Have the attention span of a goldfish? Here’s how to read long things (including books & papers)

  1. work through material quickly, by speeding it up to the maximum rate I can absorb;
  2. mostly avoid distractions;
  3. get exercise, light and sun where I’d otherwise be stuck sitting indoors, and;
  4. avoid the RSI, hand, or neck pain that comes from using a phone/laptop for long periods.

Online articles (the easy one)

Books that aren’t on Audible

  1. Get an e-book version of the book. Sometimes you can buy these from the publisher, which you should do if you can. If not, there’s a website that allows you to download an e-book version of almost any title for free.
  2. Convert that e-book to a .txt file using this website (easy), or PanDoc (a bit technical).
  3. Create a new Google Document.
  4. Copy in up to 24,200 words of the book at a time — any longer than that and Pocket will disable text-to-voice. This is roughly a 1h 45m increment. Give it a title like [Book name part 1].
  5. Go to File → ‘Publish to the web’, and publish the Google Doc so that Pocket can see it.
  6. Load up the newly published page and click ‘Save to Pocket’ using that Pocket extension.
  7. Bring up the article on your phone. Now Pocket can read it to you just like any other article.
  8. Un-publish the Google Doc.
  9. Go back to step 3 and create a second and third Doc, if your book is longer than 24,200 words long.

Academic papers

Listening to an academic paper in Pocket
  • Open the PDF in Microsoft Word and try to copy it out.
  • Try pdf2doc.com or pdf2go.com
  • Use Adobe Reader to export it to doc, docx, or rtf — this feature will require a $2/month subscription to use though.
  • Using the Linux command line:
    Use the command pdftotext from the poppler-utils package
    pdftotext input.pdf output.txt
  • Use Calibre ebook software to convert it to a text format (free), or PDFpenpro for MacOS (not free).
  • If your PDF is a scanned image rather than text, you would need to use an OCR service, though honestly that’s rarely worth the time cost.

What to listen on

Bottom line

 by the author.

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