A woman staring at herself in a mirror.

Two Places At Once: Reading With Both Physical And EBooks

How to build a physical library without lugging around a heavy book.

Have you ever looked at Atlas Shrugged? It’s massive. The book is roughly 700,000 words which, put another way, is this article 700 times. If the cover was grey, you’d think it was a cinder block. It certainly weighs enough. Could you imagine traveling with that thing? Could you picture yourself going through the airport with that in your backpack? You’d be miserable.

I recently stumbled across a little hack that, for the avid readers out there, is probably nothing new. For those late to the party like myself though, I owe it to you to share what I’ve learned. It actually came about by accident. At the time, I was reading Atlas Shrugged. In fact, I still am. Did I mention how big that book is? I calculated just how long it would take me to finish it based on my reading speed and frequency: four months. Most books only take a couple weeks, but I digress…

Anyhow, I recently got a Kindle and wanted to test it out. I tried a book or two, but they weren’t a good fit so I returned them. I needed something though. In the coming days, I was scheduled to get a tattoo and, it being my first one, I thought bringing a book to read was the right move. Turns out, it wasn’t, and I’m happy I didn’t end up taking it. That said, it actually led me to an amazing opportunity.

*Note: See what I did to complete 52 books last year right here.


A woman with a book on her face.


Use them simultaneously

But let’s go back just a little in the story. To a time when I had not yet dropped the reading-while-tattooing idea and was desperately trying to find something for my Kindle. The appointment was looming, growing ever closer by the day. Meanwhile, I was actively listening to one book as an audiobook while reading a different book in its physical version – Atlas Shrugged. Adding a third book into the mix didn’t sound all that appealing. Especially because I didn’t intend to use the Kindle too much post-tattoo.

Then it dawned on me: why not just get Atlas Shrugged on my Kindle? I already had the physical version that I got for cheap at a local coffee shop. And I had gift cards to burn. So why not, right? My thinking was that, it’s such a massive book that I’ll be reading for months, why lug it everywhere when I don’t have to?

I figured that when I’m home, I could read the physical version. And when away, I could read the Kindle version. I could make reading while traveling more convenient without abandoning my aspirations of an in-home library. So I decided to try it out. And it went better than expected. Though I didn’t get a chance to show off how cool I was by reading while getting tattooed, I was able to test out the idea soon after.

On a trip a few weeks later, I brought my Kindle in lieu of the physical book. It was perfect. It didn’t wrinkle when it got wet and it didn’t fade in the sun. Nor did it break my wrists with its weight. How convenient! It’s not something I plan to do for every book – that quickly gets expensive – but for travel or reading away from home? It’s a game-changer.


Combine tech and traditional

Do you have dreams of a beautiful library in your house? Filled with shelf upon shelf of amazing books? Books that you want to stockpile in case of a Fahrenheit 451 scenario? Me too! But travel has always proved to be a challenge. Before starting any new book, I would first see if I had any trips coming up. If I did, I would often opt for a smaller book that would take up less space in my backpack. That’s now a problem of the past.1

Perhaps you’ve been as skeptical about EReaders as I have (audiobooks too for that matter). Well, you have nothing to fear and everything to gain. The experience is different than actually holding the book in your hands, but it’s infinitely more accessible. Now you can move about with significantly less weight while having the physical version to return to when you get home. And, better still, you have another book to add to your library once you’re finished reading it.

Technology and traditional books don’t have to be at odds with one another. Instead, you can utilize them both based on your preferences. Here’s how I manage things as of this writing:

  • Audiobooks: One book for doing activities (laundry, running, dishes, etc.)
  • Physical books: Another book for reading at home
  • EBooks: A digital version of that physical book for travel reading


A plane streaking across the black sky.


Build out your library

There’s one downside to my current system… and it’s a bit of a tangent. But it’s relevant, so I’ll mention it briefly. Regarding libraries, one problem that I’ve yet to solve is what to do with the audiobooks that I finish. Because I’d love to then buy the physical version for my shelf, but that feels like a half-truth. I didn’t technically read that physical book, just the audio version. Plus, that’s another expense that could add up quickly.

So in terms of the library, I’m only adding about half as many books to the shelf as I’m actually finishing. Which is a little frustrating and I’m open to ideas if you’ve come up with a way to resolve the matter. Until then, it remains undecided.

In your own life, consider how you can combine technology with traditional books to your benefit. Make traveling easier on yourself while still building out that beautiful library. Stockpile gift cards or check out Libby. On your next trip, leave the bulk at home and bring the digital version with you. It won’t be the same, but it will make your shoulders a lot less sore.


PS: Let me show you how to achieve your goals.


1. I’ve also heard that, when purchasing a book, you can get the Ebook and audiobook versions at the same time. From there, you can sync them. So you can listen on a run, then get home and pick up at that exact spot on your Reader. I haven’t tried it out yet, but I like the idea.

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