Technology Has Changed… Self-Help Advice Should Follow

If you’re familiar with old school self-help authors (90s and earlier) you’ll hear the usual (and overused) advice, ‘Read books.’ Being an avid book reader I actually support that kind of advice.

But times have changed. Besides books there are lots of learning materials out there. Blogs, youtube videos, podcasts, online courses, etc. We’re not limited to reading books anymore.

If you’re a child of the internet like me, you probably already know all of those stuff and more. So why I am stating the obvious you may ask?

The reason is I want to change the belief that a person can only get quality learning through books. Other mediums are just as effective (or more).

For example, I learn better technical materials watching video tutorials compared to books. While some people like to learn from podcasts while driving or commuting. To each to his own.

So the next time someone asks, “How many books have you read this year?” or “What book are you currently reading?” You can answer with, “I just watched this awesome video on making ice-cream last week,” or “I listened to Engineer Bob’s podcast yesterday.”

That person might give you a weird look, but what’s important is you have learned something, the mode of teaching is a lot less relevant.

Unread Books (and Ebooks)

I own more than 500 books and ebooks, but I’ve only read a portion of my collection. Most of them are non-fiction by the way.

I’m quite good at rationalizing to myself why I need to buy a book, even though I already own a similar or better book in my library.

Here, I’m going to list the reasons why I haven’t yet read (or stopped reading) the rest of my books:

  1. I buy books (and ebooks) a lot faster than I can read them. In average it takes me 3-7 days to read a book, depending on the number of pages it has.
  2. I stopped reading because the book is full of fluff (unnecessary filler words) or doesn’t get to the point.
  3. The author said something I find offensive so I discontinued reading.
  4. The author oversells his/her other books or courses. It’s okay to advertise, but not too much.
  5. I figured out that I already know what’s mentioned in the book; reading it will be somewhat of a waste of time.
  6. What is contained in the book is not in alignment with my current beliefs. They say we should read material that contradicts what we know, but sometimes my bullshit detector gets really high while reading a book I don’t agree with.
  7. I  started reading another book and I become really engaged; in effect, I forgot about the other book completely.
  8. I became busy at work or other projects.
  9. I lend or sometimes give away books. Hey, it’s nice to share knowledge.
  10. When reading books I somewhat read by chapter or section every day, making it a habit. If I skip a day or two, it becomes easy to stop reading a book altogether.
  11. Some of them are just reference books and are not to be meant to be read completely (by an average person, that is).

There you have it. My reasons (or excuses) why I still haven’t read a lot of my books.

Lately, though, I’ve been reading ebooks exclusively, and I’ve discovered something called Stealth reading. 

Stealth reading basically is just reading whenever you have free time, like while commuting to and from work, waiting at a line, or while eating at a restaurant. It really contributes to my reading time a lot.

But even though I haven’t read a lot of my books, I don’t consider them a waste of money or space. They are my valued possessions. I feel I’m surrounded by knowledge when I see them.  🙂

A Free Source of Useful Information That Most People Don’t Realize Exists

If you’re an information addict like me who likes reading books, blogs, watching Youtube videos, etc. I’m going to teach you a useful source of information that you may or may not already know.

It has been staring us in the face all these years; you’ll be surprised once you know what it is. Ready?

Book reviews in Amazon or Goodreads.

Yes that’s it.

Want an example? Look here.

It’s a review of the book I Will Teach You to Be Rich by Ramit Sethi that is written by a smart gentleman.

I’m not sure about you, but I find that review very informative. It doesn’t mean, though, that I’m not interested anymore in reading the book. For all I know, reading reviews like that (which has a positive rating) makes me want to read the book.

So, what are you waiting for? Want to learn something today? Read a review of a book on a topic that you’re interested in. There’s a chance you’ll learn something new. Good luck reader!

When Reading Becomes a Form of Procrastination

Procrastination

I like to read, and I do it a lot. I read books, ebooks, and blogs. Recently, I asked myself a question. When does reading become another form of procrastination?

Some fluff (you can skip to next section if you want)


I heard someone saying, “How can reading be a form of procrastination? Reading is a worthwhile activity. It’s much better than watching TV and playing video games.”

I understand what you’re saying pal.

Teachers tell us to read. Self-help gurus also tell us to read. Even celebrities that don’t read but want to look good tell us to read.

“So, how come you said that reading is a form of procrastination?”

Life isn’t all about reading you know. Students go to school. Employees go to work. Parents take care of their kids. Animals eat or are eaten. Trees, well … grow.

Oh shoot! Am I rambling again? This post is starting to sound (or read) like those fluffy blogs that I don’t want to read even if someone pays me to read them.

It’s time to switch to no B.S. blogging mode.

When does reading become a form of procrastination? (Straight no B.S. answer.)


Procrastination is when we’re not doing what we’re supposed (or want) to do; we can be procrastinating without being idle, for example, when we do a lighter activity (such as reading) to substitute for a more difficult activity (such as [insert difficult activity here]).

Are you reading instead of writing blog posts? … yes? Then you’re procrastinating.

Are you reading instead of jogging outside? … yes? Then you’re procrastinating.

Are you reading instead of spending time with your kids? … yes? Then you’re also procrastinating.

5 step solution

  1. Realize that life isn’t all about reading.
  2. Limit your daily reading time (for example, two hours.)
  3. Read only what is necessary (or what you can’t resist).
  4. Make a todo list, including the task that you’re supposed to do.
  5. When the time comes to do the dreaded task — just do it.

Easy, isn’t it?

Blogger’s note


Writing can be a therapeutic tool (gosh, it sounds like that I need therapy). At first, I wasn’t sure if I’ll publish this post. It was supposed to serve as a reminder for myself; just in case I read too much again, ignoring other tasks.

But since other people may find it useful, even if it’s only one person (who knows it might be you), I decided to publish it publicly.

Photo credit: Danielle Scott from Flickr.

How to Write a Remarkable Book (or Ebook) from Someone Who Hasn’t Written One Yet

Write Better Books (simple)Spreadsheet example (simple)

If you’re an author, or an aspiring one, you want to write books that are remarkable, of course. But how do you write a remarkable book? The answer is by knowing what the readers want and don’t want.

Remarkable books defined

A simple way to find out if a book is remarkable or not is by the review it gets on book review sites like Amazon and Goodreads. It should get a total rating of 4 out of 5 stars or more.

Readers are what matters most, period. It may be harsh, but unless they give us their honest opinion, what friends and family tells us doesn’t count.

It’s like the parents who tell their son that he’s the greatest singer in the world. He might be good, but not good enough for stardom.

I’m all for positive reinforcement. But sometimes, the problem is by telling someone that he’s good — when in fact he’s quite the opposite — is that he might stop improving himself because he was led to believe that there’s no need for that anymore.

The problem with fake reviews

There is some controversy about some books getting fake reviews in able to achieve a higher ranking in book review sites. We will only discuss the issue here because those instances are rare.

If you are an avid reader (all serious writers are), you can tell most of the time if a review is fake or not. It’s hard to explain but it’s our gut-feeling that informs us if a review looks suspicious.

In addition, a more logical approach to tell if a book has fake reviews is by viewing the reviews (and its comments) with the lowest rating first. If the criticism isn’t written in derogatory way (e.g., attacking the author personally) then perhaps there’s some weight to it.

How to write a remarkable book (or at least a book that doesn’t suck)


You can probably figure out the process outlined below only by viewing the image above (titled: Spreadsheet example (simple)). Here’s the steps anyway:

  1. Prepare a spreadsheet or simple text file with two columns: Do’s and Don’ts.
  2. Know the genre of the book you’re writing: Suspense, Romance, Fantasy, etc.
  3. Go to review sites like Amazon and Goodreads, then search for books belonging to your chosen genre.
  4. Read the reviews, both good and bad.
  5. Write the reviews’ good points in the Do’s column. (e.g., memorable characters, good use of quotes, facts well-supported, etc.)
  6. Write the reviews’ bad points in the Don’ts column (e.g., confusing layout, boring and unessential characters, overuse of colors, etc.)
  7. Optional: If you encounter the same item multiple times, you may also want to put a number next to the item. For example: facts well-supported (5). Or, better yet add a separate column to make them sortable.
  8. While writing (or revising) your book, implement the Do’s and avoid the Don’ts. Also, if you have written numbers next to the Do’s and Don’ts, you can also prioritize them by frequency.

Write Better Books (detailed)Spreadsheet Example (with item frequency)

Concluding Thoughts

What I outlined above is just one way to know what readers want (and don’t want). If you have the opportunity to interview avid readers of a genre of books that may also do. Or, maybe you’re an author who has a blog, in which case you can ask your readers for feedback.

In the long run, it’s all about the readers and their opinion.

Is Your Writing Getting in the Way of Your Reading?

Read Write

Experts in the craft of writing says that to become a good writer, one must both read a lot, and write a lot. But what if your writing is getting in the way of your reading? (or the other way around) Can we make a compromise?

Reading and writing for me

Before I became a blogger (and writer), I was reading books at the rate of 2-3 books per month. Right now, though I still read books, I’ve realized that I’m now reading fewer books than before. The simple reason is I write (a lot) more now.

Though, I can cut-off other activities such as surfing the internet and playing video games, I simply won’t do that (for now). No matter what authors or educators tell us, life is not all about reading and writing — we got to experience life’s other joys, too.

That said, I owe a lot to reading, though. For all I know, if I haven’t read the books that I have read, I couldn’t have written more than half of the blog posts in this blog, simply because I wouldn’t have the ideas to begin with.

Ways to read more and write more

Reading is important, but so is writing.

Now, the question is, how can we have more time for reading and writing?

I can think of a few ways:

  1. Cut-out time spent on other activities.

    Ouch. Does that mean we need to cut back on leisure activities, such as playing games and going to parties?

    If we are really that serious about reading and writing, then I suppose we should make some sacrifices.

    The good part is it doesn’t need to be done daily. We could simply pick-out days of the week when we wouldn’t do other activities, aside from reading and writing. In my opinion, cutting three days a week is the bare minimum.

  2. Have writing days, and reading days.

    If you’re a blogger who blogs 3 times a week that means using your non-writing days as reading days.

    But, if you publish blog posts every day, there’s still a solution. That is, you can write 2-3 posts on some days, then publish those posts on separate days.

    Though, you need to pass up on this method if you prefer writing every day.

  3. Use idle time for reading or writing.

    For instance, if you commute to work, you can bring a book or pen-and-paper (or tablet) with you. In 10 minutes, you can write a paragraph, or read a few pages. It may not be much, but over time it will add-up.

    In my experience, reading is easier than writing on a public place — only because writing demands more energy and concentration from me, but that may not be the case for other people.

Those are 3 workarounds I can think of. No. 1 are for people that are serious and ready to make some changes; no. 2 are for people who like to organize their activities; and lastly, no. 3 are for busy people who want to make use of their time productively.

If you’re really hardcore you can implement both 1 and 3 simultaneously, just remember to take it lightly on some days, or else you’ll burn-out, and probably lose your enthusiasm for reading and writing, not good.

Summary

Reading and writing both takes time. If you like to do both, then you need to strike a balance. Either cut on other activities; write on some days, while reading on others; or make use of idle time, either for reading or writing.

Image credit: from Flickr by Ron Mader

3 Ideas for a Book-Game — What!?

Book-Game
Image from Flickr by Cory Doctorow

I like reading books — and playing video games too. I was thinking… What if we combine books and games into a single medium? Obviously, the book will be in digital form (ebook). And, what would it be called? A “Game-book”, maybe a “Book-game” as the title suggests, or how about “Interactive Literary Entertainment”.

Regardless of what this new media will be called — I have conceived some ideas on how it may be implemented. I’ve got to tell you that I’ve written this post without doing research on the net first — so the ideas I may come-up with — might be already implemented (or not).

Here are my ideas (in random order):

  1. Finish a level to unlock a page (or chapter) of the book.

    A game level is completed once a player accomplishes some goal — like reaching a finish line, collecting necessary items, or defeating an opponent, etc.

    What if the book is hidden in the game, and can only be unlocked — piece by piece by completing each level. Of course, once the game is completed — the whole book is already readable.

    A disadvantage of this idea is that the reader’s (or gamer’s) reading is slowed down because she has to complete another level in able to read the next page (or chapter). Though, a workaround is to complete the whole game first before reading the hidden book.

  2. A quest to find the missing pieces of the book.

    A game genre that would really fit with this idea are role playing games (RPG). RPGs are game where you control a hero, who may have companions or none, then you travel across lands, defeating enemies and collecting items (e.g., gold, weapons, armor, etc.) along the way.

    Aside from commons items, the hero will be collecting the pieces of the book as well. Optionally, the contents of the collected pieces may provide hints and clues to get further in the game.

    I actually recall playing RPGs in the past where you collect missing pieces of a manuscript, but sometimes they are just unreadable items, and are far from a complete book in length — spanning less than ten pages or so.

  3. Books inside a virtual world.

    In this type of game, the books are available in their complete form, unlike above. There are freely available books, and there are books that are either well hidden or can be obtained for a price, using money (or gold) obtained in the game to buy it.

    This can be implemented in an online world with multiple players — and some of those players can be authors. Authors that can make money by selling their books in that world. Whether the game money can be translated into real world money depends on the game system.

There you have it. While I was writing this post, I recall what some people say — that the reason kids these days don’t read books anymore is because they play too much video games. If that’s the case, then why not combine the two?

But let’s be realistic for a moment. If a person is only there to play the game, even if he unlocks the book (or assembles them), hey may not even bother reading it — on to next game.

You can’t really force people to do what they don’t want to do in the first place — unless you use force, which is not right and can induce resentment. How about rewards? Rewards can work — but often becomes ineffective after a while.

What can be done then? We could reinvent the game (or book) — the ideas above are my contribution to that cause. How about you? What are your ideas for combining the two (book and game)?