Here’s my workflow for choosing:
- Use Audible whenever possible, because going through audiobooks is much easier than going through any other format.
- If the book has code or diagrams, most likely the audiobook won’t exist, but if you need to chose between Kindle and paper, choose paper. Big pages, diagrams, code, thumbing through pages are things that paper beats Kindle any day.
- If the book is amazing and you need to highlight stuff, buy the Kindle version. If it’s amazing, re-reading it is probably a good idea and Kindle is really good at highlighting sections. If you need to write notes, the Kindle device is not that good, but the Kindle app on your phone is and they do synchronize, so you can switch back and forth. If you are a non-linear note-taker, the paper version might be better.
- If it’s a book that you lend or give away, buy paper versions. Digital can’t be given away (not easily).
- If it’s fiction or something you’ll read very linearly and you won’t listen to the audiobook, buy the Kindle version. This is where Kindle is the best.
- If you want it signed by the author, or on your shelf, buy the paper version. A few times I listened to a book and it was amazing and I bought the paper version just because I want it sitting on my shelf. This is more book collecting than book reading and there’s nothing wrong with it.
- If you are in front of it at a shop and want it, just buy it. Don’t be dogmatic about using a single format for everything, be a multi-format reader.
And now, the background story…
I’m a book lover, I grew up in a house that didn’t have a library, it was a library. When I was a kid my mom told me “We always have money for books”. I actually found the limit of that statement, but that’s another story. By the time I moved out of my parent’s house, my own collection was about 200 or 300 books. I’m not sure, I didn’t keep it. I gave most of it away to a friend that was setting up a used book store during the 2001 Argentina financial crisis and the only reason it didn’t break my heart was because helping my friend came first. I like paper books, their feel, their smell. I have a small collection of signed books that a prize possessions.
But I also love tech, I’ve been coding since I was 7 years old, and always playing with the latest technologies. Reading from an electronic device where I can access all books and all information gets me excited. I bought some of the earlier ebook readers, made by Sony, before Amazon dominated the industry with the Kindle. And like most of us, I’m very busy, and sitting down to read a book is not something that comes easy. When I started to use Goodreads I realized how little I was actually reading and I didn’t like it. Audiobooks came to the rescue. They allow me to read a book while doing mindless but necessary activities, like chores, working out, commuting (not a lot of that happening lately).
For a while I tried switching to one format to rule them all, but it doesn’t work. Books are not all equal. Some work very well as audiobooks, some work very well in Kindle, and some require paper to be consumed. My method of reading books might seem a bit inefficient in that if I want to write notes, I end up reading a book twice. But if the end result is that I read more books, that lower inefficiency doesn’t matter because I increased my efficacy.
If you are reading this blog post, I expect you are very familiar with paper books but considering Kindle and Audible, so I’ll just talk a bit more about them.
With Kindle, you can have apps on your computer, phone and tablet as well as dedicated Kindle e-readers. They all connect to your Amazon account and they all get the same books and synchronize in which page you are. That means you may do most of your reading on a Kindle device, but open the app in your phone when you find yourself with some time to kill (better than doom-scrolling). You can start to experience Kindle with just your phone or tablet and buy a Kindle e-reader only if it’s working for you, but let me tell you, the screens on those e-readers are so much better for reading than your phone, they are much closer to paper.
Amazon offers several Kindle e-readers:
- Kindle: the most basic e-reader. If you want to save money, if you want to try, maybe this is a good starting point.
- Kindle Paperwhite: to me this feels like the Kindle. It has some very important features: waterproofing and warm light. This is the one I recommend to most people.
- Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition: ok Amazon, you need to get better at naming things. What happened here? I don’t see why anyone would get this one to be honest. Auto-adjusting light? meh, I will adjust it anyway. Wireless charging? I plug my Kindle every other week. 32GB instead of 8GB makes no difference, books are tiny (unless you are storing audiobooks, which I don’t think you should).
- Kindle Oasis: this is the top of the line, the most expensive, the luxury version. This is the one I have and it was a present. What used to be its killer feature, warm light, is not present in the Paperwhite version. It has some nice features, like the auto rotate page, the buttons, the mobile connectivity, but those only add value if you actually use them. Auto-rotate and buttons may be useful depending on how you hold the book. They are useful to me, but it’s hard to predict if they’ll be useful to someone else.
Some extra things to keep in mind when buying a Kindle:
You can store audiobooks in them, but then you need to pair your headphones to your Kindle. I have enough trouble with my headphones being paired to my phone and computer, I don’t need another device. When I’m listening to audiobooks I’m on the go, working out, doing chores. I have my phone on me, but not my Kindle on me. I don’t think this is a very valuable feature.
All Kindles come in two versions, with and without ads. I don’t know if you can upgrade to not have ads, I always bought mine without ads. Make sure you choose what’s appropriate for you. They also tend to have deals with Kindle Unlimited. Kindle Unlimited is like the Netflix of books, where you don’t pay for each individual book. The catalog is hit or miss and I never got it. My partner reads way more books than me and she got it for a while. If you start a free trial, make sure to set a task to stop it to allow paying for a subscription you don’t want.
When purchasing a Kindle, you can choose to have it tied to your account already. It’s a sort of pre-setup that they do. If it’s a present don’t chose this option. If it’s for you, it’s convenient.
Kindles have two ways of connection to the Internet: wi-fi and mobile. Mobile now is only available in the Oasis, the most expensive one. I never got a Kindle with mobile connectivity but I had friends that did. If you are a person that’s on the go a lot, that might be convenient, because it’ll keep your page synchronized even when wi-fi is not present. If I’m on the go and I want to buy a book, what I do is make my phone into a hotspot, connect my Kindle to it, and then buy and download the book. This is very rare.
I can’t comment on the Kindle for Kids since I never tried. Amazon lets you form a family and then everybody in the family can see the books of others. Unfortunately an Amazon family can only have two adults, which I find frustrating.
Amazon bought Audible, but it’s not completely integrated into the Amazon ecosystem yet. There’s a separate app from Kindle called Audible that you use to listen to audiobooks although the Kindle e-readers can also play the same audiobooks and I believe the Kindle app can do it as well. I still recommend you just use the Audible app on your phone, because you already have your headphones connected to your phone and your phone on you, what you need to listen to books.
You can buy audio books one by one, but they are quite expensive. Audible offers several memberships that are much cheaper per book. There are four offerings:
- Audible Premium Plus: 1 credit per month.
- Audible Premium Plus—2 Credits: 2 credits per month.
- Audible Premium Plus Annual—12 Credits: 12 credits per year.
- Audible Premium Plus Annual—24 Credits: 24 credits per year.
Who named these plans? This names are terrible, but that’s for another blog post.
These plans give you credits. Once upon a time, books could cost 1 or 2 credits, depending on the length. I haven’t seen a book costing more than 1 credit in ages, so when you see “credit” you can read “book”.
The higher you go in plan, the cheaper per credit they become, as you would expect. But the annual ones have an extra benefit. Credits accumulate so if you don’t use them, they’ll just pile up (at some point I think they expire, but that’s not a problem I had). If you find yourself with 0 credits and you are in a monthly plan and you want a book, you’ll have to buy the book, at its cash price, which can be as bad as double or more what a credit costs. If you have an annual plan, you can renew early. For example, I have the 24 credits per year, but if I run out of credits, and this has happened, I just click the renew button and start another year of subscription on that day.
My recommendation is that you get the 1 credit per month plan to give Audible a try, and if it’s working well for you after 3 to 6 months, switch to the 12 credits per year. If you run out of credits, then consider renewing early or switching to 24 credits per year.
Some books in Amazon have a feature called whispersync. This allows to synchronize the page in Kindle with the position in Audible. You can be listening to a book in the car, get home, pick up your e-reader and continue reading. When a book has whispersync and you own one of the two mediums, generally the other one is much cheaper. I think buying audiobooks on deal through whispersync after you bought the Kindle version is cheaper than a credit (but Kindle + audiobook is way more than a credit). If you only use Audible with whispersync-ed books, a membership might not make sense at all. I can’t comment beyond that because I have never used whispersync.
And that’s all. I hope this post helps you become a multi-format reader and that allows you to read more. It certainly help me: