Touch the newer versions with the high res retina display are fantastic to read off of, a friend got one for Christmas. By the way my wife now loves having a bunch o books in her purse. I would not have a bigger reader with me when I had a chance to read for a few minutes but the iPod fits in my pocket and is always available.

  9. You’ve touched on why I’ve been sounding like a stuck record trying to get Amazon to add Bluetooth keyboard/mouse support to their Kindles. Their WiFi chips support Bluetooth, so it’s little more than writing the code.

    Besides offering the majority of users the possibility of a better keyboard, it’d offer those with limited mobility an easy way to flip pages. Get any inexpensive, two-button Bluetooth mouth and one button could turn forward, the other backward.

  10. My best wishes for your Mom and family.

    I read one-handed for 10 months at a time for a more mundane reason – I was nursing my two children. my favorites at the time were smartphones (Palm Treo and later the iPhone) as I could read one-handed during late night sessions without waking baby or husband.

    I also found the Cybook Opus easy to use (the Pocketbook 360 also received raves), and I also had a Nook in a Javoedge Flip case that kept it standing – I just had to flick the touchscreen. Javoedge still makes that syle for newer readers.

    Also, check Etsy.com for handmade pillow stands for (nearly) handsfree reading. I now read in bed with the iPad propped on a pillow and just flick.

  11. I have been reading my eBooks one handed for more than a year – on my iPhone 3G, using Stanza.
    The pages turn with a touch of the finger to the left or right .. and as I hold it in my hand to read I just have to reach gently with either my thumb on one side or the tip of my finger on the other to touch the very edge of the screen and turn the page.
    I find it very relaxing and effective.

  12. I’m right-handed but read anything and everything (blogs, articles, novels, technical books) handling my iPhone 3G in my left hand.
    The iPod Touch being lighter and slimmer, it should be even easier.

  13. (and as others have pointed, the retina display is the way to go. Readability is really equal or better that eink. Dixit my mother that own an iPhone 4 and a new Kindle 4)

  14. Really sorry to hear about the accident.
    On one-handed reading: take a look at the Pocketbook 360+.
    You can customize the button functions and assign any action to any of the buttons.
    Plus, being a 5in model, it is light enough and small enough to hold in one hand indefinitely.
    Not only can it be operated by one hand, it is possible to operate the entire menu system with minimal movement of the thumb alone.
    In mypersonal configuration, I use the left and right clicks on the 4-way rocker switch to page, left and right press-and-hold moves 10 pages. Up and down clicks move to the next or previous chapters, press-and-holds move to the beginning or end.
    Clicking the center button calls the menu and press-and-hold calls the TOC.
    The Pocketbook readers still rely on Vizplex screens (not Pearl) but they’re good vizplex screens. 😉
    The battery is user-replaceable, it comes with a snap-on hard cover that can be stored by snapping it on the rear and its texture increases the grip-ability of the reader. (Although the bare reader has a wide groove that runs horizontally through the center that also helps handling.)
    Software-wise it is a generic Adept DRM reader with broad DRM-free format support, two versions of FBReader, and an updated Coolreader3 port, all adapted to the PB360 native controls. Plus its adobe-based native epub reading app. PDF support is decent (2 different apps), Mobi and .doc are also well-supported.
    There are also a few dozen apps ranging from games (a great chess game, Sudoku, checkers, a jewel-matching game, etc) to educational apps and calcs.
    Worth looking at, I think.

  15. Matt Steinmetz // January 5, 2012 at 9:19 am //

    Very sorry to hear of this, Chris. My best wishes go out to you and your family.

  16. I mostly read one handed with my PRS-505. If you can find a NOS PRS-300 that might be a good option; fairly light and with the large d-pad on the bottom to turn pages with. The old non-touch versions of the Sony Readers really were/are quite nice (except for the fact that if you want full justified text you have to convert to LRF).

    Other thoughts, I also do a fair bit of reading on my 4.3″ Android Phone. Aldiko is very nice (particularly since Stanza appears to be dying on the ipod/iphone). One feature I really like, is that you can configure Aldiko to use the volume rocker for page turns. As a result, I rarely have to touch the screen when reading (which is handy if you are reading one handed). So I think I would try to find a 4.3-5″ Android tablet and install Aldiko if I were facing similar circumstances.

    In any case, know you and your family are in my thoughts and prayers.

  17. I have not seen this in person but a friend of mine was at a concert and some of the musicians had their music on ebook readers that sat on a stand. They had a foot pedal that they could push to turn the page. This allowed them to keep their hands on the instrument they were playing.

  18. I am so very sorry that this happened to your mother. At this point I would keep it simple and hang onto the Kindle Touch which is really the easiest to use of all the Kindles, in my opinion. I have, or have had, all of them except the DX which is too big for her anyway. I’d get a cheap stand (frame section of a craft store such as Michaels or Hobby Lobby is good), and I find it easier to hold in a case when using without a stand. But yes, the iPod Touch is a great idea for e-mail and going online, so get her one of those, too.

  19. Katherine Falk // January 5, 2012 at 1:22 pm //

    I’m so sorry about your mother. Yes, ebooks were a blessing when I was nursing my baby! I had the early Sony Reader (PRS-500) which was easy to hold in one hand – and e-readers have only gotten better since then! As a commuter on busy trains, I also like reading on my iPhone – as other commenters have said, it’s easy and comfortable to hold with one hand. I say go for both e-ink and an iPod Touch if you can. (The additional advantage of the Touch is you can read in the dark…)

  20. While holding an eBook and advancing pages is not easy, here s a suggestion.

    Use the easel back from a 4 x 6 or 5 x 7 picture frame, using small pieces of positive and negative velco in the 4 corners of the eBook’s back, then the reader will be at the right angle and to advance pages, your mother’s good hand can be used to advance pages.

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