3 Tips For Reading On A Kindle Or Other E-reader

3 Tips For Reading On A Kindle Or Other E-reader


“Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.” ~ Harry Truman

There is no doubt that digital publishing has changed the publishing world. But I was a hold out.

Entering into a meeting with a consulting group, one of the men offered to help me with my bag while I grabbed a few things to carry to our meeting room. When I handed him the bag, he immediately reacted to how heavy it was.

He wondered aloud why my bag was so heavy. I told him it was because in addition to my laptop and various pens and notebooks, I usually carry around several books that I am working through.

Without any hesitation he stated rather bluntly, “Why don’t you just get a Kindle?”

A little taken aback by his directness and that he clearly expected an answer, I blurted out something about preferring paper books.

Rethinking my reading habits – reading on a Kindle.

His off-putting manner aside, it was a good question. Why not embrace the digital age and buy electronic copies of books? So I slowly entered the world of e-books.

I will admit, it was slow at first. I had an iPad at the time, so all I needed was to purchase my first e-book. But I didn’t really like it. It seemed so unnatural. There was something about reading on the screen that just wasn’t the same.

As time went on there were a few tricks that helped me become comfortable with reading digitally. Now it has become my preferred method for reading, although not without hesitation which Michael Hyatt explains well in this post.

Even if you only occasionally read e-books, here are a few tricks that will help you enjoy it more and, in my opinion, help you retain more of what you read.

Tip 1 – Buy a reader with an e-ink display.

I started by reading using the iBooks app and Kindle app  on my iPad. But I didn’t like it. After mentioning this issue with a few friends, one of them suggested I invest in a dedicated Kindle reader…the kind with the e-ink display. He showed me his.

I quickly realized that these devices felt so much more like a book. The simple black and white, matte (not shiny) display not only more closely resembles the experience of reading a paper book than a glossy, backlit color LCD screen does, it is preferred for reading in well lit areas and even in direct sunlight. Something you cannot do on a typical tablet.

It was then I decided to purchase a Kindle Paperwhite. I chose this model because it has the e-ink display, but also backlighting for reading in low light settings. I loved it! The device made a big difference in my personal enjoyment of reading digitally. I chose Kindle, but there are other options out there from other manufacturers (Note: not all Kindles have this type of display).

Advantages of E-ink display over typical phone/tablet screens.

  • more “book like” experience – display more closely resembles reading “paper.”
  • matte (not glossy) screen – prevents glare or reflection
  • you can read outside – screen can be read even in direct sunlight
  • backlighting not necessary – allowing long battery life
  • overall easier on the eyes

In addition to these benefits, a dedicated e-reader doesn’t have apps that can distract you from reading.

Tip 2 – Adjust your font and spacing settings to increase readability.

If you want to make something more difficult to read, layout the text using small font, wide columns, narrow margins, and tight line spacing.

To make it easier to read, increase the font size, break it into narrower columns, increase the margins, and loosen up the line spacing.

Traditional print mediums (like books, newspapers, and magazines) have always had to balance maximizing readability with minimizing costs. The larger the font, margins, and spacing, the more paper and ink (and ultimately cost) it takes to create the final product. But in the digital world, all of these spacing parameters can be adjusted by the end user with no impact on cost.

When I started reading on a Kindle, it occurred to me that by choosing the narrowest column width setting, the biggest line spacing, and a much larger font size, I found that I could read an e-book much more quickly and comfortably than I had previously experienced. Here are examples of what my screen looks like when I read.

spacing settings on my Kindle screen and app

I know what you are thinking. It looks like the “large print” edition. But it works. Why? Because we take in printed words with our eyes. And the more you can keep from overloading your eyes and minimize eye movement, the more quickly you can take in and retain content. Remember, your brain can actually process whole phrases at a time, not just one word at a time.

Trick 3 – Access your highlights and save them for later.

A preacher I once knew was a voracious reader and was disciplined at marking in the books he read. He did so because he had developed a system for saving useful stories, quotes, illustrations, etc., from what he read and filing them for use in future sermons. When he finished a book, he would give it to his secretary who would photocopy, document, and file by topic the various stories and quotes that he wanted to use. Because of this, his sermons were always rich with relevant illustrations.

One of the biggest arguments against e-books has to do with being able to mark them up, underline, or highlight. I agree. That was definitely something that held me back. My own love for marking in books was one thing that kept me from diving into e-books sooner.

Sure, most e-readers allow you to highlight, but referring back to those highlights can be a challenge. But at some point I discovered that the Kindle (and other e-readers) provide ways to access your highlights from your browser.

Now, I simply highlight the sentences and paragraphs I like as I read. When I am done with the book, I log into Amazon.com and copy my highlights from each book into a note in Evernote where it is searchable and can be tagged by topic. So not only can you view your highlights using the e-reader itself, you can easily copy them into whatever system you use for saving great quotes and illustrations for later.

Bonus Trick – Add the Audible Narration

With a few exceptions, I have chosen to use the Kindle environment for building my digital library. There are several reasons for this, but one that I have really enjoyed is the fact that you can add the Audible Narration to many (but not all) of the Kindle books. And in many cases it’s cheaper to buy the Kindle version with the narration than to buy the Audible version outright.

Why do this? I have a rather lengthy commute and audio books help me make good use of that time in the car. Buying the e-book with narration allows me to do a few things that just buying one doesn’t allow.

Listen or read, and my place is synchronized. When you purchase the Kindle edition and add the Audible Narration, your place, whether you are listening or reading, is synced. Listen on your way home from work and pick up your Kindle at home and you can pick up right where you stopped listening.

You can’t highlight an audio book. Having both versions allows you to either stop listening in order to highlight a section for later reference, or go back to the Kindle edition later and highlight something you heard while you were listening. This allows you to more easily access your favorite content later (as described above).

What about you?

Even if you prefer an analog experience, my guess is that you will find yourself needing to read digitally at least on occasion. Using these few tricks will help make the experience more enjoyable.

-Question: What are your tips for getting more out of reading digitally?