Neat Little Tricks for Reading Wider & Faster for Less

January 7, 2014

Last year I must have read well over 100 books from cover to (mostly digital) cover. And although I love to start off Monday evening with a big unappealing gloat, I must admit one thing. I still have particular grievances over my capabilities of swallowing a good tome of thought.

2014 is going to be all about solving that.

This year I’ll find myself in the world of literature again. I’ll read wider, further and more cost effectively than ever before. And all while making damn sure I don’t lose my godforsaken Kindle to an illiterate Laotian tuk-tuk driver either (as happened last year).

Here’s the plan.

Setting out to read between 6-8 hours per day, my intention is to give myself a better rounded education on topics and genres I’ve never delved into before (as well as furthering my knowledge in some areas I’m generally more familiar with).

Having already made a solid start toward this challenge (on which more details I’ll provide later this week), I’ve already hit upon some pretty useful strategies that I find to be of some help. Also because I’m doing this with the idea of spending as little as possible, I thought it might prove of benefit to share some of the ideas I’ve come up with (which are in no means unique).

So here are the things I’ve already discovered that are proving to work well as a guide.

In no way are these definitive – and I expect, month on month, that I’ll be making new discoveries which add to this list of tricks.


Reading Wider & Faster for Less: 10 Neat Tricks

Rule 1) Get yourself the cheapest model Kindle that DOES NOT make it easy to do anything web related (strictly no Kindle Fire)

As I find myself already spending a lot of wasted time on social media channels that provide little value or conversation, a low-fi Kindle, such as the Paperwhite, seems to be the best fit for my intended reading exploits.

Because it’s specifically designed with reading as the primary user experience, unlike the Kindle Fire, which has all the app short cuts and capabilities of the iPad, there’s much less room for distraction.

It also helps that the web browsing interface is horrible too.

Rule 2) Use the Kindle store library categories as a reference guide for a self-styled syllabus

Although books can squeeze into many genres, one of the best features about the Kindle store, I’ve found, is its categories.

Easy to browse through subcategories and pick out interesting titles, the order is a pretty useful one to follow in terms of rounding out a reading education.

It also helps with the next tip.

Rule 3) Forget paying for full versions, download book samples instead

I’ve found, especially in the business and finance genre, that reading ebook samples are a pretty effective way of digesting a titles main points and arguments.

The fact that you don’t have to pay for these and still get several pages of content to browse through makes it super cost effective too.

Rule 4) Unethical loopholes you might like to consider (Piratebay, Epub to Mobi)

New York Times bestseller lists (as well as a whole lot else) can usually be found archived on Torrent sites with plenty of seeds. Then if you need to switch the format so that it fits either a Kindle, KOBO or any other electronic reader (also PDF) you can do it using sites like the very useful epub2mobi and the like.

Ryan Holiday’s book Growth Hacker Marketing also points out a very useful tip along similar lines. Helping to market Tim Ferriss’ last book, The 4 Hour Chef, Ryan helped put together a bundle content package (including 250 pages of content, interviews and videos) to distribute to users on BitTorrent for free.

Expect that trend to continue as book marketers exploit these non-traditional platforms to reach new readers.

Rule 5) Start or join a Dropbox community that pools resources (to act like a local digital library) AKA more unethical loopholes

Paid membership sites (like the one I used to be part of) have cottoned onto the fact that a reasonably sized member base is extremely effective for pooling resources to make for very expansive digital libraries.

Using shared storage space like Dropbox, it’s fairly easy to create ‘local libraries’ of content among friends or whomever else shares similar reading interests.

Membership sites like Business Vaults also function on a similar basis (albeit away from shared storage space and instead on a direct ftp upload and download arrangements).

Another way to get cheap, fast access to thousands of titles.

Rule 6) Save more money and do none of this (actually go to a library)

An obvious one, I still find libraries a great place to both access books and to read.

Another important reason I still use them is that they also help counter the overwhelm I sometimes face when bombarded with titles on Amazon (whose algorithm cleverly throws up ‘suggested items’ whose rankings may well have been gamed).

A libraries limited stock almost always carries the biggest heavyweights of a genre.

Trusting in their curation let’s you simply get on with the reading.

Rule 7) Steal/borrow from friends (or buy from charity bookshops)

Most of your friends’ books are usually on display in their bookcases or bedside tables for social proof anyway. Swap or steal to your own benefit.

Charity shops are also worth a look. I pick up decent paperback books that allow me to annotate for as cheap as a quid.

Rule 8) Set yourself time markers (25 minute chunks on different subjects)

Because you don’t want to get stuck in that obsessive loophole of thinking you have to finish a shitty book, setting yourself a time marker can be a useful technique.

I use the pomodoro technique. This means I give a book 25 minutes tops to decide whether it’s worth any further investment of my time.

Rule 9)  Construct reading parameters (like skimming, chapter selection etc.)

Imperative to the process, setting up your own little reading parameters helps a lot in getting through a range of pages per day.

My system usually follows skimming all introductory preamble, jumping to the contents and reading the chapters that sound the most interesting. Then I usually only read the opening few pages with full concentration to try and make sense of the main threads of the argument.

Rule 10) Have one specific question in your mind for each title you dip into (how can I summarise this to my grandmother?)

I like to finish reading (or skimming) a book with a list of 4-5 questions for the author that I feel aren’t fully answered in the material I’ve sat down and digested. Not only does this help to read more critically but it also can be used to form a dialogue between you and the author (should you choose to invest your time developing a relationship outside of a book).

I also like to try and summarise the book in a few sentences simple enough to explain to anyone (even a Laotian tuk-tuk driver).

All in all, I’m finding this system is working fairly well in helping me read faster, wider and more cost effectively in the introductory phases of my plan.

Time will only tell just how effectively it plays out.

Have any further ideas or resources that might add to this? Please be a dear and share them in the comments below.