Principles of Reading

Stack of BooksI came across an alarming statistic awhile back from Dan Miller that college graduates on average will spend more money on soft drinks than on post-graduate education.  Right then and there, I resolved that this would never be true of me.  I heard Dave Ramsey say that the average millionaire reads one non-fiction book a month.  So I committed to read two a month.  And I heard Charlie “Tremendous” Jones used to say that you’ll be the same person in five years that you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read.  So I decided I would never stop reading.

Mark Miller makes the claim the claim in his book Great Leaders Grow that every leader is a learner.  I can’t think of an easier way to learn than to read.  And after all, there’s no difference between someone who won’t read and someone who can’t read.

Reading has never been more convenient than it is today, but at the same time, we’ve never been busier as a society.  So let’s go back to the basics and review our reading options.

Traditional Hard Copy

This is the way modern societies have been used to reading for the last several hundred years.  Some of the benefits are that it’s familiar and comfortable.  Hard copy books are tangible things so they are easy to physically share with others.  Also, bookstores can be amazing places to hang out. A couple of downsides are that they are difficult to transport in bulk, difficult to reference quickly, and take either a trip to the store or a couple days’ wait by mail to acquire.  My favorite place to get hard copies is, which consistently has the lowest prices.  There are also plenty of book “recycling” networks, such as Paperback Swap, that allow you to trade in books you’ve read or don’t want to keep with other folks cheaply and easily.  Of course, the local library is always an available option as well.

E-book Soft Copy

What was an upstart technology a decade ago has quickly become mainstream with both e-book content and e-books software applications.  Now, the influx of smartphones and tablets have assured that e-books are here to stay.  Some of the benefits of e-books are instant delivery via wireless technology, ease of transportation (you can take your entire library with you wherever you go), ease of reference (you enter your own notes and keyword search anything), sync-ability (you can load the same titles on multiple devices and instantly sync each one) and relatively lower prices.  For authors, an added benefit is the ability to publish via e-book without the cost of publishing hard copy and therefore getting their content out on the market much easier.  The downsides for some people is the lack of nostalgia of holding an actual book while curling up by the fireplace and also some report weariness of looking at an electronic screen over an extended period of time (although reader technologies are getting better and better at this).   My favorite e-book software is Amazon’s Kindle Reading App, which is available on practically all technology devices.  There are also some libraries that loan out e-books from their website.


Zig Ziglar coined the phrase “automobile university” to refer to the ability to listen to books in the car while commuting to work or on a trip.  Did you know that if you have a 20 minute commute to work and listen to audiobooks, you will gain the time equivalent of a bachelors degree’s worth of information in just 2.5 years?   The benefits of audiobooks are that with mp3 devices, we can listen to them virtually anywhere at anytime (while commuting, at the gym, at home) and also that we can read while doing other things.  The downside is that they can be difficult to reference later (unless you make your own notes or record playback times) and they can sometimes be more expensive than print books or e-books.  My favorite audiobook site is, which allows members steep discounts via subscription.  Some libraries also loan out audiobooks both from their branches and websites.

So how is your reading going?  Which method do you prefer?  Which could you experiment with?  If you have only read hard copy books up to this point, ask your friends who use e-book readers or listen to audiobooks how they like them.  You might want to give it a try.  Depending on what you choose to read, it could be the best leadership decision you ever make!

In my next post, I’ll share with you my list of favorite leadership books and after that will share some strategies in deciding which book to read next.

Nathan Magnuson is a leadership consultant, coach, trainer and thought leader.  Receive his ebook Trusted Leadership Advisor by subscribing to his website or   follow him on Twitter.

Nathan Magnuson is a leadership consultant, coach, facilitator and author of the book Ignite Your Leadership Expertise. Click to download Nathan's free white paper: Nine Ways to Be the Boss Everyone Wants to Work For.

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5 thoughts on “Principles of Reading

  1. I have a Kindle device and I love it, but I recently downloaded Kindle for the Mac and I am not sure I will ever go back to hard copy. Now that said, I am getting older and I use a large flat screen TV for my computer monitor, making the type in a Kindle book seem much larger. I am not sure if I like the Kindle more because of the content or the ease of reading without eye fatigue. My daughters all make fun of me saying things like, “gee dad maybe you should get a ‘big’ monitor.”

    In addition, as a student I order my major text books on Kindle making it easy to bookmark, reference, search and cut and past quotes. Great technology, but I do miss sharing books with colleagues and friends. Once you buy a book on Kindle, you can only share it in conversation….maybe not a bad thing.

    John Maloney

  2. My biggest problem right now is that I have started 6 different books. One of them is one that you gave me. That makes it hard to finish any of them, but they’re all good. I am trying the Kindle thing, but on my iPhone it makes it a bit hard to bookmark and do notes. Maybe once I get my iPad (wishing) I will be a full convert.

  3. I got a Kindle reader several years ago after an unpleasant experience trying to take 100 books home with me from overseas. I didn’t end up sticking with the early technology, but have been using a Kindle app on my droid phone and I’m thinking a tablet will seal the deal for me too. I tend to like being in the middle of about 2-3 books at once, not 6 though!

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