Kindle: Resurrection

Note: An updated version of this post is published on my newsletter, SIGMA. You are invited to read it there, and subscribe if you want to get more content like this.

I always wanted to be a regular reader – a person who reads at least several books a year, if not a month. I tried ways like setting goals for intrinsic motivation or publishing progress for extrinsic. Purchasing a Kindle was another step in that direction, taken more than a decade ago.

Just like the other things, the Kindle didn’t help. Not that I had a problem with the product, I just didn’t know what to expect from it. Although it took me a while, I finally came up with my own strategy for being a regular Kindle user. Below you can find what I discovered along the way.

1. I cannot replace physical books with Kindle

Whenever I wanted to read a book, I would first look for the Kindle version. I always thought the activity of reading would be much easier that way. This may be true, but it just isn’t enough for me. I’ve come to realize that I enjoy reading physical books most of the time and don’t mind the inconvenience of holding them or rotating their pages.

2. I must keep myself away from distractions, physically

Even when I am reading something on Kindle, any kind of phone notification or a “quick” Google search can get me drifted away from the current activity for good. In order to avoid that, I position myself in the farthermost corner of the room from any other screen. “Just don’t look at other screens” doesn’t really work for me.

3. I must manage my mental capacity wisely

If you are not a native English speaker, an English-to-English dictionary sometimes does more harm than good. Even if you have no problems understanding it, your brain still works much more than it would with an English-to-your-language dictionary. Then, reading becomes exhausting and less appealing over time. Using a dictionary in your language significantly reduces this mental overhead. The great thing about Kindle is being able to use multiple dictionaries at a time, so, you can still resort to alternative translations.

These are all about how I think I should use my Kindle, what about what I should use it for?

Contrary to this post, I figured out what before how. As my inbox was flooded with new issues of engineering and leadership newsletters every week, I tried to read my way out of them pertinaciously. This turned out a failure on a computer for two main reasons: It didn’t feel very healthy for my eyes and I was keen on dropping reading as soon as I get a distraction. Printing the newsletters wasn’t an option either as it didn’t feel sustainable in the long run and was environmentally questionable. That’s when I was reminded of my Kindle, laying in some drawer, out of battery for weeks (maybe even months).

So here’s what I’ve been trying for a couple of months: Once or twice a week, I skim through the newsletters in my inbox and send the ones that look interesting over to my Kindle. Most of the issues I receive contain lists of other articles so there are a lot of links I need to go through, but the whole exercise does not take more than 10-15 minutes.

  • Sending to Kindle is somewhat convenient (on an iPad or using the Chrome extension): I just share the webpage via the Kindle app/extension and it appears on the device with a reasonably good layout
  • My inbox remains clean and up-to-date
  • As I don’t keep seeing unread newsletters, I am less anxious about them
Improvement areas
  • After just a couple of weeks, the content on Kindle is too hard to manage. Using collections helps, but the slow hardware doesn’t (I recently discovered that I can organize the collection on my phone which is in sync with Kindle)
  • Moving the unread content from my inbox to my Kindle gives a false sense of accomplishment: I have to keep reminding myself that I must read what’s in my Kindle inbox before there’s more
  • Layout issues on the output when the source material is enrichened with embedded HTML, like tweets, etc.
  • Delivery to Kindle part feels less fun every day and is hard to automate

Optimization comes after going from 0 to 1, that is why I am still in the process of evaluating successes and consistency before setting my eyes on things to improve. Thankfully, there’s nothing that’s not workable.

See my instantaneous and continuous reading lists from here.