Your Reading Habits

by James Scott Bell
@jamesscottbell

I was an early adopter of the Kindle. Like everyone else, I was amazed that I could have, say, the complete works of Charles Dickens—for 99¢ yet!—sitting inside this little device. And I could keep adding books to it, many of which came via deals in the Amazon store. Why else would I have downloaded Cybill Shepherd’s autobiography if it hadn’t been free?

The Kindle was my constant companion when I traveled by plane. In those early years it was a great conversation starter. People in adjoining seats would say things like, “Is that one of them Kandles?” I would happily expound on the volume and cost of my electronic library.

The Kindle has evolved, of course, and now comes in several styles and sizes, including a tablet. The coolest, and therefore most expensive, model is the Oasis. I’ve been toying with buying this for over a year…but then noticed something. I’ve been spending more and more of my reading time with the following:

1. The Kindle app on my phone. I rarely use my old Kindle now because the phone is always with me and I can easily access my library that way. The downside is I’m not reading e-ink, and therefore can’t read in sunlight. But I don’t do that much reading outside anyway. When I read on my phone I make sure I have my blue-light filter on and the screen a bit dimmer than normal, so my peepers don’t get overtaxed.

2. Audio books. Great for the treadmill or a long drive. The way I get most of these titles is via the Libby app on my phone.

3. Actual, honest-to-goodness physical books, with paper pages and everything! This has been the most surprising development for me. When I first got the Kindle I thought that’s how I—and everybody else—would be reading books from now on. But I’ve rediscovered the pleasure of holding a physical book in a comfortable chair. And so have younger readers. Millennials, for example, overwhelmingly prefer print books, and make healthy use of the local library. Imagine that.

So…how do you do most of your reading on these days? Do you use a dedicated e-reader (e.g., Kindle, Nook, Kobo)? A reading app on your phone? Or do you still like to crack open a physical book?

How much of your reading time is with audio books?

Are you mostly a book buyer or book borrower?

I am going to be on the road—literally, driving a car on a long strip of asphalt—most of the day. So please, talk amongst yourselves! I will try to check in later.

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27 thoughts on “Your Reading Habits

  1. Except for audio, I don’t care about the format. I get too distracted if I’m listening, and I lose track of what’s going on. Plus, I can’t wear earbuds.
    I had an e-reader called an eBookWise LONG before Kindles were on the market. It read .rb format. It was backlit, so I could read in bed at night without disturbing the hubster. The batteries were along the left side and made a great handle.
    I didn’t get my next reader until the Nook Color came out, because it was also back lit.
    Right now I have a Nook Samsung Galaxy and an iPad mini for reading. I buy my ebooks, although I look for bargains. I refuse to pay publisher prices that are over my MMPB price point ceiling. That means I borrow new releases from my fave authors from the library, and if they pass muster, I’ll buy them when they come out in paperback or when the price of the ebook drops to reasonable.
    My biggest complaint about paperbacks, and even some print books, is running the text so far into the gutters that it’s a physical effort to hold it open. If it takes 2 hands to read a book, how do I hold my libation?
    Space has become a major issue after we retired and moved to a much smaller house, so we’re not buying many print books. The last one I bought was a paperback to add to my JD Robb collection. I’m reading her newest from the library. The Hubster’s most recent print purchase was the newest edition of the National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America.

    • I’m with you. I simply don’t process books on audio. It is much too easy to be distracted. Might be okay on a long road trip, but thankfully I don’t have to do much of that. Also drives me nuts when the library ONLY purchases an audiobook version of a book.

  2. I have two antique Kindles with 3G, both B&W (or should I say dark gray and light gray?). I won’t give them up for newer models b/c they are so easy on my tired ole eyes and I can read outside in sunlight.

    Again, b/c of poor eyesight, the idea of reading on a phone is awful. I can barely read emails on it and often miss text. Enlarging the font to a readable size (one or two words per screen) makes the whole process too slow.

    For reference books, paperback is still the best. I retain the info better. I can highlight important parts. It’s easier than trying to find an online article I bookmarked three years ago.

    I buy books b/c I want to support other struggling authors. But I won’t pay the inflated ebook prices that big publishers charge. There are plenty of wonderful books available for under $5.

    It’s terrific that people are rediscovering print books. I love to see kids with their noses buried in one.

  3. I read most novels and novellas on my Fire, unless I’m fortunate enough to score a signed copy. For nonfiction, I prefer to hold the physical book. The time of year also makes a difference. I read more paperbacks than ebooks in the warmer months so I can read outside. In the cold weather, my Fire is always in my hand when I’m not writing. Rarely, if ever, do I listen to audiobooks. I’ve had too many bad experiences with awful narrators. Plus, I can’t visualize the story if I’m not reading the words.

  4. Almost completely read on my Kindle. Not only because I love the thought of carrying around a thousand books at any given time, but because nowadays, my eyeballs require it. That’s why I would never ever read on a phone. For me, way too small a device to read on.

    I love physical books but I live in a 1 bedroom apartment & don’t have enough space for the physical books I’ve already got. Plus, in many (but not all) cases, e-books have made the book buying habit cheaper. I reserve my purchase of physical books to my continually expanding collection of historical reference non-fiction. As a very picky fiction reader, there’s no point in having physical books for those unless they rock my world so much that I want a paper copy too.

  5. I have—I know not where—one of the first Kindles. I, too, thought how amazingly wonderful it would be to have a whole library at your fingertips. Now, of course, I find that original reader rather kludgy to operate and long ago discovered I could download the Kindle app to my iPad—a far more elegant interface—where I have my e-library, small as it is. Over time, I discovered I really preferred paperbacks to reading on an electronic device so now only a small number of my purchases are for the Kindle versions.

  6. I read fiction on a Kindle Paperwhite, one of the oldest models. It still works well for me. I buy paperbacks for craft of writing, highlighting, underlining, and dog-earing as I read. I’ve never tried audiobooks since I have a short commute to work, but as my wife and I start traveling to visit grandchildren more often, that is something I want to try.

    If it hasn’t been covered in a previous blog, I would love to hear everyone’s strategy for selling print books to those millennials.

    Have safe travels.

    • My ebooks make up about 95% of my revenue stream. I create print versions primarily for my mother who refuses to use a smart phone, much less a tablet or e-reader. She gets all her books at the library.
      I’d love to know how to reach a bigger print (trade paperback) market, too.

  7. I read on my Fire…both fiction and non-fiction. I don’t like audio, for some of the same reasons as previously state…distractions, and there’s just something magical about words marching across a page, both digital and print. Also, because I absolutely have to have music playing quietly in the background when I read.

    Can’t read on my phone. I’m a cheapskate when it comes to phones. I have an iPhone 8, and I like it. But it’s too small to read on.

    I don’t borrow books. Because I want them to be mine. The more the merrier. If I never downloaded another book, I’d still have enough in my TBR Kindle file to last me another five years or so. (But, that’s not to say I don’t continue to buy…those .99 deals are too good to pass up, especially if it’s one of all y’all’s.) 🙂

  8. I’d wanted an e-Book reader since the early 1990s. We nearly bought one of Sony’s e-Readers, but the cost held us off. Then Amazon released the first generation Kindle. Again, the cost held us off, but we finally bought one in the fall of 2008, and another one at Christmas, and haven’t looked back.

    I read all my fiction on my 2015 model Kindle Paperwhite. So easy and convenient to read a novel that way. I read non-fiction on it as well, and also on my iPad’s Kindle app. But, I like to read reference and illustration heavy non-fiction in print. We own thousands of print books, probably half or more are fiction titles. I’ve been thinking about reading a late friend’s mystery series I own in print. It’s funny, it never used to bother me to deal with holding open a mass market paperback novel, but the Kindle has spoiled me. Good time to put that weighted bookmark to use 🙂

    Mostly I buy my books, but I do use my library system to check out eBooks. I just like being able to pick up a book, virtual or in print, whenever I feel like it. Which, of course, is how I wound up with a large personal library 🙂

  9. I read most fiction on my ipad. I use Overdrive and check out lots of books from the library. When I buy ebooks, I have the Kindle and Nook apps on my ipad, so I can support both platforms. Unfortunately, the Kobo app won’t run on my very old ipad. I don’t like reading on my phone, but I’ll do it if I’m waiting in a doctor/dentist office. And Kobo likes my iphone.

    I still use my *very* old ipod shuffle for audio when I go for a run. I think it’s 2nd generation. I can load audiobooks, podcasts, courses, etc on it and listen through the pain. 😊 We also listen to audiobooks when we go on car trips. (Hope you’re listening to a good one on your trip today!)

    I prefer paperback for non-fiction and reference books. I also will buy the paperback for a novel if I read the ebook and really love it. I like to re-read those books in paperback.

    Great news about Millenials wanting paperbacks! I just led a book club discussion last week about a book that compared old tech (i.e., printing press) to new tech (i.e., electronics). There was much wringing of hands in the group about libraries ceasing to exist. There’s hope!

  10. GM,
    I love this question because I’m curious about reading habits.

    I read my Kindle at night, a paper book on my hammock, or when I’m chilling on the couch, and use my phone when I’m stuck in a doctor’s office (which sadly has been quite a bit the last year and a half—but I’m reading for the win!) I don’t listen to audiobooks because my listening time is spent on podcasts snd music.

    Jim, I know you said you’re driving, but you didn’t tell what you’re listening to.

  11. I love audio for long walks, long drives, and cooking dinner. Typically “read” half a dozen a year that way. I own both a Kindle and a Nook, though I confess to not using the Nook often anymore. I especially like the Kindle for out-of-print and foreign books that are way too pricey to purchase in hard or soft cover (my current Kindle read is an out-of-print Australian mystery that I paid $5 for as opposed to the $99 for a used paperback). I also am addicted to the 99 cent deals on books I wouldn’t spend the money for otherwise but want to read. Still, as with most of you, my bookcases runneth over with physical copies. There is just something almost spiritual about holding a book in your hand.

  12. For anyone interested in ereader hardware and software reviews and news as well as a bit of publishing news, join Nate Hoffelder’s newsletter and blog, “Digital Reader” at
    https://the-digital-reader.com/posts/ It comes once a week.

    I was a very early adapter of ebooks as an author and reader, as in over 30 years ago. Before there was the Kindle and Amazon, there was the Rocket eBook Reader and Barnes and Noble’s Rocket Library. If some idiot high-tech Japanese company hadn’t bought the Rocket company then promptly decided it wouldn’t sell as nicely as TVs so they destroyed the company, B&N would have dominated the field long before Amazon existed. I know, mind blown.

    Years ago, as a reader, I gave up on paper books because of allergies so it’s been strictly ebooks for a very long time. I use a Nook that I installed the Kindle Reader on for library books and the freebie promotional books authors offer. I despise Amazon so much I try not to give them any of my money. My iPod no longer works with library audio books and podcasts so I’ve stopped listening to them on the treadmill. So, Nook ebooks for the time win.

  13. I prefer a physical book — I like the smell and feel of hardcovers. Many of my friends love ebooks — especially the sailors. It’s so convenient for them to have a library at their fingertips when at sea.
    The one disadvantage of e-readers? I have to turn them off at takeoff and landing.
    Safe travels, Jim.

    • Elaine, as long as your device is in airplane mode, I don’t think you have to turn it off anymore. But that’s what the flight magazines were in the seat pockets for.

  14. I read almost everything on my Fire these days, Jim. I still like print books, but Kindles have two marked advantages: 1) I can search names. A lot of thrillers and mysteries introduce characters at the beginning and then don’t mention them again until halfway or two-thirds of the way through the book, at which point I have forgotten who they are; and 2) the ability to change the size and font of the type as well as the background color.

    Short story collections don’t present the same problem. I prefer books when reading those.

    I have never been a fan of audiobooks simply because I can read faster than I listen and I get frustrated with the pace of the narration. That said, I think that they are a godsend for many people who for whatever reason would never enjoy a book but for that format. Long may they run.

    I generally don’t buy books simply because my house is already overrun with them to the point where I have an accumulation rather than a collection and don’t need more. I do, however, still buy the Hard Case Crime books when they are published.

    Safe journeys to and from, Jim.

  15. I’ve read ebooks exclusively for years. As I’m not the world’s biggest Amazon fan I used to use a Nook. I eventually moved to an iPad. To this day my iPad is basically a glorified eReader. However, my local library uses the Kindle format, and borrowing books is free (my favorite price). As a result my reading has changed from almost exclusively the Nook app to almost exclusively the Kindle app.

    The most appealing thing for me with ebooks is the ability to change font size, followed by books not taking up so much physical space. Using my library’s app I never have to actually set foot in the library, or worry about returning a book late.

    Several years back I set a goal of reading a book exclusively on my iPhone. Yikes. What a nightmare. To make the font readable I have to scroll continuously, and I always have whatever the largest iPhone is at any given time. I made it through the book reading only on the iPhone, but only because I set that as a personal challenge. I’ve never done it since. I don’t know how you manage.

  16. I prefer paper books. The lure of ebooks is how many I can pack on a mini-iPad or cell phone and that I can enlarge the print when my eyes tire. For reference books, always hardback.

  17. I’ve been reading most of what I read on a Kindle PaperWhite. I went looking on amazon for a specific book by a recommended author and saw that there was no Kindle edition available. The local library stepped up on this one and I enjoyed the book very much – a heavy hardcover.
    .
    The bulk of non-fiction I read is writing related. Those are all physical books. As a previous comment said, these are good for penciling in notes.
    .
    I couldn’t live without audio books. I get those from the library through OverDrive and listen every day during my commute to and from work. I also listen during my lunch breaks, sitting in a parking lot.
    .
    I do prefer the physical pages in my hands when I read, but e-books are such a bargain. I’d be a fool to insist on paper. Kindle Unlimited is the best thing since bottled beer.

  18. I’m an eBook hypocrite. I write them, but don’t own an eReader. I have a Kindle app on my Windows 8 PC which left me high and dry when my wife just changed our internet service to 5G and I was forced to buy a “Dongle”. Anyone else know what a Dongle is? Give me paper any day.

  19. Due to poor eyesight, I almost exclusively read on my Kindle so I can adjust the font. I just moved apartments this past week and I took all of the physical books that always move with me. I hope to be able to read them again after my cataract surgery. I’ve never gotten into audiobooks. I am like some of the commenters on here and I am very easily distracted. Isn’t it wonderful to have all the choices we have now?

  20. I have an older B & N Nook that was a gift and still going strong. I love it.
    I read on the Nook and also hard cover books. I still contribute favorite hard copy books to my library especially non-fiction.
    I mostly read in the evenings, somehow I can’t watch TV unless I have a book or the Nook in my hand. Bad shows I read more, good shows, I close it for awhile.

  21. I can’t do audio books. About 10 years ago I was finishing up my Master’s Degree and had a three-hour drive to the university once a week. I started getting books on tape to listen to on the drive. It just didn’t work. My mind does not stay on the story. It wanders. I’ve tried when working out and when doing household chores. I just cannot stay focused and it just becomes background noise.

    I love physical books, but I moved to Vietnam four years ago and had to give up my extensive library when I moved. I just don’t come across many books here that are in English. So, I use my Kindle. AND I USE IT A LOT. I read about three books a week. Between Amazon and the library back in the States, I can get ahold of just about anything and I do.

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