5 Thoughts on Reading Books and Online Articles



Most writers I know spend a lot of time reading books, articles, and blog posts. Part of my process of reading books and online writing involves using a couple of different e-Reading devices, namely a Nook Simple Touch and an iPad Mini.

Becoming a user of both has helped me understand the mentality of book readers today, as well as the advantages and disadvantages of reading on these devices. It’s not that I only understand the experience of this kind of reading—I also have a better grasp of what consumers are thinking when they purchase eBooks or read websites on mobile devices.

As a writer, I value being a part of the culture that’s actively reading books and articles. Here are a few thoughts on how I keep track of current trends in my field while also picking up books for devotional and pleasure reading:

(A quick note, I have linked to the Kindle editions of a few books with my affiliate account since Amazon had them listed with pretty decent sales when I first wrote this post.)


1. Print Books Are Still Important

Can we just stop the whole, “They’ll never replace print books. There’s something about holding a book in my hands, smelling it, and feeling the pages turn…”

I get it. I get it. We are attached to the tactile experience of reading a physical. I love physical books too.

There are books I use for research or devotional reading that I really appreciate having in print. I love underlining and making notes that I can easily access later. I know that e-readers offer functionality for both, but when it comes to research or leaving important notes to myself, I never ever return to my notes and highlights in an eBook. Print, for me personally is better in those cases. I know that others have a totally different workflow that makes better use of note taking in eBooks.

However, it doesn’t make sense to write off e-readers simply based on how they feel or based on one of the many ways they can be used. E-readers are fantastic for reading novels and tablets like an iPad Mini make it easy to read blog posts and magazine articles without interrupting my workflow on my computer.

In addition, the first thing I noticed about my Nook Simple Touch was that it actually made focusing on the content of the book really, really simple. Yes, it was not the same experience as a physical book, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t appreciate the content with an e-reader in my hand.

In fact, I felt more focused on the content than ever. Having a print book with two pages open at once started to feel distracting!


2. Simple e-Readers and Tablets Are VERY Different

The experience of reading on a device devoted primarily to simply reading is far more focused and relaxing since there’s no temptation to check your email or social media. Your options are limited to the books on your device, much like reading next to a shelf full of books.

I personally prefer the focused experience of reading a book on an e-ink screen on a light weight e-reading device. I read books and articles on my iPad Mini quite a bit, but it’s still bulky (compared to my Nook) and backlit. The latest version of the simple Nook e-reader has a glow light option that you can turn on in the evening if needed.

Tablets are much better for reading online articles, blog posts, and social media updates. You can modify the e-reading apps to have black backgrounds and white text, but you still have to contend with glare during the day and eye strain if you’re already on a computer all day.


3 E-Readers Make It Easy to Read a Ton of Books

It’s not just the advantage of storing tons of books in one place or having a huge, portable library that makes e-readers ideal. Those advantages are great too. However, there’s no escaping the convenience of quickly downloading tons of books on the cheap, whether you find them discounted or free from your library.

Besides picking up bundles of classic novels for a few bucks, many new books are discounted within a year of their release. I’ve picked up some great memoirs and nonfiction books because I was able to jump on a Kindle or Nook promotion. My latest score was a discounted version of Quiet by Susan Cain.

By the way, don’t feel bad about picking up eBooks on the cheap. Publishers do these price pulses in order to raise the visibility of a book before jacking up the price again. It’s a simple way to raise the visibility of a book after its initial launch.

Between discounted eBooks and copies I can download from my local library, I have access to tons of books. Some days it almost feels like I have too much power… And if I need to pick up a book immediately at its full eBook price, usually around $9.99, the purchasing process is dangerously simple.

When I saw that several publishing experts recommended the books Your First 1,000 Copies and Let’s Get Visible, I downloaded both before my book launch and dove into them immediately, picking up critical information that I immediately put into action.


4 The Joy of Customized Reading on E-Readers

One of the first eBooks I downloaded for my new Nook Simple Touch was the New Living Translation Bible. I just wanted to sit down and read scripture for long stretches of time, and I’ve found that translation useful for that, even if I’ll use other translations for study.

I have an NLT on my shelf next to my desk. It’s huge. It’s heavy. The spine is slowly falling apart. I’m sure I could have great fun rubbing the pages in my fingers and sniffing them, but isn’t the point of reading the words on the page?

The first thing I noticed when I sat down to read on my Nook Simple Touch was how simple and stripped down the experience is. It was just me and a single column of words on the page. I enlarged the font a bit to 16 points, which, by the way, was supposed to be the standard size for all on-screen fonts before some pretentious designer thought 12 point Helvetica on a screen was more aesthetically pleasing or whatever.


5 How I Use E-Readers and Tablets

The thing that used to kill me was finding time to read books, blogs and relevant articles for either my work or personal interest, especially when I have a newborn strapped to me in an Ergo Carrier. It’s just not practical to read books when you really need a one-handed reading experience and would rather the book be as light as possible. In addition, since we co-sleep with our newborn, I need a way to read in the dark.

Enter e-readers and tablets.

Most of my books are either purchased through Nook or Kindle. I still have plenty of print books, but when I need to just read, e-readers and tablets are the way to go.

I can now use a tool like Pocket to collect articles or blog posts all day and then follow up on them later on my iPad Mini. Feedly also helps me keep track of my favorite blogs and online magazines so that I know I can follow up on an interesting post later in the day.

I use the Kindle and Nook apps on my tablet when I need to read in the dark, and I store epic book collections on my Nook Simple Touch such as the complete works of PG Wodehouse, the complete works of Mark Twain, and several Bible translations.

I can basically access everything on my iPad, but when I just want to do some dedicated book reading, I tend to prefer the simple e-ink of my Nook. It’s really easy on the eyes, and there’s no temptation to visit Facebook or Twitter if I hit a slow part of a story or get distracted from my Bible reading.

Print books are still important, but e-readers and tablets are now essential parts of my work flow and leisure reading. I suspect that will be different for folks who aren’t avid readers or authors, but there are enough advantages to both kinds of e-readers that I think they’re worth checking out.


Do you read eBooks? Which devices do you use?

Not a fan of tablets and e-readers? What are your reasons?
(Note: You’re not allowed to say, “I just like hold a physical book.”)

What to Do When You Don’t Have Time to Write

stop-watch-timeDo you frequently lament how busy you are?

Do you fret over how little you can accomplish each day?

I’ve been there, and I’m going to walk you through the way I’ve been processing these questions.

If you don’t have enough time to accomplish all of the writing projects on your list, there are really only two options available. However, before I spell them out, I’d like to suggest what ISN’T an option:

Feeling Guilty

A few months ago I reviewed where I was emotionally, and I realized that I felt guilty and miserable at the end of every single work day. This led to some hard questions: “If I love to write, why do I always feel terrible at the end of the day?”

The answer had a lot to do with my expectations and how I spent my time. Writing wasn’t the problem. The act of writing felt like my ideal calling. My problems came when I looked back at my day.

If I was going to write for the long term, I needed to find a way around this guilt that had been tainting my career.

Improving Your Efficiency

While you can probably quit social media and improve your efficiency or use a tool like Freedom to stay offline in order to make your writing time more productive, there’s a chance that you’ll burn yourself out trying to work faster.

While improving your productivity can give you a boost to finish a project, much like finishing a race with a sprint, you can’t sprint every day for every week. That’s how you burn out. Quite simply, if you can’t find time to work on a book project in the first place, you won’t make things better by becoming “more efficient.”

Sacrificing Family and Personal Time

I’ve read books by successful writers and business leaders, and they often talk about putting in the extra hours to make a project happen. Once again, that works for a short burst of time, but you and your family will suffer over time. This is not sustainable for the long term.

What You Can Do When You Don’t Have Time to Write

Still feeling stuck? Maybe a little desperate? OK, here are your two options if you don’t have enough time to write:

Turn Unnecessary Leisure Time Into Writing Time

While we all need some time to exercise, relax, and hang out with friends and family, I’ll bet that we all have unnecessary leisure time that we don’t need. In order to turn that leisure time into writing time, we may have to make some radical sacrifices—or at least, these sacrifices will seem radical at first but I honestly believe they won’t feel like sacrifices in retrospect.

In my own case, I generally only watch hockey when doing the dishes or folding laundry. I rarely sit down and watch a hockey game. If I’ve spent time with my wife, set up my work schedule for the following day, and caught up on my house work, I go to bed as early as possible so that I can wake up at 5 am to write. That means I watch a lot less TV than in the past, I never play games on my computer or tablet, and I never listen to the news.

Where you make cuts will depend on your own priorities, however, if writing really is important and you feel like there’s an unfulfilled longing in your life, look over all of the different television shows you watch or the games you play and ask what function they provide in your life. While you can hang on to some of them, I’ll bet that writing for an hour or two each day instead will make you feel a lot better.

Cut Your List of Writing Projects

There are no easy solutions here if you don’t have enough time to write. While we live on a tight budget and I’m stingy with my time, I’m aware that sometimes I simply can’t find enough time to accomplish everything that I want to do.

There are seasons in life when it’s completely appropriate to make some cuts. If the alternative is feeling guilty and unfulfilled every day, I think you’ll agree that resetting our personal expectations will feel much better as an alternative!

Before we had a baby, I used to spend about half of my time working on book projects and the other half on paying client work, but I also had some fiction side projects that I really enjoyed. I even attended writing groups where they knew very little about my nonfiction work. To them I was more of an aspiring novelist!

When the baby arrived, the fiction had to go onto the back burner, and I had to cut back my work for books and clients. I can usually accomplish 5 things in a given day when I’m juggling a baby, provided I can wake up early, my wife gives me a two hour break, and my son takes a decent nap. Without any of those conditions, my to-do list goes down in flames.

I’ve been learning the hard way that it’s OK to fall short each day. I can’t always knock everything off my to do list. If I can accomplish 70-90% of my projects, that’s still a passing average, and it’s something I can celebrate.

In Conclusion: Be Kind to Yourself

I’ll bet that most writers need to mix some cuts in their leisure time with more realistic to do lists. Each day is a little different than the one before it, so standards can be tough to set, especially when you’re freelancing from home.

Wherever you find yourself, the best advice I can give you as a full or part time writer is to be kind to yourself. Celebrate each small victory, and don’t be afraid to end your day with a cup of tea on the couch or a beer on the porch.

No matter how much you accomplish, there will always be more to do. That’s both what keeps us going each day and what can burn us out. Work hard today and celebrate. No one else will celebrate for you.

Want to Dig Into This Topic Further?

If this post speaks to where you’re at, this topic and many others will be part of what myself and long time freelancer Kristin Tennant will cover at the Renew and Refine Retreat for Writers on May 24-26 in Watervliet, MI.

Learn more or register today at www.renewandrefine.com.