Addicted to Downloading: Procrastinating with eBooks

Back when I was a Professional Organizer, usually the first thing I told my client was to pitch the organizing books – they were just taking up space and obviously not getting used. In today’s guest post Brad Leclerc of Cogniview looks at the clutter of ebooks. – Alex

If I offered you a free ebook right now, would you download it? Would you then actually find the time to read it, and maybe even put the information it contained to use?

Chances are pretty high that most of you answered “yes” to the first question, because really, who doesn’t like free ebooks, right? The second and third questions are the tricky bit. Some of you would skim through it, and a few would probably read the whole thing and make use of whatever tips or information it had to offer. The vast majority though, if statistics are to be trusted, would never bother reading it at all.

Notice I haven’t mentioned what this hypothetical ebook would be about. That’s because to a lot of people, it doesn’t seem to matter what the topic of an ebook is, or whether or not it would or wouldn’t be helpful or interesting to them before grabbing it up given the chance.

I tend to refer to that mentality as “PDF addiction”. The desire to acquire as many ebooks as possible, regardless of topic or personal usefulness. It’s such a common thing that there are always websites offering free ebooks to subscribers because they know that if nothing else, it will guarantee a pile of new subscribers JUST going for that ebook…whatever the topic. Some of the seedier marketers online actually count on people never reading an ebook they offer, and don’t take the time to put any effort into creating it in the first place, and just use it as subscriber bait.

That’s not to say that free ebooks aren’t useful, for their target audience they usually are, so long as it’s had some effort put into it, the issue is when people jump at the chance to get an ebook that they have no use for, or may not even read. Heck, the same is true of any type of book/movie/website/whatever…but I’ll stick with dealing with ebooks this time around, as they are far more commonly given away, or extremely cheap (though not always).

Ebooks can be a great source of information, but what use are they if you’re not going to actually read it and take action to use what you learn in your own life, whatever the topic?

This issue of downloading ebooks essentially to collect them, or just because they are available, doesn’t stop with free ebooks either. There are plenty of ebooks on sale, priced anywhere from a couple dollars, to hundreds. It is, however, far more likely that someone who paid for an ebook will actually read it, and if they find a useful tip, trick, idea, etc, take action to make use of it.

Psychologically this is pretty easy to understand. When you pay for something, you are less likely to want to think that you wasted the money, so you’re likely to read every last page, even if it’s far less useful to you than a free ebook that’s been siting in your download folder for weeks.

I don’t really think that has to be the case though, it just takes being a bit pickier about the sorts of ebooks you choose to spend your time (and maybe some money) on.

Before downloading any ebook, whether you have to buy it, or it’s being offered for free, you should always ask yourself “What am I hoping to get out of this?” and “Will I actually put this to good use?”. If you can think of at least one good reason that you have for reading it, and can make a promise to yourself to read it and take any needed action to put it’s potential advice to use IMMEDIATELY, then (and only then) should you get that ebook…even if it’s free. This is especially true when you have to sign up for something to get it. Whether it’s a website’s rss feed, a newsletter, whatever. If you aren’t interested enough in the site/newsletter/etc to subscribe without the lure of the free ebook, than whatever that ebook is about may not be that interesting to you either, since it’s probably about the same sort of things as the site.

Of course, hearing about a free ebook offer might just perk up your interest in a site/service that you haven’t looked into before, and it might turn out to be a great thing for you. I don’t mean to imply that letting yourself be lured in with a free ebook is a bad thing, just to be sure you actually WANT what’s being offered before you take action to accept it, no matter the price.

If you start taking the time to completely read every ebook you download, you may find yourself being more and more picky about the sorts of ebooks you want to read, and that’s a good thing. Be picky, and when you do download and read an ebook, it will be that much more satisfying that you’re taking action, and not just building up a pointless collection of random and mostly useless ebooks taking up precious space on your hard-drive

Trust me when I say that it feels much better to have a handful of ebooks that you’ve read and that have helped you take action to improve some aspect of your life, than to have hundreds of unread ebooks growing moldy on your hard drive. Much MUCH better.

Brad Leclerc is a writer for http://www.Cogniview.com the leading producer of PDF to excel conversion tools.

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26 thoughts on “Addicted to Downloading: Procrastinating with eBooks

  1. Dominique says:

    I guess that I am one of the addicted to PDF download person. Have loads of PDF rotting on my hard drive. Have resolved to opening up the files I download and erase them if they aren’t useful to me.

    Dominique´s last blog post..Wordless Wednesday- Poster Boy Roy

  2. Great post…funny, but I just wrote a similar piece. As someone that buys and sells ebooks, as well as offers free downloads on my website, I can see the situation from all sides. This is the problem with information being fast and free, there is just too much! I try to make a habit of reading everything, but it does take time.

    Nathan Hangen´s last blog post..Cows and Mastodons

  3. Dan Harrison says:

    I personally hate PDF eBooks where the eBook has been written as one of these “secret tips” or “rules for success” type things. I feel that the writer has something to hide by not releasing the information on a blog as an article (or series of articles).

    And that particularly applies if they’re giving it away free, but want your email address to give it to you… just so that they can get your email address and spam you daily until you buy something from them.

    Nasty things, urgh!

    (eBooks that are just electronic versions of manuals or books are fine). I own a total of 3 eBooks, and I have just deleted them because they are pointless.

    Dan

    Dan Harrison´s last blog post..Guest Blogging – Green Blogs that Want Eco-Friendly Guest Posts

  4. My name is Janet and I am an infomaniac.

    I realized several months ago that I was addicted to collecting free information. Notice I said “collecting” and not “reading?” Since I realized that, I’ve stopped downloading them, or at least I’ve become much more selective. Unless I think it’s going to help me with something I’m working on at that moment, I just pretend I didn’t see it.

    Janet Barclay´s last blog post..Blog Hopping & Podcast VA visits Janet Barclay on US Tax Day to Spread Word about Upcoming VA Convention

  5. Andy Hayes says:

    Interesting – I’d never heard of this. And I don’t have a PDF addiction.

    Now if real books were free, I’d probably horde them… 🙂

  6. Andy, I live in an apartment building and many tenants leave the books they’ve finished in the laundry room for others to enjoy, so in a way, for me they are free. Don’t even ask me how many of those I have, waiting to be read!

    Janet Barclay´s last blog post..Blog Hopping & Podcast VA visits Janet Barclay on US Tax Day to Spread Word about Upcoming VA Convention

  7. Tina Chase says:

    Hi I’m Tina and I am addicted to information. I love reading. I decided to downsize and got rid of a lot of a lot of books and cancelled all my magazine subscriptions. Now I horde electronic information; emails, newsletters, tip sheets, RSS, web urls, and yes, even eBooks. I try to organize them into folders, but now many are in my “To Review” folder. How sad is that? I keep “meaning” to read them…. LOL
    I think I will have to try and set aside a certain time each week to go through them, see if they are still useful/relevant and stop myself from downloading new ones (okay less new ones)!

  8. I never download e-books, unless I plan on reading them right there and then .. which is rarely. I never subscribe to newpapers because I know I will never read them. And I try to keep my magazine subscriptions down to what I can read.

    The mags do pile up a bit, but they are actually my lounging on the boat reading, so by the end of the Summer I’m all caught up.

    Real books? Um … is it okay to have 3 or 4 of those scattered about the house partially read? I love real books. Real books are my friends. It makes me happy having one or two per room 🙂

    Urban Panther´s last blog post..Feeling a bit sluggish

  9. I keep a TODO file on my desktop – if I download an ebook and don’t have time to read it, I jot myself down a note to remind me at a later date.

    It’s a primitive method but does help…..

    Barbara Ling, Virtual Coach´s last blog post..Offer PREMIUM Content via these 7 WordPress Membership Plugins/Software Goodies

  10. Alex Fayle says:

    @Dominique
    I too have a bunch of ebooks I’ve never really looked at, but then many times I’ve been doing some research and suddenly remembered an ebook I have and go find the tidbit of information there. If I’ve paid for the ebook I read it, but if it’s free, I generally don’t until something triggers me to. For that reason I’ve stopped downloading free books.

    @Nathan
    I think I would read more ebooks if I had one of those portable ereaders. I hate reading on my computer. Since I live outside the US and can’t get a Kindle, my dream is an iLiad from iRex but coming in a 500 or 600 euros depending on the model, it means I simply don’t read ebooks for now.

    @Dan
    I’m with you – I keep my own ebooks as practical as possible, full of direct tips or lots of worksheets. I see ebooks as things to aid action, not as goals in themselves.

    @Janet
    Good for you for recognizing your information-addiction. And even better that you’ve taken steps to curb it!

    @Andy
    I used to have LOTS of books, but since moving I’ve cut back to one shelf. Unfortunately it also means that I’ve cut back significantly on my reading, but as soon as I can budget in an ereader, I’ll start reading and hoarding ebooks. Fortunately they don’t take up much space. 😉

    @Tina
    I include in my day time to read emails, blogs and when I’m researching something, ebooks. So often we think of reading as non-work, but it is and sometimes very tiring work. Good luck scheduling in your reading time!

    @UP
    You have the space for the books and we are a reading family, so you’re forgiven your scattered book habit. Each book/space requires a different mood, so I totally understand it.

    @Barbara
    That’s a great system – the primitive ones are often those that function the best.

  11. Dan Harrison says:

    That’s a mega reply comment Alex!

    eBooks definitely have their place. Worksheets are a great example of where PDF works. Nice to know that someone has the right idea about eBooks.

    Dan

    Dan Harrison´s last blog post..Guest Blogging – Green Blogs that Want Eco-Friendly Guest Posts

  12. Karen Swim says:

    Brad, excellent advice. The accessibility of the digital download can lead us to be less discerning than when browsing through a bookstore. At one time I downloaded everything and read half of it. These days, I skip most things and only download what I am going to read at that moment. My hard drive thanks me but the other benefit is the feeling of freedom. Clutter, even the digital kind can suck the energy out of your space making you feel weighted down. Viewing a folder filled with unread books can weigh on you psychologically. Finally, less downloads, less email and that is a very good thing!

    Karen Swim´s last blog post..Eyes Half Mast, Mug Half Full – I am There

  13. Karen, I totally agree with you. If yoy have 1-2 ebooks, it’s no big deal to just read them. But if you have more, how do you decide which one to read first/next? So they just keep accumulating and reading feels like a chore instead of a learning adventure.

    Janet Barclay´s last blog post..Blog Hopping & Podcast VA visits Janet Barclay on US Tax Day to Spread Word about Upcoming VA Convention

  14. Brad Leclerc says:

    @ All you infomaniacs out there,

    I feel ya. I’ve been hooked on learning anything I can since I was little, I’m currently totally obsessed with http://academicearth.org/, and have a LARGE pile of books (in both “dead tree” and digital editions) waiting to be read. I’ve been trying to take my own advice and be pickier with the sorts of things I read (I’m half-way through a video lecture course on Game Theory…why? Because it confuses me, and so I have to learn it…or so I’ve convinced myself), but it’s hard these days.

    With access to information being so easy, it’s not hard to get drowned in information. There are certainly worse problems to have than TOO MUCH access to information, but we do have to force ourselves to step back now and then and just say “I’ll never use that”, and find something more productive (or entertaining, or whatever the case may be) to do.

    @Karen
    When I have to choose between things to read, I tend to just pick randomly. Removes the stress or trying to choose, and the potential guilt from getting bored with it and moving onto something else that’s more interesting and/or worthy of spending time on. Win/Win.

    Brad Leclerc´s last blog post..Guest Posting Frenzy, and the TV Gawker Podcast

  15. Patricia says:

    Here is another angle, I don’t seem to be able to download ebooks or anything else…only 1 have I been successful with from Liz Strauss and I have read it 4 times now, but I had help downloading it.
    I have a book reader with 48 books on it and am busy giving away lots of dust catchers on my shelf. I have a limited budget for books, but an unlimited capacity for reading…and I hate to dust.

    I would like to write an ebook and get paid for it, as I would like to get paid for my writing….hasn’t really happened yet! So I am researching how to write an ebook and publish it and maybe how to write a Kindle book.

    I don’t really have free time…and when I do get a few moments then I am reading or taking a hot bath.

    If I have free time, I work at blessing those who have published a good book and received reward for their writing, because if I did not I would be battling jealousy.

    Patricia´s last blog post..Kindle 2 and 5 Things I Love About It!

  16. Alex Fayle says:

    @Karen, Brad & Janet
    When I have lots of books, I tend to go for the random method, then end up like the Urban Panther with several partially read books on the go depending on my mood.

    @Patricia
    The freedom from dusting really appeals to me as well. 😉 I had a professor who said that ebooks would never take off until there was a way to read an ebook in the bath. I agree with him completely on that. Until we have a water-proof Kindle, then paper books are here to stay!

  17. I don’t spend as much time reading books as I’d like. I’ve been known to have multiple non-fiction books on the go at once, but rarely more than one fiction. It gets too confusing, although it does make for interesting blended stories in my mind!

    Janet Barclay´s last blog post..Facebook Revisited

  18. Patricia says:

    Opps! I use the Kindle in the bath…might I electrocute myself?

    I do have to just work on one non-fiction at a time….but I have several inspirational reads and poetry books going at one time…

    Patricia´s last blog post..Under Wear

  19. Brad Leclerc says:

    @Alex

    I’m the sort that can’t put a book down once I start, there are no books I’ve read part of and moved on and then gone back to. I dunno what it is, once I start, there is no stopping until it’s done, beyond eating and sleeping, and MAYBE forcing myself to get some work done now and then hehe. Because of that though, I’ve fallen in love with audiobooks, since I can “read” and get work done, or do other things, without having to actually stop “reading” the book.

    As for “dead tree” vs electronic, I’d LOVE to get more and more book in ebook format, and if the Kindle’s cell connection was supported in Canada I’d be ALL over that. I do have a bunch of audiobooks and a few ebooks on my Nokia n810, but it’s not quite the same…

    Brad Leclerc´s last blog post..Guest Posting Frenzy, and the TV Gawker Podcast

  20. Alex Fayle says:

    @Patricia
    I don’t think you could electrocute yourself, but you could ruin your Kindle if you dropped it. Unlike a book which would just end up with wrinkly pages…

    @Brad
    There are other options like the Sony eReader or the more expensive but more robust iRex iLiad. I’m going to start saving for the latter because I want it soooo much. 😉

  21. Brad Leclerc says:

    @Alex

    Ohhhhhhh, that iRex iLiad looks pretty shinny.

    Brad Leclerc´s last blog post..Guest Posting Frenzy, and the TV Gawker Podcast

  22. Alex Fayle says:

    @Brad
    I know! I’m currently watching some eBay auctions to see if I can get one at a more affordable price.

  23. […] Addicted to Downloading: Procrastinating With Ebooks […]

  24. Korayem says:

    I just realized how addicted i am a few months ago that i am starting to empower this new “head filter” that basically says “No” to ebooks that won’t be adding much to me in the near future.

    I have over 25GB of books !!

    If i stopped all activities and just read books, i will die before going through them all!!

  25. Alex Fayle says:

    @Korayem
    Good plan! I’ve stopped downloading most ebooks too. I just don’t read them to justify spending any money on them. I will only if there’s something very specific I want out of it.

  26. […] Addicted to Downloading: Procrastinating With Ebooks […]

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