Get Smarter Faster: How to Hack Your Book List

Damian Wolfgram
Dec 24, 2016 · 4 min read
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Do you have a pile of books collecting dust on your nightstand? Are you too busy hustling to enjoy a good read? You’re in luck! I’m going to share a practical strategy for learning more in less time.

This post is part-1 of a 2-part series titled “How to hack your book list and your startup.” In this post, I make the case for why listening to books is preferable to reading books. In part 2, I share my favorite startup books.

I’ve always had a deep passion for learning. I credit my grandparents, who were teachers, with instilling in me a child-like curiosity for things, people, and the world around me. In my 20s I voraciously read every book I could get in my hands. In my 30s I’m voraciously listening to every Audible book I could download. How did this become? I realized that as my life gained speed, I have less time, and frankly a shorter attention span. If you feel like there isn’t enough time in a day to consume content, this is the post for you.

Audiobooks shine in those moments when you have the brain power, but can’t hold a book. Think: commuting, exercise, chores, waiting rooms, etc.

What I hear most often from people yet to listen to their first audiobook is that they get distracted too easily. In spite of this, what if it was still faster to listen to a book than to read a book? If we assume the empirical evidence referenced in this Quora conversation is accurate, that is, in absolute terms, reading a book is 50% faster than listening (you read at 300 WPM, and a narrator speaks at 150 WPM). Fun fact: Medium’s time to read algorithm is based on 275 WPM. Beyond the basic assumption that we can just read, read, and read without distraction, rereading passages, or tired eyes is that the comparison isn’t really apples-to-apples because it doesn’t account for all those little moments in your life when you can’t hold a book and/or don’t want to read a book. If one considers the start and end dates, the number of calendar days between books are much shorter when listening. This means that you can relieve yourself of the expectation of having to hold onto every word knowing that listening to it a second time is at least a break-even proposition.

In a busy life, the insight is knowing that you can listen two or three times over in the time that it would take to read the same book cover-to-cover.

Now, you might be saying “yeah, but the written word is more intimate.” I agree. Some longer, more involved tomes are still best served through the kinesthetic medium of holding a book and reading words. If you come from the book club world or identify as a purist, you might also be in the camp of “audiobooks are akin to cheating.” This recent article provides an analysis of the brain’s syntax and language processing, it concludes that the brain absorbs the information delivery in similar ways. Ultimately, you get to decide to the degree of the depth of your personal experience.

I’ve prefaced my startup book list with this lifehacking conversation because, for me at least, the nature and priority of reading startups books is very much about consuming the knowledge and feeling a sense of accomplishment. On that note, Audible’s genius product design tapped into people’s view that completing a book feels like an achievement by gamifying the audiobook listening experience with a myriad of satisfying metrics.

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My Audible Stats

Additionally, the beauty of using an Audible-like service is that they have an excellent return policy dubbed the Great Listen Guarantee. If you don’t like the book, you can return it! No frills! Try doing that with a book! No longer do you have the guilt of the book never finished. Can’t get through the first chapter? Don’t like it? Get a refund. Move on. Find something that brings you value.

I love lists! I recommend Amazon’s and Audible’s wish lists to track anything and everything you might want to read or listen to in the future. It‘s just easier to have it all in one place and near payment checkout.

If you’ve never read an audiobook, there is no better time than now to give it a try. In addition to speed, convenience, and time management, you’ll save your back from lugging a bunch of books, and you’ll get a stimulating auditory experience that can even lead to better listening skills. You can now sign up for Audible and get a 30-day free-trial that includes 2 free audiobook downloads. Happy listening!

Click here to read the part 2 of this series “A guide to my favorite startup books.”

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