Why I never read physical books anymore

As a freelancer, you’re entirely responsible for staying on the ball with what’s new in your industry and beyond.

It’s your job to keep developing and to expose yourself to alternative viewpoints and new idea – because it’s easy to get stuck doing things a certain way, when you’re mainly working alone.

This is one of the main reasons that I think reading non-fiction regularly is so important. It will expose you to the best ideas, thinkers and concepts, all of which will help you grow your business.

If you neglect reading, you can get left behind, or miss out on important knowledge that others are using to grow.

Up until a few years ago, I’d have been a part of the crowd that says e-books are heresy. I’d have bored you rigid droning on about the feel and smell of the page…

But now I’m fully converted to Kindle and e-books – to the point where I have a rule that I will no longer read physical non-fiction books.

Why I never read physical books

What changed?

I have nothing against physical books, especially if you’re reading fiction. But personally, I’ve found that Kindle makes it so much easier for me to actually absorb and use the information I encounter.

The reason for this is pretty simple. When reading on a Kindle device, it’s easy to highlight quotes and passages.

Crucially, these highlights don’t just stay within the book and therefore get lost forever – like they would if I was highlighting a physical book.

I’ve recently been trying out a service called Readwise, which is great, if a little pricey. Basically, it syncs up your Kindle notes automatically, and will then find ways to resurface them to you in the future.

It also makes it super simple to export the notes. It can even add them directly into my note taking system (I’m currently using and loving Roam Research for this).

I’ll talk more about what I do with my book notes soon. Spoiler alert – it’s been a real game-changer for me.

Of course, I could take notes from a physical book. But I’m too lazy to take separate notes as I’m reading. It disrupts the flow too much.

By saving passages to review later, however, I am now really engaging in the reading, always on the look out for anything of interest.

Kindle makes it incredibly easy to do this.

Taking notes the smart way

It took me a while to realise this, but if you’re not taking notes from your reading, then it’s essentially just entertainment.

Some of the information will stick, but you will forget the vast majority of it.

And that’s fine, as long as you know that.

If you’re going to invest 5-10 hours into reading a book, then it makes sense to try and optimise your returns – taking notes is the way to do this.

Specifically, I’ve been inspired by How to Take Smart Notes by Sönke Ahrens. It gives you a robust system to use, and makes an amazing case for the value of taking good notes from what you read.

This ties in with the Getting Things Done idea of having an external brain to keep your ideas and information in.

By capturing your notes from Kindle, you can then easily revisit the book, or even better – write out your highlights in your own words.

This has turned out to be the best way to drill information. If you don’t really understand an idea, it’s impossible to write it in your own words.

As Ahrens says:

“It will change the way you read as well: You will become more focused on the most relevant aspects, knowing that you cannot write down everything. You will read in a more engaged way, because you cannot rephrase anything in your own words if you don’t understand what it is about.”

How to Take Smart Notes

There is no more skipping over pages and kidding yourself that you understand fully. Now you need to understand ideas, or you will find it impossible to rephrase them. Reading becomes deeply engaging and interesting.

Over time you can even build up a bank of your own knowledge, which you can use to create blogs and content effortlessly.

This is a huge rabbit hole, which I will be exploring in future posts. But if you’re interested, I really recommend picking up How to Take Smart Notes and Getting Things Done (or reading my summary). Give the Zettelkasten System a Google too.

Which Kindle should you get?

Of course, there are more great benefits to having a Kindle. For example, the light, which can allow you to read at night without disturbing a partner or the ease with which you can get new books.

I have an old Paperwhite model and it’s still working just fine for me. The newer version has been improved with a waterproof design – so it’s great for the beach or the bath.

The new base model now also has a light though, and will probably be enough for most people. You can also choose to have ads display on it, if you want to save even more.

There is a more expensive, premium version – the Oasis. I’ve not tested it but now that the Paperwhite is waterproof, I’m not quite sure why it’s so much more expensive. It does have a warm light built in though, if that’s important to you!

I’ve tried using an iPad, but I think the experience is nowhere near as good. It’s too easy to get distracted – the Kindle does one thing, and it does it very well. It’s much easier on the eyes to read the e-ink screens.

Join the club!

Of course, this is just my opinion. But I’ve found the Kindle has genuinely had a profound impact on how much I read.

The ability to take notes easily is frictionless enough to make it truly enjoyable. At the same time, it gives me the satisfying feeling that every time I read a non-fiction book, I am making a real investment in the future and my thinking.

My Kindle now fuels 80% of the content I create and publish here on Freelance Success and elsewhere, and the process is practically automatic. Keep an eye out for more posts about how I have automated my blog writing process.

Until then, happy reading!

We also have a freelance book club which is great for keeping you accountable if you’re trying to read more.


If you like this article, I have a feeling you will like these as well:

Freelance Success Book Club: List of Book Recommendation for January

The One Book All Freelancers Should Read

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