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Use your Netflix binge-watching habits to read books instead

Cancel Netflix and read books instead

Go from binge-watching to binge-reading with these 13 useful tips.

Isn’t it the right time to realize that Netflix and other video-on-demand services are taking too much of your precious time? Why is it that you can binge-watch hours of Friends in just one sitting without feeling tired? Or that you can finish watching an entire season of Breaking Bad in under a week?

With Netflix cancellations skyrocketing over recent controversies and the selection of movies offered by video-on-demand services getting more and more dull, now might be the right time to ditch watching and get into reading instead. Especially since watching one season of a popular series takes roughly the same amount of time as reading a book it’s based on.

So if you were already thinking about cancelling Netflix, don’t switch to another video-streaming service. The habits you’ve developed over the countless Netflix sessions might come in handy – and you can use them to rediscover the joy of reading instead.

Read on to learn 13 ways in which you can implement your Netflix habits into reading books (and 13 Reasons Why you should definitely do so).

13 Netflix habits you can use for reading books

1. Daily routine

With video on demand services, you are no longer limited by the stiff timetables of TV guides – it’s up to you to decide when and where you’d like to watch your favorite shows and movies.

Yet, ironically, many VOD users quickly end up confined to a daily routine and tend to wait until evening to start watching – mostly because by the time it gets dark, they’ve done everything they had planned for the day, and so they can enjoy watching their favorite shows guilt-free.

And so, evening might be the best time to incorporate reading into your routine. One does not exclude the other – you could always watch one episode of your favorite show instead of two, and spend the remaining time on reading (after all, by doing so, you’ll be able to enjoy the TV series twice as long). Or, alternatively, you could treat the book as an appetizer and read it for half an hour every day before your Netflix binge.

2. The celebration of watching

Netflix habits for reading books - illustration by Elia Colombo
“Read more book” – illustration by Elia Colombo

What do you usually do while watching? Do you snuggle up in bed with a bag of chips? Watch a movie with your entire family? Or maybe soak in the bathtub with a bottle of cheap Pinot Grigio and a peel-off mask?

Most probably, your Netflix binges are also an everyday self-care ritual – and you can develop the exact same habits to bring your reading experience to a whole other level.

If you watch movies with a glass of wine – start reading with a glass of wine. If you love watching TV series with some crackers and cheese – make sure to have them by your side while starting a new book. And if you like to watch Netflix together with others – audiobooks are a great replacement.

3. Go off the grid

Putting your phone on silent is like telling yourself: “the world can wait”. It’s a signal for you and your brain that a well-deserved free time has started and that no one, not even your co-workers, is allowed to disturb your peace of mind.

Many people put their phones on Do Not Disturb when it’s time for Netflix. And so, why not do the same while reading?

If you like reading ebooks on your iPhone or iPad and can’t resist the urge of checking your social media every second or so, make sure to check out distraction-blocking apps like Freedom or Forest.

4. Overwhelmed by choice

Whenever you open the Netflix or HBO Go app, the first thing you probably ask yourself is: What should I watch?

Chances are, you scroll down your “personalized” recommendations, find nothing you like in the plethora of rom-coms and cliché-packed Netflix originals, go on Google and spend a considerable amount of time searching for movie recommendations (or end up re-watching Friends for the hundredth time).

Analyze how you look for new movies to watch. Which topics are you interested in? How do you find the perfect film recommendation? Do you look for movie recommendations

You can use the exact same ways of finding great new movies to watch to find great new books to read.

It’s much easier to find a good book. One reason is that the number of books in a specific category is much larger. If you are interested in a historical TV series that takes place at the beginning of the 20th century, you can find a few good ones. And a few hundred good books on the same topic.

5. Testing out new series

Once you’ve finally found a great TV series recommendation, next thing you do is you probably test it out by watching the pilot – the first episode – to decide if it’s even worth binging.

But not many people know that you can easily do the same with books – by reading the free sample.

Amazon, for example, lets you peek into a book of choice no matter which format you prefer – print, Kindle, or audiobook – and read roughly 5-10% of its content. What’s more, you can choose the location of the free sample yourself – and start previewing the book wherever you choose, be it the beginning, the middle, or the end.

It’s even easier when you read ebooks on your e-reader or tablet. Find the book in the database of your ebook app, download a free sample, and start reading in a matter of seconds. You can download and read an unlimited number of free samples – until you find the perfect, binge-worthy read.

The best thing is that you can test unlimited number of full-length ebooks if you decide to go for an ebook subscription, such as Kindle Unlimited or Scribd. The good thing about it is that you have access to the entire content of a book right away.

6. Plan ahead

Before going on vacation, most of us download plenty of movies on the Netflix mobile or iPad app, just to make sure we’ll be able to enjoy them even when the internet connection is poor or not available.

Planning out which films you will watch on vacation is a habit you can use for books, too. If you plan your reading schedule properly, you will only take the print books that you are most excited to read with you. If you read ebooks, you will make sure to download the planned titles to your device or app so that you can read them without the internet connection.

As you see, managing movies and books to watch when you are offline is similar. Do both and double the pleasure.

7. Follow new releases

Once you know the first contact Netflix catalog by heart (by “first contact” I mean what you see when you open the website or app), you are hungry for more.

You are probably disappointed by the search feature, which gives you mostly what the service wants you to watch. You are also disappointed by the fact that many movies and TV series are not available, and replacements you see are not something you will ever be interested in.

After a few months, you assume the only source of interesting stuff is now what you have found in Netflix archives, but what’s added to the service.

And it’s where you land outside Netflix. You are most probably using Google search, follow news aggregators or social media profiles that share which movies and TV series come to Netflix, Prime Video, HBO Go and Hulu in the coming weeks. Maybe you even subscribe to email notification to make sure you get the latest updates.

Thinking in advance and hunting for hot new releases is something you can use to find new books to read, as well.

You can follow social media profiles of an ebook platform of your choice, or subscribe to email newsletter of your local library that offers ebooks. You can check out hot new release section of online stores.

Or, you can bring things to a new level, and start using services like Prime Reading, which offer a rotating list of ebooks and audiobooks. Every month, a few dozens new books are joining the catalog, but some are also leaving. The best thing is that Prime Reading is a part of Prime membership which gives you unlimited access to Prime Video.

You see, with just one subscription, you can get access to movies, ebooks, and audiobooks, making sure you will never run out of a great stuff to enjoy. Especially that it’s being refreshed every few weeks.

8. Rewatch favorite scenes or entire movies

What are the top 5 best movies you watched in your entire life? How many times have you have watched the movie you loved the most?

Which TV series and which seasons have you watched again? How much time has passed between your first and next watching of the same movie or TV show?

There is nothing wrong in watching the same movie over and over again. If you do it with pleasure, it means you still have something to learn, admire, and discover.

It’s the same with books and book series. What’s great about ebooks is that you can get back a title you’ve read long time ago and start reading in seconds.

Ebooks, however, have one feature that makes rereading them much easier than watching movies again. You can bookmark or highlight text to mark parts of the book that were especially interesting, emotionally involving, or inspiring.

9. Improve language skills

Some users feel that spending one or two hours every day for entertainment is way too long.

They try to fade the feeling of discomfort that may potentially appear when they realize how much time they spend (or waste) on Netflix, Hulu, Apple TV, Prime Video, or all these services combined. They try to find some sort of rationale.

If English is not your mother tongue, you have a ready-to-use excuse. You can always say that you’re watching movies with English subtitles, and that’s your passive way to learn English.

Of, if you are learning Spanish, you can watch TV series in this language, and explain to yourself and others that learning to understand a foreign language is a part of the deal.

You can use books for the same purpose (or excuse) instead of getting a book in your mother tongue, you can read a novel in English or a language you are learning, and spend great time on both following a great story and improving your language skills.

10. Skip introductions to keep watching

Maybe this tip is one tiny step too far, but I wanted to point out that the most important thing in this whole “cancel Netflix, read books” story is identifying your own habits.

I can suggest you a couple of most obvious things, but sometimes you have to go and analyze your behavior much deeper, find something that makes your time with Netflix special only to you.

And the more detailed analysis it is, the better.

For instance, I have realized that badly created opening title sequence can spoil the first impression. That’s why I almost automatically skip opening credits in a new TV series because, well, “don’t judge a movie by its credits.”

The same is with books. Sometimes a preface or prologue, especially when it’s too long or irrelevant, can discourage from reading an interesting book. I have developed a habit of skipping intros in TV series and prologues in books to give myself a chance to get to the point right away and judge the real content.

To go even further, I now usually skip prologues, read the entire book, and go back to prologues as a way to sum up and take another perspective on what I have just read.

11. Use fast-forward

Do you often use the fast-forward button when watching movies or TV series online? Do you jump by 15 second chunks, scenes, or use the scroll?

There is nothing wrong in skipping the part that make you bored. You can watch the movie till the very end and enjoy it much more than when you push yourself to watch every single scene and dialogue.

There is nothing wrong in turning a few pages if you are stuck in a boring description or when a plot stalls on a side plot you are not interested in.

Skimming books is better than not reading at all.

12. Binge-watching sessions

Netflix habits to read books - illustration by Pawel Kuczynski
“Break in transmission” – illustration by Pawel Kuczynski

Do you happen to watch a few episodes of your favorite TV series in one sitting? An entire series over a single weekend?

Do you spend every single evening on watching a few episodes of a TV series you always wanted to watch but never had time to do it?

Do you buy food for a few days, lock yourself at home and watch day and night, with short breaks for meal and optional 7-minute workouts?

This binge-watching pattern can be easily transformed to binge-reading. And it’s easier than ever with ebook bundles, which include all volumes of one book series in one file, giving you a chance to conveniently search for situations and characters in the entire story, not just one volume.

The binge-watching behavior can help you survive the time you are locked at home, for instance when you are on quarantine. Make sure to have enough movies to watch and enough books to read.

13. Just one more episode

A good episode ends with a hook that makes you desperately want to start watching the next one. Especially that it start playing automatically.

As a result, an evening you planned differently ends up on watching three episodes, and you are still ready to start watching the fourth one.

Is this an addiction? It’s not your fault. It’s how great stories work. They keep you involved, especially when you reach a break, such as the end of an episode or chapter.

Speaking of chapters: “Just one more chapter” was there long before Netflix which you are about to cancel, right?

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