Self Care September 22, 2020

I buy ebooks but forget to read them. Any advice?


I have a bunch of paper books. They're sat over there, in the corner of my apartment, and I see them multiple times a day. They're always visible and easy to pick up. When I'm reading one, I leave it somewhere extra-visible like on the coffee table. When it's no longer in-progress, it goes back into the stack.

All the ebooks I download live in folders on my desktop. The only time I see my desktop is at the start of the day, turning on the computer. Sometimes even that doesn't happen because I just closed the laptop lid the previous night, and open it again with everything still open (just browsers and evernote really).

So... there's no exposure to the ebooks. There's so much going on in my digital life that I just forget they exist.

Do you guys have different reading habits? If you get an ebook that's too long to read in one sitting, what prompts you to return to it and continue?

I have a kindle but barely ever use it despite having quite a library in there. The experience is so crummy compared to paper, I really have to force myself to pick it up.

One recent example: I bought Pieter Levels' Make book a long time ago. It seems great but I never read past the first chapter because you have to read it in the web browser. I always forget it exists until I see him tweet and then I remember - oh crap I really should finish that!

Do you think there's a solution, or this an unsolvable problem?

  1. 3

    Hey, @feelgoodfreddy. Don't buy books (or anything) if you know you won't read them. And by now you know that you won't read them because you have unread books in your folder. It's in human nature think that we need more stuff, but in reality, we don't need that much.

    One thing that helped me... Buy only stuff when you need to solve problem x or interested in topic y. I bought recently course Everyone Can Build a Twitter Audience by Daniel Vassallo. I will watch the course shortly because I'm curious to grow my twitter following. I wasn't interested before.

    The second thing that helped me .. is to sleep on it .... Do not buy immediately. Do not buy when creator created scarcity saying it's only now and only for three days. They do that for purpose and yes ... to sell more stuff. And if you need that thing later, go back to the seller and ask for a link to buy. Most people will be happy to make a sale.

    And last note. That Pieter Levels' book is brilliant.

  2. 3

    Same reason why the market for online courses has exploded in recent years - people get addicted to the dopamine hit of buying a course because it helps people feel like they are investing in self-improvement. In reality, the % of people who go on to actually complete the courses is a fraction of the overall purchases.

    In summary, you've probably tricked yourself into thinking that by purchasing knowledge you are gaining the knowledge.

    Not sure what the remedy is, but that's my diagnosis :)

    I guess what you have to ask yourself is, do you actually want to to learn, or do you want the dopamine hit? If it's just the latter then what you are doing is totally normal. And you're putting bread on the table of ebook authors, so that's nice too.

    If it's the former though, then you need to implement some kind of personal accountability.

    1. 2

      Ha. So true in every way. Seth Godin, in one podcast, mentioned that online courses completion rate is 3-5% which is depressingly low. I think books and courses are impulse purchases. It doesn't hurt financially much if you buy books, but online courses... uhhh.. it's painful to see that money is gone and nothing has been done. And it's also true that most courses are not great and it's not worth our time. Ideally is to check course immediately and if it's not great to ask for the refund. But people don't do that because they are attached to the course creator.

      1. 1

        With e-books it's even less.

        Some of the best books have finishing @rates < ~1%. I think part of the reason is the friction. Discover a book, buy it … which leads to… download an artifact to the disk or some device, navigate to it, manage it, click to open it, wait for it to open etc. and then begin reading. As opposed to that a blogpost shared right here on Indiehackers by a friend is ready to consume quickly. And we can even discuss over it with comments!

    2. 2

      Btw it was true for phisical books at well the low stats of actually opening the book, reading it, finishing the 1st chapter and finishing the books, such a leaky funnel...

    3. 1

      This is a painfully true diagnosis. Honestly it's the same situation with paper books - I own a lot more than I've actually read. I picked up that habit from my dad who has thousands on his bookshelf.

      There's a notable buzz from going in a bookshop and picking up some heavy tomes. 'What valuable secrets are held within?' - it's a real anticipatory high.

      Perhaps it's not an ebook vs paper thing, it's more that I'd benefit from a more mindful, systematised way of choosing what to spend my attention on. Right now I guess I am a little impulsive.

  3. 2

    Share that ebook with someone you know and ask that person about that book and maybe you will feel curious about it.

  4. 2

    When I used to commute, I had 45 minutes on the train that was dedicated to reading. I didn't like browsing on phone so i got a lot of reading done over the course of the year. Now that I am home all the time, i don't have that same free time slot and i have a hard time creating the slot.

    Instead what i have done is downloaded an audio book (related to the problem I am solving at the moment), and I listed to the audio book when i am working out, mopping, driving , grocery shopping etc, and I have found I am going through the audio book at a very good pace.

    Having said that @yongfook is spot on. Psychology research shows that people are more driven by the promise of change rather than change itself. The fact that you keep buying may indicate that you are getting the dopamine hit of the promise of change (new book, new knowledge, breakthrough ideas!) rather than actually changing by reading and implementing ideas in the books.

    You have to identify for yourself whether its a lack of time/timeslot issue or a willpower issue ? and then you can solve the right problem

  5. 2

    I find a book I really want to read (e. g. biography of Rockefeller - Titan...). I get into it, I start reading more often naturally.

    Whenever I stop reading, it's because certain books feel more like obligation to me. That's a good time to find another really interesting or fun book to get me back into the habit.

    So my advice would be to look for books you enjoy (biographies, fiction - I like fantas) to create/keep a habit of reading often.

  6. 2

    I try not to buy stuff anymore on pure impulses. Before buying I take 10 to 20 deep breathe and the urge to buy will fade. Sometimes, I even extend it to days of waiting.

    Combine that with a decision to only buy thing I need right now and not those which might be useable in the near future.

    Also, I stopped visiting certain sites like mightydeals as I know I will get the urge to buy some nice fonts.

    As for the books you already own. One solution is to print a list of all the books you own and put it at a convenient place where you see it daily multiple times. And put a reading device with all those books on it close to that.

    1. 1

      Hey that's a great idea. Such a simple solution!

  7. 2

    I don't buy or download a new book until I finish the one(s) I planned to read.

    I have been reading exclusively digital books for the past decade and I manage to complete 30-40 per year. I use a tablet for books with source code or other text that doesn't reflow well, a phone for most else. It allows me to leverage even short bits of free time, a few minutes here and there, to read one or three screens. It adds up and I can read pretty long books. Piece of cake.

  8. 2

    What if creators, rather than creating a book/course, created some bite size courses to be consumed? What format? I don’t know.
    But as @rosiesherry tweeted, newsletters and communities might work as creators would show up often, kept telling about the course/book, etc

  9. 2

    Do you have a physical device you could put your digital books on? I have an 8" kindle that was ~$50USD that I keep all of my ebooks on. If I didn't have them there I would never read them tbh. The other thing I do is maintain a reading list. Because like most readers, I have a million books both digital and physical. Having somewhere to put the list that isn't my brain definitely makes it a less stressful experience for me.

    1. 1

      I've got one of the older Kindles and I just don't enjoy the reading experience. I sorta wonder if an iPad would be good for reading PDFs, although it's an expensive solution.

      1. 1

        The Fire HD is way better than the older paper white's IMO. They're just cheap android tablets at this point lol.

  10. 2

    Audible turned my book consumption from 7 a year to 10s of books per year. I ultimately think it's not about reading the books, but more so about harvesting the knowledge within them. Before audible I had my kindle which I took with me everywhere which accounted for the 7 books a year.

    1. 1

      Yeah I'm a big fan of Audible. Haven't used it so much recently due to quarantine WFH - I've got no commute any more, and that used to be my listening time!
      But the occasional audiobook on a countryside walk is a real joy.

  11. 2

    I recently managed to turn my reading habits around, and started reading again.

    I installed the Screen Time app for iOS. After a week, I examined where I felt my time was poorly spent. It was easy to spot: I was doomscrolling Twitter for over an hour a day. So I picked two times that I would read books instead of Twitter. For example, now I read books during lunch instead of skimming the news and Twitter. And it worked! I've read 7 books since the start of Covid. I was previously on track for reading 0 books in 2020.

  12. 2

    Make yourself print each ebook the moment you buy it and stack it on your desk
    Or just a page with the books title
    Organise your life with GTD
    Block yourself buying a book until the last one in your purchase history is read
    Put an always on top app... Or on a 2nd screen..

  13. 1

    read the first word of the first book and take a break.

    congrats, you are now taking action

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