How technology helps us read more and faster

December 31, 2018 10:48
Many ebooks in Kindle have audio versions, which is useful for people while at the wheel. Photo: Reuters

The other day I ran into Steven Lam, the founder of GoGoVan, Hong Kong's first "unicorn" start-up. Lam splits his time between Hong Kong and Beijing. He joked that now he has more time to read books despite his busy schedule, since he spends a lot of time waiting for flights at the airport.

Most people need to spend around one to two hours commuting per day. We could leverage new technology to make good use of the time to read books. For example, I spend around one and a half hours driving every day. There are plenty of audio books, which are perfect for drivers. Also, many ebooks in Kindle have audio versions, which allow readers to accelerate or decelerate the speed.

Some might question the effect of listening to audio books. But I’ve listened to around 40 to 50 books over last year. Many of the books are serous nonfiction titles rather than entertainment magazines. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind and Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, both from Israeli historian Yuval Noah Harari, are among such titles.

Blinkist is a helpful app that pulls out the key insights, and explains them in an easy-to-digest summary. Therefore, it’s much easier to grasp the idea of these thick books after digesting the key points.

Some people would make notes to memorize key points when they read physical books. Many apps  enable readers to take notes on ebooks and these notes will be categorized. You can save key points using tags, or taking shots. Optical Character Recognition (OCR) can be used to change picture into text. There are also AI programs that recommend relevant books or references.

Moreover, one can have unlimited access to all books available on Kindle at a monthly fee of only US$10. You can subscribe Kono, which offers access to various magazines published in Hong Kong, Japan and Taiwan.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Dec 28

Translation by Julie Zhu

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Hong Kong Information Technology Federation Chairman