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    How do you read books? ask

How often, in what setting, and on what medium do you read books?

I personally love paper books, but I think the benefits of e-books cannot be dismissed, and I have therefore not read a paper book for years. I usually read fiction/biographies/insert other forward flowing books where I usually won’t have to search around, looks at graphs, and reference backwards a whole lot on my Kindle Paperwhite. I read all nonfiction/technical books on my laptop.
I have played with using an iPad mini for reading both kinds of books, but I have yet to finish a book on it. It would be great to have a better medium than a laptop for technical books though. I also think that Kindle is too cumbersome and slow to use in general, but it does the job until I find something better.

I like reading books, but I am terribly bad at it. Not reading, but turning off the TV/computer/phone/the outside world and concentrate on a book. It’s something I have been working on getting better at for years. I don’t think I’ll ever be as good as I strive to, though.


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    I read books by turning off the things that can interrupt me. At home I put the children to bed and do not own a TV, in the office I have a reading chair positioned such that I cannot see the screens. I choose what to concentrate on, see?

    The benefits of e-books are such that… in effect you haven’t read a book in years?

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      Paper. It’s way easier to skim that way. No battery to worry about, I can easily annotate the margins, and the bookmark system (slips of paper) does not frustrate me.

      For non-fiction, skimming is key. My to-read stack grows faster than I actually read the books, but I do at least skim every new book: reading the table of contents, flipping through the pages, looking at pictures/diagrams that catch my eye, and generally just getting a spatial feel for where things are in the book.

      At that point, even if I haven’t learned much information I at least have some meta-awareness of what’s in the book. I “know what I don’t know” so to speak.

      Skimming is very rewarding. If I was forced to read every book straight through I would probably read a lot less.

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        You’re not really reading though. Maybe you’d be better off reading a lot less, and then reading about the books you want to be informed about. These days all these “skimmable” non-fiction books end up being written about on Medium by some dude pitching his soon to fail startup.

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          I do get around to reading thoroughly eventually. For instance I’m about halfway through “The Empire of the Steppes: A History of Central Asia” and it’s absolutely engrossing. Even after passing through translation, the author’s style is way above par. Much better than I’d find on Medium, if I even found someone who cared to write about arcane subjects like kingdoms in the Tarim Basin.

          I think every book without a plot is skimmable. I’d skim fiction too if it didn’t ruin the story.

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          You have a case of tl;dr my friend.

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          I read voraciously. I probably eat a book every week. I can only do this because I read using an e-book reader, and because I have about 16 hours a week of “no-internet” (underground, airplanes, etc). I don’t flip backwards - I keep my reference materials and notes in a separate notebook or in my phone.

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            In the last few years I’ve mostly read ebooks on Kindle. There is something nice about having a physical book to read at home though, I just don’t get on with carrying them around outside the house - kindle definitely wins there. I mostly scan through the Kindle Unlimited store (think Spotify for a subset of amazon ebooks) and pick something that sounds interesting to read, which has the benefit of varying what I read a fair amount.

            I’ve previously read on an iPad mini, which lead to me selling my kindle at the time. Gave up the iPad for other reasons and noticed my reading stopped, so picked up another secondhand kindle (cheaper & more focussed than iPad) and found I read more.

            Technically I have a safari books online subscription through work, but it doesn’t support kindle and I just can’t read books on a computer screen it seems. Somehow the iPad felt different enough to a computer screen that I coped with reading on it.

            In terms of frequency, I go through phases of reading loads and not reading much at all. I suspect that has something to do with lots of demands on my free time, so for some weeks I’ll be working on the dinghy or cars, sometimes hacking on personal tech projects and then sometimes reach for the kindle instead. According to my Goodreads profile I’ve read 38 books so far this year, by comparison I only read 23 in 2015 and a staggering 115 in 2013.

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              95%+ audiobooks for me these days. I get in 10-20 hours of listening during a regular week, which amounts to a book or two, depending on the length. I usually jump between 2-4 at a time unless one has grabbed me exceptionally. Most of the time is walking to and from work, taking breaks outside, doing chores, taking a bath, making meals, etc. If I’m alone and just eating for sustenance I’ll put on an audiobook then, too. If I hear something I want to take notes on, I’ll stop whatever I’m doing and listen again while taking notes.

              I don’t have room in my apartment to keep more than a shelfful of physical books, and I’m considering buying a Kindle, but haven’t quite felt the need yet.

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                Do you feel like audiobooks and “books you read” are the same thing? Asked another way, do they satisfy the same part in you, or do you feel like they are two different things, and if that is so, which do you prefer?

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                  If I set aside time to just sit down and read, I’d usually slightly prefer a paperback or ebook, but not the choice I’m making. I’m getting reading in during what would otherwise be downtime, which usually keeps my backlog short enough that I don’t feel a real desire to get extra reading done otherwise. This lets me still read more than most, and also do other things I enjoy with my leisure time.

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                I generally avoid reading PDFs, as that seems to be unavoidably “scannable”, though I will admit that I’ve downloaded a PDF on several occasions before purchasing a physical copy of a particular book, just to see if I would actually like it.

                I enjoy reading a physical copy. I also do the same thing @arnt does - physically disallow yourself from getting distracted. I’d like to add that you should turn your phone to silent and close your laptop. This is also not only good for book reading but also stress relief, if you ever get to that point. Just sit on the other, “detoxed” side of your room where you don’t have any tech/wires/etc.

                As a side remark, I’ve been strictly reading tech related books, but recently pulled many classics from my parents house, so writing this post reminds me of a slight guilt of having these physical books in my apartment that I’ve literally never read. I should start reading those. :-)

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                  As others have said, finding an environment where you can concentrate is key, also, do not throw away paper books completely, I still feel like they are the best solution for technical books, as ebooks just have too many problems with the typesetting and /or images, they can also be a bother to flip around in.

                  Try not to buy books that are basically documentation, find books that teach you concepts, since the internet or man pages are a much better medium for docs.

                  Try to set some actual time aside to read (or if you have long commutes, bring your book along), I’ve been having trouble with that myself recently, since I’ve started biking to work, I’m reading about 40 minutes less every day. So I have to set at least an hour were thats all I’m doing.

                  Ebooks on an eink screen are a perfect solution for fiction or other “forward-reads” though.

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                    I started listening to audiobooks last year because I have limited time available for reading, and I can listen to an audiobook while driving or doing chores. It turned out a lot better than I expected. I found audiobooks different from reading in an interesting way: they are really engrossing, like attending a theatre performance or watching a film, and because they proceed at a slower pace than if I was reading, I seem to retain more information.

                    I still read regular ebooks (because a lot of books are not available in audio format) and paper books (when there is no ebook) and end up reading 2 books a month on average.

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                      It depends on what I am reading. I read almost primarily e-books using a kindle (fire) for novels, non-fiction, history, biographies and management books. I also usually have an audio book going at all times for listening to on walks, working around the house or driving in the car. For programming books, I almost always read the PDF on my computer, generally with the terminal window open on one half of the computer. I currently take notes in journals, but am noodling digital options there. I have yet to have highlights or notes taken via kindle be useful in any way.

                      Digital consumption is pretty much my first pass on every book, unless the book cannot be found digitally (I am looking at you, “Gödel, Escher, Bach”). If I find a book to be dense with references or worth a second read, I will usually spring for a print copy and proceed to read it very slowly with a pen in hand.

                      I read usually first thing in the morning for 1-2 hours before the kids are awake and then in the evening for another 1-2 hours after the kids are down. I will then usually read for 10-15 minute stretches during the day if I need to break up my day at all. When I started reading again a few years ago, I had a hard time focusing. So, I would read for 10-15 minute stretches. Eventually, they organically grew and now I can read for long stretches. When reading “Creativity, Inc”, I had an 8 hour reading session - just couldn’t put the book down. I will echo @amt, I also do not own a TV and I don’t have any games, so my devices are mostly used for reading and the occasional movie so that helps with the distractions. What has helped the most is just doing it though, it is a skill that improves as you do it.

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                        As others have mentioned, I consume fiction on my Kindle, but read technical books in a physical format. I often export (technical) blog posts to my Kindle with this Chrome add-on, which is fine since there is rarely the need to flip back and forth between sections of technical blog posts; they’re usually a relatively linear read.

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                          For tech books, I like to get the feeling for the book by reading parts of it with a sample chapter (or on Safari Books, which I have a personal account). If I think the book is good and I feel it has lasting value then I prefer to read it in print. In print I feel I can dedicate recollection a lot easier to the things that matter, including remembering to keep reading it. Ideally, I’d just buy them all in print, but that can get out of hand :)

                          I have a Safari Books Online account for the times when I need to tech up on something quickly, e.g. if I need to figure out how to pull something together and get running quick having access to lots of resources of which I only need a small amount of info, I think that’s great. But in depth analysis requires dedicated time to the material, otherwise I don’t learn.

                          For non-tech books: Absolutely in print. For a lot of the same reasons for as tech books, I can recall more and I can get engrossed in the material. I think online reading can be OK, but it’s the stuff that goes with it being online that’s an issue. There’s always something else to do on my iPad.

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                            I have a Kobo and use it the majority of the time, but still consume paper as well. I prefer technical books to be paper.

                            The trick is to start a routine and also turn off TV, computer, etc. I find reading very relaxing and rewarding. I went several years without cracking open a book and made a decision to start reading again this year. I’ve read a few dozen this year alone and my list is growing quickly. The hardest part for me was to get my wife to start reading as well. She’s a huge TV/movie junkie and it’s impossible to read with that as a constant distraction. Finding books to read together was key.

                            I went 15 years with the TV on at bed. This has always been a nuisance to me, but this was something she required as she grew up with it and had trouble sleeping otherwise. Now she reads at bed and the TV is off. It has been a fantastic lifestyle change.

                            Make the time for reading and you won’t regret it.

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                              End-to-end, on my ‘phone via the kindle app (occasionally using my laptop/tablet as well). White-on-black. Mostly on my commute, or just in little gaps where I have spare time; sometimes also in the evenings or at weekends.

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                                I read books sometimes before bed and occasionally on weekends. eBooks are great, but I also read paper books about as often.

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                                  When I can get the paper book, I buy and read it on paper. There’s a few good bookshops in my city where I usually go and browse, talk to people there etc. Same when traveling. I also have a Kindle for when I want something immediately and can’t get from a local bookshop.

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                                    I have a five year old and a two year old, a wife, a job, and I’m going to school at night. I read either on my phone in short bursts when I get the chance, or when…er…“attending to other business” (again using my phone).

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                                      Sometimes I read in my office (at home), sometimes I read in bed. If I’m reading in bed, it’s an ebook. If I’m in my office, it’s a physical book.

                                      I go through cycles of reading a lot followed by not really reading at all. It depends what books I have around me and how much interest I have in sitting to read a particular book.

                                      I like fiction. I usually grab one of the discount former-best sellers at B&N for $5 when I’m there. Some of them are horrible, some are decent. The last books that really had me into them full bore were old detective stories (many of them made into movies as film noir).

                                      I almost never read any technical books. Too dry. Same for most non-fiction.

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                                        I read some book or other every day, usually in the evening or right before bed. Depending on the book, I’ll read it in anywhere from a day to a couple of weeks - rarely longer than that. Typically three or four days.

                                        Usually I read on my iPad and use the Kindle app for ebooks and pdfs. I prefer the experience of reading dead-tree books, but tend to avoid them if I can because they clutter up my apartment. Digital books just have an enormous practical advantage that I find hard to turn down.

                                        I exclusively read nonfiction. After a tremendous amount of pestering one of my friends got me to read Accelerando awhile back, which was ok, but I don’t even remember the last fiction book I read before that, and I don’t plan on reading any more (absent more pestering). In recent years I’ve tended to read technical books, but I’ve been branching out a bit more again this year - some psychology, political philosophy, etc.

                                        I confess I’ve never had any problem tuning out the outside world to read. Just yesterday evening my partner started watching TV while I was trying to read, but popping in headphones and cranking some random progressive house mix was enough to tune that out and get me back into the book. If I get bored of reading I’ll just skim a bit or stop and do something else.

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                                          I really only read fiction these days. At one point in my life it was several novels a week, but at this point it’s more like several a year. I tend to read them in bed, on my phone… a dedicated e-reader would be easier on my eyes, but it feels strange buying a device I’d use so rarely.