Holding a book can be one of the most painful activities for someone with arthritis in their hands and fingers. There are several issues:, maintaining a tight grip on the book, the weight of the book, and the fact that people tend to read for a stretch of time so that the hands are clenched in this position for a long time. Pain my not be experienced until after the book is set down, and the hands change position, and then it is too late for the reader to make adjustments. So learn to hold the book open the best way and make it a habit or, better still, use arthritis aids to avoid holding the book at all.
How to Hold a Book Open
If you find that you have to hold a book, best way to hold a book open is to let it rest on the palm side of your hands held flat. The front cover should be resting on the left hand, the back book cover on the right hand. This approach avoids gripping and evenly distributes the weight of the book across both hands. If the pages of the book are stiff, they may not lay flat with this method.
A better solution is to lay the book on a table or desk in front of you with your hands held flat on the left and right edges of the pages to hold them down. This not only avoids bent, clenched fingers but also avoids the weight of the book on your hands.
A third solution which I find to be the best way to hold a book open is to use a weighted bookmark. Mine is a leather strip with led weights in either end. I lay it across the pages of the book toward the bottom of the page as I read the top, at the top when I am reading the bottom of the page. It is especially helpful if I am using a book as a reference and have to keep it open to a certain page. With the book set on the desk in front of me and the pages held by the weighted bookmark, there is no stress to my hands.
Rather than holding a book, you can eliminate pain entirely by listening to the book instead. I didn't often use audio books before I developed arthritis in my hands, but I wouldn't know what to do without them now! Recorded books come in many formats including cassettes, CDs, and files for your iPod, computer or other listening device. And we're not just talking about fiction, there are books of every genre except picturebooks. You can find them online, at your bookstore or at the library. Look for "unabridged" audiobooks so that you don't miss any of the original content.
I find that there are some professional readers I like more than others, but most booksellers allow search by reader / performer. Some audio books that are well done include the Harry Potter series, the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series, and The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
eBooks and eBook Readers
When the Kindle first came out, I thought "How ridiculous. Why would anyone buy a separate gadget when they could just read an ebook on their computer?" I was so wrong. The Kindle was a huge hit, followed by the Barnes & Noble Nook. I recently saw one of these, and I immediately understood the excitement. eBook readers cause less eyestrain which is wonderful, but the real benefit to those who have arthritis is that they are noticably lighter weight than a book. I said "Oh my goodness, even I could hold onto this for a long time. You should tell people with arthritis about this, this is wonderful!" Two separate individuals who were passing by heard me and, at the same time, said, "You're right, that's why I have one -- arthritis." For best results, let it sit on your flat hand rather than gripping it.