DIY book stand reading on side in bed
Self studying Korean

DIY book holder for reading on your side in bed

Here are instructions for a very simple DIY book holder for bed that keeps your book in a position in which you can read it while lying on your side. It only requires a few items you probably already have in the house.

DIY book holder and reading stand for bed made of paper clips and rulers for reading while lying on your side

I am bedridden and due to the nature of my illness I am confined to lying either on my left or on my right side most of the time. My arms are also too weak to hold the book on my own and I need my hands free when I’m studying to jot things down in my notebook.

The problem of reading while your head is sideways is easy to solve with a tablet stand and rotating the orientation of screens on phones or tablets, but printed paper books stubbornly keep their text orientation while at the same time refusing to stay open.

I searched online for reading stands designed for people confined to bed and all solutions were complicated or expensive. I either had to purchase an enormous and heavy floor stand which was limited in book sizes it could hold, or I could ask a special printing service to reprint each book horizontally.

Not very practical at the best of times, probably impossible for textbooks which have both English and Korean and pictures (not to mention the issue of copyright).

In the end the solution was incredibly simple. All I used to create a handmade book stand for bed was:

  • four paper clips
  • two rulers
  • four protectors

materials for handmade book stand rulers binder clips protectors

That’s really all you need to hold the book for you so you can read it while being horizontal on your side. And you could even skip the protectors if you don’t mind minor damage to the pages.

Here is how to make the book stand at home:

Paper clips

I use binder clips to attach the book to the rulers on the back. The size of the clip you need will depend on the thickness of the book but I find that simply using the largest binder clips I could find for every book I have is the simplest.

If I ever get a book that’s thicker than an inch I’m in trouble.

assorted large binder clips

I also tried using heavy-duty photography clamps since they are wide enough to squeeze even the thickest of encyclopedias. But that was a fail – they were so heavy that the book would topple over right away. The large clamps found their home elsewhere and I stripped them of their rubber guards – those proved very useful.

Also, the heavy-duty clamps require considerable strength to be squeezed open. I don’t have any strength, let alone a considerable one.

Rulers

Any ruler, straight edge, or a long flat thin piece of something can be attached to the back of the book along its top and bottom edge to keep it open and rigid enough to be laid open on its side.

a pair of wooden rulers on bed

I found that wooden or aluminum rulers work the best. All the plastic ones I tried, even those made of harder plastic, would bend too much and the book wouldn’t stand straight.

Protectors

Whether clips or clamps, they need to squeeze the book rather tightly to make this work, and their contact surface is small and made of metal which means they usually leave indentations on the inside of the book.

Since I like my books pristine this is unacceptable.

To protect the paper I use the aforementioned rubber guards that I stripped off those photography clamps.

rubber protector for paper clips to protect the paper

Pieces of cork cut to size work just as well.

piece of rectangular cork protecting book from paper clip

The book holder – Putting it all together

Now that we have two rulers, four clips, and four protectors it’s pretty quick and easy to put it all together.

putting together a DIY book stand for reading in bed

The rulers go on the back of the book, along its top and bottom edge.

rulers on the back to keep the book straight and opened

The protectors go to the four corners at the front – in the exact spot where the clips will be squeezing the book.

metallic wire binder clips with rubber guards

Then simply attach four paper clips to keep the book stretched open as shown in the photo below.

Keeping the book open with paper clips and rulers for reading in bed

It is ok to leave a slight curve to the book around the spine along the outer hinge. It doesn’t have to be completely flat. It doesn’t affect the rigidity of the contraption, and this way the book rests in a more natural position and the spine won’t get damaged.

A side note: The book I am using as a demonstration is a Korean textbook. They are usually softcover and come with a CD in the back. I found that removing the CD before clamping it down makes the job easier and I don’t have to worry the CD will crack.

Once you have gently secured your book to stay opened flat and rigid when you rotate it on its edge, it is time to put it up.

I found three easy and convenient options:

1. How to make a book stand out of a pillow

Since everyone already has a pillow in bed (I assume) the easiest thing is to just lean the book against it.

DIY book stand from pillow (2)

The upside of this setup is that you don’t need anything extra. Just prop the little rig we attached to the book on the pillow in your bed and start reading.

The downside is that if you only have one pillow you don’t have one left for your head, and human heads are heavy.

Another downside is that there’s nothing in the front to stop the book from sliding down so it might take a bit to balance it, especially if you have smooth bed sheets.

Prop a book against a pillow front view

Also, depending on the shape and the size of your pillow it might be difficult to maneuver it and set the book at a comfortable viewing angle.

Prop a book against a pillow back view

That’s why I switched to another set-up:

2. How to make a book stand out of a tablet stand

An option I like better is using my tablet stand.

DIY Book stand using tablet stand for lying on your side in bed

I got it for only a few dollars yet it has notches in the front where the book fits surprisingly snugly, and the rubbery material on the inside of the notches (the gray-colored parts in the photo below) protects the paper from getting damaged.

It’s very easy to shift around the bed and the adjustable head allows you to set the book at any angle you want.

For just a few dollars you get a very adjustable DIY book stand for reading.

The downside is that since they’re cheap they’re not meant to support large weights. My 280 page textbook of large format would crush it backwards whenever I would shift in bed.

However, thinner books like the one in the photo, which is a B5 size (standard for Korean textbooks), stands securely with no issues.

DIY textbook stand for bed. Great for disabled reading in bed lying on your side

For holding heavier or larger books there’s an even better solution:

3. How to make a book stand out of an adjustable tablet arm

This is the most expensive option, but also the most versatile one. Since the weight of the book rests on the bed while the arm just supports it, it’s up to the task even with the most heaviest of volumes.

Make a book stand out of an adjustable tablet arm and use it in bed for sideways reading

One end of the arm mounts onto the bed frame and the other side has extendable bracket holder. I don’t use the bracket as it was meant to because it’s rarely wide enough to encompass the whole book and because I’m worried it will crush it. Even though the brackets have the same rubbery material on the inside, none of my books is hardcover so I’m worried there would be some damage to the papers.

That’s why I rest the book on the bed and use the adjustable arm to keep the book in the vertical position.

The arm part is very sturdy so it works both extended

extended adjustable arm holding a textbook for reading in bed

and curled

Bent tablet arm supporting a book. Make at home

The downside is that it requires some strength and requires being able to at least sit up in bed to attach the arm and bend it at a proper angle, which for someone who is ill or disabled is not easy or even possible.

Still, if it was easier to bend it wouldn’t hold the weight of the book so I see no way around this issue other than to ask someone else to adjust it for you like I have to do.

The fact that it is so sturdy is great if you need a book stand for large textbooks. I have one that is a big heavy hardcover book and this could hold it without issues.

Instead of leaning it against the bracket make the wave shape out of the arm and lean the book against the peak. The arm will remain still under the weight.

You would just need the heavy-duty clamps in this situation because they can open wide enough.


I used this setup to go through all 280 pages of my Sungkyun Korean 1 textbook over a 5 month period and if you follow the link you can see that the book remains in a very good condition even after all its been through.

I think this type of book stand design, with clips and rulers, is best used as a textbook stand as it requires you to partially take it apart to turn a page. It works best when you need to spend a bit longer on each page, like when you are studying, rather than when you flip quicker like with a comic book or a magazine.

I still haven’t found a good solution for my favorite comic books or any other book where you flip the pages often.

There, that’s my simple book holder DIY instructions for someone who is sick or has a disability, or really anyone who wants to read a book while lying on their side without having to hold it.

Feel free to share your ideas or ideas for improvement…

3 thoughts on “DIY book holder for reading on your side in bed”

  1. This is an excellent idea! I’ve been thinking about getting a book holder but they’re so bulky and expensive, so I’m going to try this. Thank you for sharing!

  2. I’m so sorry to hear about your condition but I think it’s truly inspiring that even though you’re experiencing all sorts of struggles, you still find ways to overcome them. What ingenious and inexpensive way to keep your book wide open by using tools you have at home. :3

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