In this final installment in my blog series on better reading, I want to focus on some tools that you can use to make your reading more enjoyable and get more reading done faster than you ever realized.
Earlier this week, we spent time talking briefly about how to organize a reading list around books you’ll enjoy, ones that will challenge you, and ones that will grow you in your areas of need. We also talked about how we can interact with books to make them more enjoyable. How we can take notes, ask questions, organize great thoughts, and draw up action plans to apply what we’ve read. There’s so much great information out there but none of it will benefit you if you do not plan to get more books into your life.
One way to do this is by expanding your horizons in reading. Audio books are now more available and easier to use than ever before. I remember just a few years ago that I would never pick up an audio version of a book just because it was clumsy to carry with you anywhere and you needed a cassette player or portable CD player to listen to them. Books were few and most people want to travel light. Enter the world of MP3 players. Yes, iPods are all the rage but really all the iPods are nothing more than proprietary MP3 players that cost a lot for the bling. I wanted something inexpensive that I would carry with me anywhere so I started a few years ago with a half-gig MP3 player that I bought at a tech store. My youngest daughter inherited that when I upgraded to a 1-gig player that I wrote about less than a year ago. I recently moved that player into service at the church I pastor playing music prior to worship. Just a few weeks ago, I purchased an iPod Touch lookalike made by Sylvania. As you can see by the picture at right, it has the same features, comes with 4-gigs of built in flash memory and is expandable with a micro SD-card (I have a spare 2-gig card that I am moving over from my old player to make is a 6-gig model). I bought this player for $50 at a local Big Lots and couldn’t be happier with it. It’s loaded with several of my favorite music albums but also has 8 different audio books on it as of this writing. I can take it with me anywhere.
The point is, you can take an 8-cd audio book with you with no clunky baggage to carry and listen to it while you walk at the park, while you shop for groceries, in the car while you drive, and at night when your eyes are tired and you just want to chill with a cup of coffee or tea and relax. My strategy is to pick up the audio version of books that I would likely not read given my limited amount of time to commit to the task. Many business books on management, leadership, dealing with people, and finances are all good candidates for audio books for me. In the last two years, I’ve read about 30% more books than I would have if I had not used an audio book. Many people will like this option because they can be doing other things while listening.
Another way (which is a bit costlier) to increase your reading is to purchase an eReader book device and read eBooks. Amazon’s Kindle and the Sony Reader are the big players here. I’ve written about these two elsewhere on this blog but for the purposes of this article, it’s sufficient to say that either will help you in your endeavor to read more. Both devices are slim and lightweight, easy to carry, and hold a charge for a long period of time. I like to travel as minimalist as possible so for me, being able to put my Sony Reader in my over the shoulder man-bag with my bible, notepad, and MP3 player makes perfect sense. I’ve not even begun to tap the memory capacity of my Sony Reader and already have over 60 books on it. Can you imagine carrying THAT load around everywhere? The key point here is that if you have your reader device handy and it’s easy to take with you, you’ll read more in those smaller windows of space like when you’re eating a quick lunch, waiting at the auto shop or doctor’s office, when you have a few minutes to kill waiting for a late appointment, or when you have a few minutes down time in your home between dinner and washing the dishes! All of those little windows add up and in time, you’ll see that you can get more reading done but the idea is to have the tools at your disposal or you won’t use them and your reading will slow down.
One final thought I have is with cost. Books are expensive. The ebook market has helped by reducing the cost of books and also by its nature, the cost to store them in your home. Audio books, though small on their CD’s, can even be reduced to a simple online download to further reduce clutter and storage in your home. In the last year I’ve sold off many of my hardback books, something I thought I would NEVER do. But the reality is that I could use the space in my office for other things and by meticulously selling these books off, I’ve reduced my storage space and given myself a budget to buy my favorites in ebook form. I’ve already removed one bookshelf from my office and I plan to remove two more by the end of 2010. So there is a cost benefit to buying digital books be it audio or ebook form. Another old friend is also available and that is your local public library. I’m blessed to have a great library consortium and most books I want to read I can check out. Audio books are plentiful now too and usually only require me to request them in advance so they can be delivered to my library of choice. I’ve probably checked out over 30 audio books in the last 18 months or so and I have two on hold today! These cost you nothing other than the investment of your time to go get them and take them back. Used bookstores also have value when you can’t find an out of print book anywhere else. I still will pick up the odd paper book from time to time when it’s one I really want and I know it’s out of print. Online bookstores makes finding volumes like this easier than ever before.
Hopefully, I’ve given you some thoughts to energize your reading this summer and beyond. Have you put a list together? Do you know what you want to read next week? Do you want that in traditional book, ebook, or audio form? Do you have an inexpensive audio player to make it easier to get to your books? Spend some time this weekend answering these questions, make your list, head to the bookstore or library (or online), and get reading! It will be the best thing you ever do for your personal growth.