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Why I’m Putting Ebooks on the Shelf for 2016

15 January 2016

From Michael Hyatt:

I decided to go back to physical books for 2016. I used to be a voracious reader. My pace was about a book a week, sometimes more. But that all changed in recent years.

. . . .

Even though I firmly believe that “leaders are readers and readers are leaders,” I have found myself reading fewer and fewer books with each passing year.

My goal for 2015 was to read twenty-six books. I ended up only finishing twelve. Worse, I actually bought 106 new books.

I realize I can’t blame my failure to read more all on ebooks, and I don’t want to. But I do think they were a contributing factor. Here’s why, and for me these eight reasons are why I’m going back to physical books this year.

1. Ebooks Are out of Sight and out of Mind

Physical books occupy physical space. Wherever you keep them—the shelf, the nightstand, the bathroom—it’s hard to avoid them.

It was easy to buy nearly 90 percent more books than I read because I forgot what I’d already had in the hopper. A physical book has a way of staring back at you. My ebook library is almost entirely out of view.

. . . .

4. Ebooks Result in Less Retention and Comprehension

I’ve covered some of the science on this in a previous post. Michael Kozlowski explains more of the problem here:

A reader of digital text might scroll through a seamless stream of words, tap forward one page at a time or use the search function to immediately locate a particular phrase—but it is difficult to see any one passage in the context of the entire text. As an analogy, imagine if Google Maps allowed people to navigate street by individual street, as well as to teleport to any specific address, but prevented them from zooming out to see a neighborhood, state or country.

Comprehension assumes you can map a story or an argument in your mind. The digital format works against that.

. . . .

6. Ebooks Are More Difficult to Interact With

I take a lot of notes when I read. I highlight and sometimes take notes in the margins. I can do that digitally as well, but it’s not as fluid.

It’s the same with reviewing my marks. If I go online to view my Kindle highlights, they’re all stripped out of context. But I can thumb through my physical copy and get an immediate sense of the context in a few seconds.

Link to the rest at Michael Hyatt and thanks to Andy for the tip.


68 Comments to “Why I’m Putting Ebooks on the Shelf for 2016”

  1. I’ve noticed the same things. My kindle is only a year old, but I rarely use it. The only time I use it is to buy a few indie titles here and there, mostly non-fiction. It’s a much more satisfying experience for me to read a physical book.

  2. I have 5 paperbacks I’ve yet to read sitting on my shelf. But I’ve read all but 1 ebook I purchased last year, and I’ll probably read that ebook before I read the paperbacks.

    Book format has nothing to do with me reading less. Becoming a writer has everything to do with it. Before I became a writer, work had everything to do with reading less.

    I read 1-3 books OR binge watch something as a reward/vacation after getting a new release out, and then I get back to work on writing the next book.

  3. Article lede:
    Why I’m Putting Ebooks on the Shelf for 2016
    8 Powerful Reasons I’m Going Back to Paper—for Now

    Article last sentences:
    I’m not giving up on ebooks. I will continue to use ebooks when I travel. They are much more convenient than carrying around physical books.

    But for most of my reading in 2016, I’m sticking with physical books.

    Color me confused. He’s going back to paper except when he’s not going back to paper. Okay.

  4. Sorry, my kindle is easier to carry with me than most books, and it currently is over a hundred books in one. Was reading it yesterday in fact.

    The only way an ebook can cause ‘Retention and Comprehension’ issues is if the reader allows it (like getting bored and checking their mail.) I haven’t seen any issues — but I do use a kindle with the wireless off, so no ‘beep — something else!’ issues …

  5. This puts me in mind of one of those posts to some forum or Facebook community where someone doesn’t just quietly unsubscribe, but feels the need to loudly announce their unsubscription, hence implying (or sometimes outright declaring) that everyone who is remaining subscribed is a doody-head.

    It also reminds me of what Jesus said about people praying. If you pray out loud on the street corner so everyone can hear you, you’re not actually praying to be heard by God, you’re praying to be heard by everybody else.

    If the guy wants to stop reading e-books, fine. More power to him, and I hope he doesn’t let the screen door hit his butt on the way out. When you follow that decision up with a diatribe explaining why e-books suck, you’re getting into “praying out loud” territory.

    • What’s odd is that at the end of the article he specifically says he is NOT giving up on e-books, for 2016 or any other year. He’s “mostly” (whatever that might mean) going back to paper for this year.

      • I’m not sure what is confusing you about the statement, it seems clear to me … maybe it is the lack of one word where he means “He is not (completely) giving up on ebooks” i.e. he’ll still have ebooks for when he travels, but for day to day stuff around the house, the bulk of his reading, he’ll read paper books.

        Doesn’t seem confusing or contradictory to me at all, unless you assume it is all or nothing.

        • @PS

          It contradicts with the title. I might be a special case, but when I read someone is putting something “on the shelf”, I take that to mean they’re putting it away and won’t be using it for an extended period of time.

      • My take on Hiatt: — Mostly Harmless.

    • Or game community forums where people feel the need to make a huge deal of it when they intend to stop playing the game. (Often to be back again within weeks or months anyway.)

      As in such threads, the proper response to this article is:

      ok, can I haz your stuff?


    • Good analogy, Chris. I’m a physical book lover that has a Kindle Paperwhite and it has become a part of my reading life. I like paperbacks and eBooks equally.

    • I particularly like the nickname for this. It’s “flouncing”.

  6. My experience is just the opposite. Maybe that’s because I read ebooks using an eInk reader rather than a tablet or smartphone most of the time while it appears he doesn’t. Many of his complaints, I have too when reading on a tablet, but don’t on an ereader.

    Only his #7 (ebooks are harder to navigate) struck me as consistent with my experience. But even that isn’t totally true. You just approach it differently. Instead of thumbing back a forth like with a paper book, if I’m looking for something specific I’ll search on a keyword instead of flipping pages.

    In the meantime, were it not for ebooks, I would have been reading less due to deteriorating eyesight. Ebooks came along at exactly the right time for me.

    I guess everyone’s experience is different. 🙂

    • Hyatt is a non-fiction writer and I think he’s also a non-fiction reader. So I understand about the “hard to navigate” problem. With fiction, there usually isn’t much going back and forth, just starting at “once upon a time” and reading straight through to “they lived happily ever after.”

      Here’s a thought. I think everyone should read the format they like best.

    • Text-to-speech on the old keyboard Kindle and now the Fire is essential to me. My eyes are not holding up anymore. I still read non-fiction in print form for work and for maps, note-taking, etc. but at the end of the day its a pleasure to relax and listen to fiction works or to listen to the voice as I read along with my eyes if retention is an issue. I am also having more trouble holding large books due to arthritis in my hands.

  7. Why do people feel it necessary to announce these things? Just stop reading on a device. I don’t care about how you run your life.

    • Because they’ll get more money if you buy their book rather than their ebook?

      I think they think they’re making a ‘statement’. To me the statement seems to be: ‘me wants to hide head in sand about ebooks’.

      Oh, a ‘hint’ about why he may want to press books rather than ebook is in his ‘about me’ bit:

      “I am the author of the New York Times bestseller, Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World. It is also a Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and Amazon bestseller.

      I am the founder and CEO of Intentional Leadership, an online leadership development company. We help overwhelmed high achievers get the clarity, confidence, and tools they need to win at work and succeed at life.”

      So he has a vested interest in trying to tell others what they should be thinking …

    • Ego?
      Facebook culture?
      I have a horde of cousins who use Facebook to stay in contact which by itself is great since we’re scattered all over after growing up close by.
      But, seriously, announcing every time they go shopping or wake up hung over?

      One bit of modern slang I thoroughly approve of: TMI.

    • I’m guessing like many of us, he blogs whatever he’s interested in writing for whoever happens to be interested. A lot of people don’t care what I do for reading/writing/organizing my life, but on my journal, I have readers that do.

  8. It ain’t the delivery system; it’s the content.

  9. I agree somewhat on the out of sight, out of mind and the navigation. Though I find losing track of where I was in paper books(never can remember to bookmark) can’t happen in eBooks.

    My question is when did Michael Kozlowski become cool to quote again?

  10. Even if I wanted to give up ebooks — why? — I could not. I bought several books recently that I needed for research. Only one was on Kindle, the others are dead-tree-only.

    I eagerly opened them. And promptly wished I could pull a Raymond Reddington on the publishers: the text was teeny! I would need a bloody magnifying glass to read the print. I’ve accepted that I will need to buy a magnifying glass if I’m going to get anything out of those books.

    But I vow to never again buy a history book or any other book unless it’s on Kindle. I will either get it from the library or not at all. I’ll buy a hand-scanner so I won’t have to care about notes. If anything, the history books are pushing me to start considering tablets, just for the maps and photos.

    I’m glad this ostentatious fellow has made the choice that makes him happy. Or whatever it makes him; I only skimmed it. But join his dead-tree-is-best club? Yeah, I can’t accept that invitation: I hear they won’t let just anybody have solitary confinement in prison 🙂

    • Maps, referring back and forth to sections, and annotations are why I prefer dead-tree for non-fiction and research. Very rarely will I get a research book for fiction as an e-version, because then I have to take pages of notes and then not misplace them in my non-fiction research material. I learned the hard way with WWI research. Trying to find the maps, many of which are junked on the Kindle (pssst, publisher, triple check image formatting, OK?) gave me headaches.

      TL;DR – e-books for fiction are great, e-books for research not so great.

      • Research is definitely a special case and one should use what is best for whatever task is to be accomplished.

        Compared to the codex, e-reader tech is very young but in the near future e-devices will make large inroads in the non ficiton space.

        You mentioned maps being junked on the kindle, which is the fault of the publisher not the device. But imagine being able to save different maps and assign them a keyword for later recall. Also the ability to pinch and zoom and manipulate data.

        • I’d be thrilled if e-books with maps were formatted so each time the map is referred to, a hot link back to that figure or illustration would be included, as is often done with footnotes.

          But I’m so old school that I’m probably dinosaur school when it comes to how I read.

          • They have us between a rock and a hard place: In neither format will the publishers do right by us. I know the e-reader /tablets have limitations, but the publishers don’t have to aggravate those limitations with poor image formatting like the maps you mentioned.

            I fervently wish that people who read books had input into the design of the books and the tablets.

  11. There are exactly two universal reasons to prefer pbooks over ebooks:

    – to resell after reading
    – to use as decoration

    Every other reason is strictly a matter of personal taste at best and total baloney at worst.

    And physicality? Seriously? Try moving cross country with 5000 books in 150 boxes in tow.

    Physicality? Might as well wax eloquent about the smell of rotting dead tree pulp while you’re at it.

    • I rarely buy print books these days,but I still prefer them (as others pointed out) for a book I know I will want to highlight, notate, flips back and forth a lot. I have more than 2 dozen print Bibles and I have several ebook Bibles, and for studying, the print wins. It’s very, very awkward to navigate around the books in a Bible in ebook version. That problem has not been solved to my satisfaction, and may never be solved to a sufficient extent. I still prefer the Kindle for my purse (ever tried to stuff a study Bible, 2K pages, in a purse?) for on the go/waiting-room reading. But for serious study, personally, I think print wins.

      For fiction and most non-fiction, I Like ebooks fine (image charts tend to look crappy on phones and Kindles, too tiny). For poetry, I still prefer aesthetic formatting in print, but I buy more on Kindle when available. (Many poetry books I”ve wanted haven’t been available in ebook format.)

  12. PG, just to let you know, the “edit” function didn’t come up after the comment posted. My booboos must stand. :-/

  13. Donated 8,000 paper books to the library last year. Got tired of trying to find room to store them all. I read on my iPad now. It there isn’t an ebook version I won’t read it.

    My son, who was reading a Percy Jackson book in paper, came to me and asked me to by the kindle version as it found it too hard to read the paper book.

    I’m reading a lot more books now and I don’t have the problem of what to do with the flipping thing when I’m done reading it. Needless to say, my experience is much different than that of the article author.

  14. He takes notes when he reads? “Extensive notes”? Um… why?

    I read books to enjoy them. About the only time I need to use the Kindle’s built-in software is if I come across a word I don’t know. I can highlight it now and get it defined. Woo! Saves me at least a minute or two by not having to go to the computer and google it, or grab the dictionary out of the office.

    • Is it so strange to take notes while reading?

      • For most people it would break immersion.
        So if you’re reading for pleasure, yes, it would be odd.

        If you read for research or are editing, different, ahem, story…

  15. “It was easy to buy nearly 90 percent more books than I read because I forgot what I’d already had in the hopper.” I can attest that I have many books in my Kindle, which I don’t know I have. But what is more significant for an Indie Author is the above statement and why giving away free eBooks does not work. If it’s free it’s easy to drop it in your Kindle for future reading, and never remember having it. Even the permafree eBooks, which I have one currently, is giving me cause to reconsider ever giving away free eBooks (with some exceptions.) The follow on sells of the rest of my series has not materialized.

    • BookScream picked up my three-day-free-going out of Kindle Select sale at the end of December 2014. Two thousand downloads. A bare handful of follow-up sales.

      Did a BookBub ad last week, priced book one at 99 cents. Over 500 sales. Already quadrupled the follow-up sales and am waiting to see how the next few weeks go. A friend in publishing said to expect about 10-20% of the sales total on books 2 and 3 in the series. I hope that’s WAY low, but I won’t know for a while yet.

  16. A Disgusted Reader

    He’s a ‘voracious’ reader who manages a book a week, and sometimes more? Bzzzzzt! Wrong answer! He reads like a supermodel eats.

    • This.

      I am a romance reader. I can usually knock down a 300-400 page novel in 8-10 hours. I’ve knocked down Peter F. Hamilton novels (600+ pages) in two days.

      A book a week is pedestrian.

    • My reading only increased once I switched to ebooks. E-ink is great. And at 2 to 3 books a week I don’t have a comprehension problem.

  17. If blaming e-books for his lack of reading works for him… so be it.

  18. Well, who wouldn’t listen to a man who uses Michael Kozlowski as an expert?

    • Smart Debut Author

      *snicker* 🙂


      Just picture Michael K. rocking greasepaint, a rainbow wig, and big floppy shoes.

      It fits, doesn’t it? 😀

  19. Smart Debut Author

    “Why I’m Putting Ebooks on the Shelf for 2016”
    “(8 Powerful Reasons I’m Going Back to Paper—for Now)”

    What Michael Hyatt means is:

    “Why I want YOU to put Ebooks on the Shelf for 2016”
    “(because it seems my $9.99 ebook edition of my book “Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World” isn’t getting noticed in a noisy ebook world… it’s only selling 2-3 copies a day. 🙁
    It seems the old-school marketing skills that I humble-brag about in my book are far more applicable when it comes to pimping the $13.86 hardcover edition of the same book.)”

    Truth in advertising.

    You’re welcome. 🙂

  20. I’ve never seen statistics on this, but here’s why I think more people are going back to print: because they stopped reading on their mild easy-on-the-eyes Kindles and began reading on their backlighted tablets and phones. I read far more on my plain old Kindle than I do on my newer tablets. I love e-books, but find I don’t read as many on my phone or tablet as I did with my first generation Kindle. And I know it’s because of the lighting.

    • Mileage varies. I hate reading on my early generation Kindle – black text on medium grey background, a horrible combination. I can read smaller text more clearly on my ancient iPhone 4, and I have never had any trouble with eyestrain on account of it.

    • Interesting. I find the backlit versions much easier than the old Kindle.

    • Your device preference may have a lot to do with what kind of ambient light is around when you’re reading. I tend to get headaches in bright light, so I keep my place dimly lit. I read at home using a tablet in night mode, with white text on a black screen. This is a lot easier on my eyes than reading paper or E-ink in bright lighting. Away from home, in normal lighting, I use an E-ink reader.

      • I do all my reading on my phone, and I do keep the light dim. I just wondered if others think to change the lighting, or subconsciously think print is better. 🙂

  21. God Bless the free market, for it lets you all choose what I don’t.

  22. I read both. I plan to continue to read both. Must we always have these either-or conversations?

  23. 2015 was the first year in which I bought zero paper books. I read about sixty books on my Kindle Fire (below average for me, but I’ve been spending too much time writing to read at my previous rates) and didn’t find any of the problems mentioned in the article. In fact, the few times I read hardcovers (from my per-existing collection) I found myself missing the Kindle’s ability to change text size.

    I don’t see myself buying any more print books this year, either. Even if they are the same price of an ebook (although in that case I’ll probably buy neither version).

  24. Interesting. I find the opposite. I read SO MANY books on my phone and my kindle. Technology has definitely upped the amount I read–because it’s always available now.

  25. I read far more on my Kindle and Kindle app. I read a great deal in paper, but it’s even easier to read on the ereader. If this guy wants to switch to mostly print, have at it.

    I just got rid of a metric ton (or so it seemed) of books. I have my book collection scaled back to something manageable. I like having more space in my home, and less clutter as the books reproduce and multiply and spill out of their designated areas. I’d love to have a library in my home, but that’s not feasible.

  26. I guess he had to write something to keep himself relevant.

    Personally, I prefer my nonfiction craft books — both writing and actual crafts (sewing, sculpting, reference books) — in print form. But for general reading I love my Kindle. It’s easy on these old eyes, easy for my arthritic/carpal tunnel-afflicted hands to hold, convenient to grab and go.

    I’m a voracious reader (mostly SF and horror) and having the Kindle allows me to easily read my usual two to five books a week. I may not know exactly what I have stored on the device, but it’s a simple matter to scroll back and look.

  27. My issue was that bought 106 books, and only read 12. Assuming he only bought paper books (because he’d be hypocritical to have bought ebooks, right?), at an average cost of $13.86 (the price of his book), that’s over $1200 on books he hasn’t read yet, and is unlikely to read this decade at his current rate of 12 books per year.

    I can’t justify that kind of money on books I plan to read immediately, let alone books that are just going to take up space. And I don’t have room for 100 more books in the house.

  28. I’m reading more in print because of inflated ebook prices on some publishers’ backlist titles make me go to a used book every time. Hope I won’t get someone screaming at me in capital letters now.

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