Reading More Without Living Less

Benefiting from Reading in Different Formats

October 4, 2012

Beyond reading multiple books simultaneously, reading in different formats has probably been the biggest impetus for me to be able to read more without living less. 

At any given time, I have at least one (and often more) book going in each of the following three formats, for each of which there are pros and cons:

1. Paper books.

You know, the old-fashioned kind? Or maybe for some, these are the only kind of books. (Of course, maybe some out there are still reading from papyrus or stone tablet, but for sake of organization I’ll just fit those under this category, too. ;))

This format works best for me when I can actually clear a spot in my schedule and take the time to sit down and read. Alternatively, this also works while I’m nursing a baby, helping a baby or child to sleep, traveling in the car as a passenger, etc…  I have also read paper books while exercising, but generally no longer use this format for such times.


  • They smell good. Most of the time.
  • No electricity needed. You don’t have to turn it off when your airplane is taking off, nor are you left with nothing to read when your battery dies and you’re without means for recharging.
  • I feel like I have a better “feel” for the book and where its contents are. (For instance, I may remember reading a specific section that I didn’t highlight or otherwise notate, but can easily flip to afterwards and find. And even with highlighting, I can more quickly find what I’ve highlighted by flipping through and seeing the difference in color.)
  • There are more options available to “borrow” in this format at most libraries.
  • Bookstores.


  • They can give you paper-cuts.
  • There are many activities that cannot be done while reading. (Though, I do know of a couple of people who, with great regularity, read while driving. I sheepishly admit having done this a few times in the past (prior to kids), but I now warn against such a dangerous practice. If you want the same thrill, just text and drive, but no need to ruin a good book if this gets messy.)
  • Paper books take up more space. If you have lots, you might have to buy bookshelves. Or devote an entire room to your books. (Of course, this can be a pro, too, if you are a book lover.)
  • In some situations, they are less portable, i.e., a book doesn’t fit in my purse. Props to those of you with big purses or massive man-bags, though, and can tote around a small library wherever your luggage accompanies you.

2. E-books.

This includes anything from a PDF copy of a book to a Kindle (or Nook) version of a book. Kindle (and I’m assuming Nook and others) allows you to import your PDF’s into Kindle and read it there, so that makes pretty much all of my e-books accessible by the same device.

I do most of my e-book reading using the Kindle app on my iPhone. My husband was given an iPad as a bonus for one of his jobs, and he uses this to do some of his Kindle reading. Granted the screen on the iPad, Kindle, or Nook device is larger than my iPhone, but I still manage to read a good number of books using my phone, books that I otherwise would have had no or less time to read.

For me, I get e-book reading in most frequently while nursing or laying down with baby during daylight hours (and some dark times), while traveling as a passenger, while in a waiting room or waiting in another occasion where I have nothing else to do (could be as random as waiting for a friend to show up or …while using the restroom). I often take some time in the afternoon to rest while my children rest, and frequently make use of this format then, although I alternate between the other formats at this time, too.


  • No paper-cuts.
  • Books are usually less expensive when purchased in this format, and it can usually be read immediately upon purchasing. You can also find a lot for free!
  • Books take up far less space this way. If you have a Kindle or similar device, you can take hundreds and even thousands of books with you on just a small device.
  • Some books are now only available in this format
  • Some e-Readers (such as Amazon’s Kindle) allow you to freely lend to others with the same devices/memberships.
  • E-books can be hyperlinked, and some e-readers allow you to get a dictionary definition for words you hover over. This is a timesaver when reading material compels you to do further research.


  • It requires a device to read it on (including, a computer, which most households have these days).
  • It can be harder to speed-read if your device is small.
  • There are some locations and circumstances that do not allow the use of e-Readers. Battery life and recharging is an issue, as well.
  • Depending on what device you use, you are essentially staring at a light for extended periods of time. (Grayscale Kindles are not.)

3. Audiobooks.

At this season of life, I listen to a lot of books. I have some friends who say that they could never listen to a book, and don’t even consider it reading. At the same time, I have other friends who have shared that they actually retain more when they listen to a book that when they read a paper book. (One friend in particular shared that for her, she’s more tempted just to skim and skip over words and books, but listening to books via audio forces her to pay attention to every word.)

To a degree, listening and retaining audiobooks takes practice and discipline. I feel those skills can easily be developed over time. Depending on the genre and what other tasks I’m doing at the time (sometimes not any; I don’t always listen while doing other things), I can often listen to books on double or triple speed (generally, triple speed is reserved only for fiction). With the right tools, I also take notes and don’t feel limited in taking notes and highlighting by this format.

I do this most often while performing tasks that don’t require inordinate amounts of concentration, while driving, while nursing or laying down with a baby in the dark, and sometimes while exercising. Although I do occasionally listen to audiobooks while my children are around, I do make an effort to ensure that I don’t anytime I need to be interacting with or listening to them. (So, usually not even in car rides if the oldest two are along and awake.) As people have become more accustomed to people having earphones in in public, I also occasionally listen to audiobooks while shopping if I’m shopping by myself or just me and the baby.


  • Is easy to listen to while performing a broad range of tasks and activities. This makes it much more likely to squeeze in more “reading time.”
  • You can do it when you need to use your eyes for other things.
  • Depending on how you listen to your audiobooks, it can be more portable than a book, or even a e-book.


  • It takes a device to be able to play audio files, or you need a CD or tape player. The cost can seem like or be a hurdle.
  • It is possible to mentally “check out” or get distracted from listening.
  • You don’t see new vocabulary in print and don’t see it’s spelling, though the opposite is helpful in that you hear it pronounced (hopefully) correctly.
  • Like for e-readers, there are some locations and circumstances that do not allow the use of audiobooks or headphones. Battery life and recharging is an issue, as well.

Audiobooks are actually such a large part of my reading habits that I’m going to devote the latter portion of this series to learning to be a better “reader” through listening to audiobooks. First, though, in the upcoming posts I’ll share a little bit about some books that have indirectly helped me become a better, more focused reader and some further tips and recaps on setting reading goals.

Do you use multiple formats for your reading? Do you have a preferred format or avoid some formats altogether? Anyone read books in more than one language?

Previous posts in this series:

  1. Why Read?
  2. Setting Reading Goals
  3. The Benefits of Reading More Than One Book at a Time 

You Might Also Like

  • Victoria@Snailpacetransformations October 4, 2012 at 6:40 am

    I love paper books because I can slip them in my day pack and read them all day long while my kids ride rides at the amusement park and not have to worry about running out of batteries (I get motion sickness otherwise I would join them). I love my kindle app. on my netbook because then I can read and knit at the same time. I love my kindle app. on my i-touch because then I can read while waiting in line. I love audio books because I can listen and paint a room. Great series!

  • Johanna Hanson October 4, 2012 at 3:11 pm

    I have definitely read more (and books I might not otherwise have read) thanks to my kindle. Audiobooks is something I am just getting into so I am eager to hear your tips. I am quite visual, so I don’t retain as well when listening, but I do like it for lighter reading or for reading that has a good story line.

  • Jared Browning October 4, 2012 at 3:46 pm

    This is excellent! I didn’t even realize my iPhone had an app for kindle. I read this early this morning, downloaded the app, and have already read a the first chapter of a book I wouldn’t have “had time” to read. Very exciting fr me! Looking forward to learning more about audiobooks, too.

  • Chelo October 5, 2012 at 1:05 am

    I find that I really enjoy listening to fiction works on Audible. But for topics that require more thinking engagement, I like the e-reader and paper books best because I am a visual learner and I often have to pause and absorb the information and mull it over a while before really understanding. Doing that with Audible is harder for me but, as you said, with practice and discipline I may get better at it.

    I triple speed read the Hunger Games trilogy and finished the series in about two days 🙂 (part of it was during a 16 hour road trip). Fun!

  • Sheila @ The Deliberate Reader October 5, 2012 at 4:27 pm

    I do use multiple formats, and it all depends on the book, and what else I’ll be doing.

    I listened to a lot of audio books when I was commuting – they made the drive so much nicer. I don’t listen to them much any more; I don’t find them as easy to listen to with small children around and making noise.

    I like ebooks when I’m nursing; it’s a lot easier to hold my iPod or Kindle with one hand. Both of my kids started objecting to me turning pages in a regular book when I was supposed to be feeding them when they were quite young. No objections to me holding an electronic device. 🙂

    I like paper books when it’s a book that will require deeper thought, or that will have me wanting to flip back and forth between sections. That’s obnoxious to do electronically I find.

    • Keren October 8, 2012 at 5:17 pm

      These are great examples of using different formats to best fill time with reading.