Reader Story: Reading Paperless Books

Reader Story: Reading Paperless Books

There’s an active Facebook group called Embracing a Paper-free Lifestyle (I should contribute there more), and a post by awesome DocumentSnap reader David Whitehead that intrigued me:

A consequence of avoiding paper – when I moved to Switzerland I had 3,793 books (I had to have an audit list). Used Kindle for many years and Evernote (for PDF books). Now, I have done a major clear out of old books and have less than a hundred. Just keeping those I cannot get electronically. Saves loads of space – even if my iPad is now a little heavier with the 3000+ books on it.

I decided to ask David more about his project and how having his books in digital form has been going:

1. What made you decide to clear out your old books?

Realised I had rarely used many paper books after reading with e-books. Redecorated the study and then thought about the space needed for the books on restoring the book cases. Also noticed that many books had not been used for over a year or many more in some cases.

2. Are they mainly fiction books or non-fiction?

Mixture of both. My main focus has been on non-fiction. Probably half of the books I brought with me to Switzerland were fiction. These I have not replaced. Now have just over 2,000 on Kindle

3. Did you chop and scan the books, send them for scanning, or just re-purchase them in electronic format?

I did scan a few short books not available as e-books using a ScanSnap iX500. Mostly I repurchased or searched for PDF copies. One important thing for me was using only one service – Kindle and not mixing with iBooks or other options.

4. What has been the biggest benefit of making your books digital?

Fast search. Also, central storing of notes and easy access to these. Access to all the books while travelling or doing lectures as been very helpful. In Kindle I use the categories to sort all my e-books.

5. What do you primarily use to read your books electronically?

Kindle app on iPad (95% of time) and a Kindle Paperwhite. Also, have a Kindle Fire and use the Kindle web reading app occasionally.

6. Is there anything you miss about reading on paper?

Not for fiction. For non-fiction I sometimes miss the ability to move very fast between sections.

7. Any final thoughts or tips about going digital with your books?

I’m watching the research on retention from using e-books with interest. My own view is there is a small reduction compared to paper.

As a speed reader I find the physical act of swiping on e-books more effective than turning a page which can slow a speed reader.

Thanks so much David! For me (not surprisingly) there has been a trend to more digital books. How about you? Are you a paperless book reader, or or do you still like that paper in your hand?

About the Author

Brooks Duncan helps individuals and small businesses go paperless. He's been an accountant, a software developer, a manager in a very large corporation, and has run DocumentSnap since 2008. You can find Brooks on Twitter at @documentsnap or @brooksduncan. Thanks for stopping by.

Leave a Reply 6 comments

Anton - August 21, 2015 Reply

“Mostly I repurchached…”.

Repurchasing 2000 books costs probably about €20.000. Nice article, but for most people this workflow is just not the way to go.

tom - June 24, 2015 Reply

We are about ½ the way through scanning my books in with the iX500. We have a friend cut the bindings off, then run them through the scanner.

I would guess that between scanning and OCR recognition, it takes about 30 minutes per book. The longest time is the OCR conversation as my ol’ Mac-mini is extremely slow.

I read on both my ipad and on the mac. Although I have discovered that reading pdf’s on both systems is much superior with the latest acrobat.

On the ipad, I can “zoom” to a size that fits perfectly, then simply scroll as I read. In ibooks on the mac, each new page went back to the small size.

With the acrobat reader DC, it keeps my reading between the mac and the ipad synchronized. Something that apple seems to refuse to do.

I am using Calibre ( as the library. It works so much better than ibooks on the mac!

Jane - June 10, 2015 Reply

I almost never buy paper copies of fiction any more. Either the iBooks or Kindle version on my iPad is my fiction reader of choice. However, for non-fiction books that I think I’ll want to keep permanently in my library, I buy hard copy. Some non-fiction that I think will be “read once and toss” goes on to the iPad also.

Karen - May 28, 2015 Reply

I’m a big book person and would NEVER have guessed I’d be one to go digital in this particular area. I was a literature major, once an editor, and now work in IT on website front-ends and content. So I have lots and lots of books, including technical / software books. I have always preferred reading “real” books and generally looked down on ebooks.

But after packing, lugging, and repacking many heavy boxes in recent moves, I’ve admitted to myself that I have WAAAAY TOO MANY BOOKS. I put a moratorium on buying new books and have been reading a lot more on Kindle (the iPad app has also emerged as my favorite so far).

Kindle and iBooks stores are also great for sending a “sample” to the app. I use this feature often; most of the time, this satisfies my initial urge to purchase, and I don’t feel a later need to own the entire book. (Or if I do, I know I will use/read it.)

I still have way too many books, but am looking to pare down even more over the next several years, and to rely mostly on digital for all new books. This story was very inspiring — thanks!

    Brooks Duncan - May 28, 2015 Reply

    It’s amazing how a move can push one over the edge as far as going paperless is concerned!

TucsonMatt - May 27, 2015 Reply

I very rarely buy dead tree books anymore. I have the Kindle app on my phone, (OnePlus One w/ the 5.5″ HD screen) and a Kindle Paperwhite. I do most of my reading on the Paperwhite. I have actually passed on purchasing books that don’t come in Kindle format!

My main gripe is the fact that many Kindle books cost nearly as much as the dead tree version. It galls me that removing paper cost, printing costs, and shipping costs does little or nothing to lower the cost of the ebook. I seriously doubt the publisher is turning around and giving the authors a big chunk of the money they are saving!

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