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This is the tech hack that I used to read books faster

This author stumbled on a new trick that allowed him to finish more business books (and it’s not listening to audiobooks).

This is the tech hack that I used to read books faster
[Photo: Konstantin Dyadyun/Unsplash]

We all need to read more. Warren Buffett spends 80% of his day reading. Bill Gates reads a book a week. Reading is the only way to stand on the shoulders of the giants all around us. But 1,000 books get published every day. As a burned-out workforce, it’s challenging to find the time to read one book a week.

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As a business owner, I used to read voraciously. But with two young children and ballooning work demands, finding the time to read has become more and more difficult. For years now I’ve read a half a page a night while nodding off to sleep.

Why audiobooks didn’t work for me

I found audiobooks helpful, but there are problems. They cost more. You can do Audible, but then you have to read on their schedule or lose credits. Plus, once you buy one, you’re stuck listening and can’t switch to reading. Also, not all books come out on audio. Finally, the voice talent isn’t always “on it,” and for me, that disrupts the reading experience.

Then I stumbled on an iPhone trick that got me reading business books like crazy. It takes zero time and lets me toggle any e-book back and forth from print to audio. Now I’m reading three to five Kindle books and library books a week just for fun. In the process, I’ve gained valuable insights that catapulted my productivity to the moon.

Siri to the rescue

I get eight hours of screen time every workday, so when I need to read for work, I listen using text-to-speech. But something changed recently that made it a whole lot nicer. Siri’s voice got a lot easier to listen to with the past few updates. I liked it so much I tried it with a couple of Kindle books and digital library loans.

Now, I listen to books while I drive, run, eat lunch, and brush my teeth. It not only helps me learn, but also stops my mind windmill from churning out its usual negative background chatter, and replaces it with inspiration.

How to turn e-books into audiobooks

To do the text-to-speech trick on the iPhone, all you need to do is follow the steps below:

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1. Go to settings>general>accessibility>speech.
2. Turn on “speak screen.”
3. In your Kindle app, swipe down with two fingers to start Siri reading.

That’s it. You can speed up, slow down, and pause, just like with an audiobook. Siri will even turn the pages if you take these extra steps:

4. Click the little padlock on the lower right to stop the text from rotating.
5. Adjust the text size, so it’s not too small.
6. Leave your screen turned on.

I burned through my Kindle backlog the first month. Then I paired the trick with my library’s digital lending app to listen to many popular titles for free. Every time an article catches my eye, I save it to my iPhone’s reading list. Then when I’m out doing yard work or at the gym, I start Siri, and it reads the whole list without any fiddling on my part.

I use the voice trick at work, too. Recently I had to read 50 scholarly articles on burnout. Pretty dry. I sped Siri up, and it zipped through them, giving me the substance I needed. I also started having Siri read my work back to me when I’m out for walks or having lunch, which saves me massive chunks of editing time and makes my words more powerful.

Since I learned this trick, I’ve been devouring more business books and articles than I can count. I’ve learned a ton, and it’s effortless and a lot of fun. I canceled my Audible subscription too, and I’m back to loving reading and learning like I’m in a master’s program, without spending any extra time. One significant insight I picked up already got me saving 4% of my income. From another, I discovered that successful people don’t use to-do lists. Instead, they budget time like money, scheduling the steps to reach their goals. I tried it and “found” 15 additional hours a week.

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Now I use that extra time to work on my own projects. I’ve completed 30% of a passive-income project I’ve wanted to do for years. Those are just two of the many transformative ideas I’ve stumbled on since using Siri as a reading hack, and I probably wouldn’t have come across them if I still “didn’t have time to read.”

I’ve shared the hack with several friends. Most were stunned by it and use it all the time now. The one that doesn’t says he still finds Siri’s voice robotic. I feel his pain. But in time, I’m optimistic that we’re going to see improvements on that front. Audible, I think your days are numbered.


Tom Gerencer is a career expert at Zety.com, an ASJA journalist, and regular contributor to Boys’ Life and Scouting magazines.

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