Battle of the Books: Scribd Vs Kindle Unlimited

As some of you may know, I recently culled my collection of books. I’m still an avid reader, so I have to keep on top of things to prevent being overrun by my paperback pals in future (seriously, I moved house in February and most of my boxes were filled with books). While my Kindle and new library membership helps, I also wanted to test out reading subscription services. I’m a fan of subscription services, why not see how it could revolutionise my reading?
After some research I came up with two options: Scribd and Kindle Unlimited and I tried both for a month (yay free trials) to see how they compared in terms of price, variety and quality of reading material. Read on to see what I found.

Kindle Unlimited

AUD $13.99

Amazon is really upping its subscription game between Audible, Amazon Prime and Kindle Unlimited. Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited service works similar to a library. You ‘borrow’ up to ten titles at a given time and they are removed from your kindle library at month’s end. Kindle Unlimited also has the option of free Audible narration where applicable. This would be an amazing feature if more of these books came with that option. Honestly, I didn’t see it come up at all in any the books I looked at, which ruins what could have been a big selling point.
Despite the price tag, which rivals the old Netflix fee, the variety is sub-par. Despite advertising over a million titles, you won’t have access to fresh publications from your favourite authors, or even older ones – it’s Amazon exclusives only. That said, there are some hidden indie gems to be found, if one can be bothered to look. The risk is wading through a number of disappointing reads to find it. Amazon seemed to have saved the best titles for purchase.
The best books I stumbled across were nonfiction reads, which aren’t my usual are of interest. However, they were shorter than most books and I could finish them within an hour. There’s also a selection of magazines and newspapers to borrow, should that tickle your fancy.

By and large, the quality of books was disappointing and before the month was even close to finishing, I cancelled by subscription.

Scribd

AUD $8.99

I accessed Scribd through the app. You can read online or save titles to your device for offline access. It isn’t as pleasant to read off a phone or tablet as it is my Kindle, but that’s pretty minor as cons go. Scribs takes another hit in terms of number of titles. Kindle Unlimited is, as it states, unlimited in terms of access to titles, whereas Scribd lets you have three books and one audiobook per month. Still, that is plenty of reading material as these are full-length novels and likely longer than the Kindle Unlimited titles. Besides, i found that if I ran out of books to read I could pad things out with a library book. It isn’t unlimited, but I value quality of quantity where books are concerned.

Scribd uses a credit system like Audible, and you can accumulate up to 3 audibook credits and 9 book credits without spending them. If you’ve used your credits but are hankering for a particular read and can’t wait for more credits, you can purchase them. This will set you back about $12.99AUD.

Unlike Kindle Unlimited, you don’t have to return the books you redeem. You can keep them for as long as you’re a member (though, rarely, some titles have to be removed for legal reasons). There are also newspapers, magazines and free documents (including sheet music) taht you can access for free. There are a few permanently free titles and Scribd also has monthly selected titles that you can access for the month without spending your credits. I’v had the luck of accessing a book i had always wanted to read as part of the August Selects, so there are some good books to be found there.

While you do have fewer options to read each month, the variety of material is a big plus for Scribd. They have popular titles and classics available. Some titles have been published as recently as June this year and I’ve spied a few of my favourite authors. There are entire series available (I am currently working my way through the Temeraire series by Naomi Novik). While you have a few titles that are more obscure, there are plenty of hits to choose from (and, as I said, there are some indie gems out there). Like you would with a Kindle book, Scribd allows you to read a bit before commiting your credits, meaning you aren’t likely to get saddled with a bad read.

Another bonus is that, if you share a personalised link with a friend and they sign up, you both get sixty days free.

The Verdict

I think it’s pretty obvious who I think wins this match. Scribd is five dollars cheaper and offers better quality titles that you don’t have to return. Kindle Unlimited has a long way to go before I would consider it worth the price. NAmely, they need to broaden their selection and add some non-Amazon titles to the service. Yes, you have less to read with Scribd, but four titles a month (plus a free selection) is not a bad offer. I quickly ditched Kindle Unlimited, but I will be keeping Scribd for the forseeable future.

If you’re interested in giving Scribd a try, head over to my contact page and let me know. I’ll send you my link so we can both enjoy sixty days of free reads! Let me know in the comments if you’ve had any experince with these services, or let me know any books you’ve read lately that you would recommend!

Disclaimer: This post is 100% my own opinion and I have not recieved any renumeration. I just really think Scribd is better.

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Book Review: Chasing Slow by Erin Loechner

Ask a bird how to fly, and it might tell you to remove the weight from your wings

– Erin Loechner, Chasing Slow

I can’t remember where I first heard about Erin’s book. It might have been a podcast or a blog. The title stuck in my mind. Chasing Slow. I liked the notion. After all, am I not in pursuit of a simpler lifestyle?

It was not what I expected. When I cracked the spine, I thought I would find a how-to guide. Tips and inspiration for slowing down, simplifying, savouring life instead of charging ahead with blinders on. I did find tips and I did find inspiration, but not in the way I had thought.

Chasing Slow is at it’s heart a memoir, the recollection of a struggle and a journey. Erin doesn’t claim to have her shit together – she is upfront about the fact that she doesn’t. She finds slow, and then lets it slip through her fingers as she is lured by want of more. She stumbles and falters and fails and is unflinchingly honest about it all.

Erin made herself a household name through her blog. Her sense of style and creative eye had her recieve countless opportunities and accolades. She was one of the first to beta Pinterest. Such sucess is hard to resist – I don’t know that I could – and sometimes, often, Erin doesn’t. I find this so refreshing. While I love The Minimalists, they look like they’re established minimalists. A finished product. But I’m not, and neither is Erin. Neither is anyone. There is something novel about the admission that we are going to screw up. We are going to buy things we don’t need and overspend and forget our values. It is hard not to want more. It is hard to keep your foot on the brakes when everyone around you is pumping the gas. Pedal to the metal.

I have friends with their own businesses, their own homes. They have wedding bands on their fingers and babies in their arms. I see it on Facebook and Instagram and I look around and feel disatisfied. Happy for them, but upset with myself. I likely won’t have a big career and the jury (or doctor) is out on whether kids is a good idea for me. It meant something to read that Erin, as successful as she is, felt the same thing.

Erin opens up about her husband’s terminal diagnosis, her own struggle with panic attacks. She doesn’t back away from her failures and faults, despite aditting how much she desires to control. She suffers from impulse buying and imposter syndrome. This isn’t Erin with an instagram filter. She is unfiltered and human.

While the bible verses grated on my agnosticism a bit, I envy her faith because she finds so much value in it.

The book reads more like a confession than a sermon. Erin is talking to you, not at you, like a lot of these books seem to.

It reads easily, though some of the metaphors are a bit heavy-handed for my tastes. Repitition is a key part of Erin’s style. But it’s a matter of taste. I devoured the book within a day and found value in it.

While it didn’t teach me how to chase slow, Chasing Slow did teach me that it is an endless process. It is a meandering journey. It is ok to fumble and fall and veer off the path to simpler living. As long as you dust yourself off, readjust your course and, more importantly, forgive yourself. There is no such thing as perfection. They key is to not let chasing slow be about perfection. It is about you. What is best for you.

If you find yourself stalling or stressed, I recommend picking up Chasing Slow. It wasn’t what i expected, but I think it’s probably a bit of what I needed.

My Morning Ritual

I like the word ‘ritual’ more than ‘routine’. To me, a routine sounds dull, monotonous. Mechanical. A routine is intentional, as minimalism is intentional. It is something I have crafted for myself to give myself a good start to the day.

To be perfectly honest with you guys. I am not a morning person. I’m not even an afternoon person. My chronotype is a bear, meaning I crave sleep and am most productive mid-morning. I have trouble getting up and am pretty eager to climb back under the duvet at the end of the day. In the mornings, I more or less resemble this:

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Suffice to say, mornings are rough for me. So I take them slow. My alarm goes off at about 5:30.

Yes. 5:30. While I need sleep, it’s about quality over quantity and oversleeping can damage the quality of sleep you have at night. The early wake-up ensures I get enough z’s but have time for an easygoing morning. That said, I don’t get up straight away. I like to have a leisurely stretch because my muscles will be tight and tender. I’ll start on the glass of water I leave beside the bed. After 15 minutes or so, I get myself up. Patrick is a night owl, so he’ll still be sleeping.

I’ll stick in some earphones and listen to a podcast or some upbeat music while I wash my face and brush my teeth. It helps to wake me up. Next I’ll do a yoga video (Yoga With Adriene on YouTube is my favourite) followed by some guided meditation on Headspace. Keeping calm is central to my health and gentle stretching is great for my body so I try and do both. Even if it’s just ten minutes apiece. Afterwards, it’s time to make breakfast. My current breakfast obsession is ‘cinnamon toast breakfast quinoa‘ by Cookie and Kate. I like to top it off with some chia seeds and blueberries. I make enough for two and try and coax Patrick out of bed to eat. If not, it goes in the fridge for later. I like it when he gets up, though. A few minutes with a loved one is a great way to start the day.

I’ll make up a mug of cold brew coffee to have with it and only then do I allow myself to check my phone if Patrick is still sleeping. Usually it’s to check out the headlines on my Flipboard app.

After breakfast, I get dressed. I have a shower and pick what I’m wearing the night before so it’s a snap to get ready. My makeup is pretty minimal because my medication makes my skin pretty acne-prone. Just some concealer under my eyes, some tinted moisturiser and brow filler and I am done. Then I usually have time to have a quick play with my cat, Leo, before it’s time to kiss my boys goodbye and head out the door.
How do you like to start your day? Let me know your favourite morning rituals in the comments.

For the Love of Busy

“No matter how busy a man is, he is never too busy to stop and talk about how busy he is”

Author unknown

You know that guy, who complains about how stressed and busy they are, how little sleep they run on. They complain, but there’s a glimmer of pride as well. Maybe you’ve been that guy at some point or another. I know I have. We read articles about successful CEO’s who sleep for four hours a night and work long hours for six figure salaries and we want to be like them because that is the ideal. Who doesn’t want to be rich and successful? So we push ourselves. Five hours sleep, running on nothing but caffeine and willpower. The shiniest, most productive cog in the machine. We live in a world obsessed with productivity.

But here’s the kicker, folks. Busy and productive are two very different things. It doesn’t matter how fast I run on the wheel, I’m not going anywhere.

Busy is not something to idolise. Busy is not something to love. But we do. We love to hate it. To wear it as a badge of honour to prove the lengths we go to, the demand we’re in, how much we contribute to the world. I have to wonder, though. What are we contributing? What are we sacrificing? How does this all balance out?

When my health took a serious turn for the work this year, I was in denial. I wanted to be fine. I expected myself to maintain the fast and efficient level of work that I had been capable of before hand. Instead of maintaining my work, however, I started making mistakes. Lots of them. So many that I soon found myself in a meeting with my boss, staring at a warning letter. Something had to change. It took a major job scare for me to realise a few crucial things. My job wasn’t a career. I didn’t want a career. I enjoy my job, but it should not be the centre of my life. I shouldn’t be damaging my own body trying to keep up a standard I thought they expected of me. I should work to live, not live to work.

I also realised I wasn’t the same person I was when they hired me. Not physically, emotionally or mentally. I needed to adapt to the new way my body operated. It was a slower pace than I was used to, but it would have to do. I talked to my partner and we both decided that full-time work was not ideal for me so, once he graduates university and starts earning more, I could reduce my hours and go part-time.

With the pressure off, I stopped pushing myself. I acknowledged my limits and made them clear to those I work with. Before that meeting, my boss had no idea what I was going through. She had no idea I was constantly sick and in pain. Once it was out there, she offered help and support.

Now I manage my work better. I make sure deadlines are clear so I prioritise better. If there’s an extra task added on, I make sure I know which is the most pressing so I’m not scrambling to get everything done. I learn to say no (politely of course). I don’t work through my lunch break and don’t linger after hours unless it’s an emergency. I take regular breaks and make sure my health and wellbeing is my number one priority.

This doesn’t just apply to work, either. I need to accept that sometimes my shelves get dustier than I would prefer, or there are dishes sitting unwashed. I need to know when I can go out with friends and when I need to stay home.

You know what? I’m not stressed or busy but I am productive. I give myself the space to ensure my work is good quality and being calm makes it easier to troubleshoot and come up with solutions when things do go wrong.

Some people enjoy being busy. They thrive under pressure. For me, I prefer having things to get done, but too much and I start stressing out. Anyone with my illness will tell you that stress is like poison. While I may have immediate physical effects, stress is damaging to everyone. People have died from work-related stress. There’s even a word for it in Japan, Karoshi meaning ‘overwork death’. How terrifying is that? We live in a world that literally works people to death. No job, no paycheque, is worth running ourselves into the ground for.

I’m trying to opt out of the rat race for want of something slower and simpler. I’m much happier on the sidelines.

Clearing the Shelves: A Bookworm Bids Goodbye

When I moved house for the first time back in February, I remember complaining about the laborious task of packing all my books.

“Why not just get rid of some?” asked a colleague. I was incredulous. Get…rid…of…books? Was that a thing people did? Surely not people who loved their books as much as I did. I was a proud collector and –

No. I was a hoarder. I still had books I read as a little girl. I had books I never finished, never started, never enjoyed. Yet I kept them. I kept them because I was a bookworm and surely that is what bookworms did. I enjoyed the tactile, sensory pleasure of books. I wanted more. I saw the glorious ‘shelfies’ on tumblr of beautifully arranged shelves packed with books. I wanted that. To be something akin to that. I was holding on to my books because I liked to talk about how many I had, as if it cemented my status as an avid reader. In hindsight, that seems a shallow motivation. A silly reason to cling to things I wasn’t going to use.

I think I read somewhere there is nothing sadder than an unread book. If I’m not going to read it, then the story is going to waste. I realised it was much better to donate or give away books that I wasn’t going to read or reread. I no longer found value in them, but someone else might. 

It was much easier than I thought. I thought I would be an emotional wreck, but I wasn’t. My eyes were dry and my mind was clear. The value isn’t in the paper and ink. Once I had enjoyed them, if I had no interest in reading them again, then it was only right to pass them along.

I still have them, in boxes ready to give away or donate. I set aside far more than I kept. What I kept were favourites that I have read over and over, reference books I like to flip through. A curated collection of beloved books. 

I then went out and got a library card. To keep myself from future hoarding, I’m going to buy on my kindle and borrow from the library. I might buy the occasional hardcopy of a book, but if I don’t love it, I’ll let it go.

Making My Minimalist Wardrobe

“When I shop, the world gets better, and the world is better, but then it’s not, and I need to do it again.”

Rebecca Bloomwood – Confessions of A Shopaholic

When I started this minimalist journey, my first stop was the wardrobe. And the drawers. And the other set of drawers. And the under-bed storage. And, to be completely honest, the floor. There were clothes everywhere. Things I hadn’t worn in years. Things I hadn’t worn at all. There were clothes that looked better on the hanger, deals that were too good to pass up and things that I was sure I was going to wear eventually. But eventually never came and they sat forlorn in my wardrobe while I wend out, swiped my card and got newer, trendier clothes that I definitely did not need. Then I would stare at my bank account balance and wonder why I was broke. Again.

It was a bad enough habit without taking my disease into account. Do you have any idea how much laundry I had to do? I still have nightmares about it *shudder*. I can’t do that much laundry. It wasn’t sustainable, it wasn’t manageable, but it was certainly stressful. My fibromyalgia is in a pretty bad place right now and the other week I was attempting to do a load of laundry and took a tiny step sideways.

Boom.

Pain exploded in my hip and down my leg. It was all I could do not to scream. Needless to say the laundry fell by the wayside. I was bedridden for the rest of the day and lost the remainder of my Sunday. All because I had so much I had to do.

Enter minimalism.

Now, the primary reason for my interest in minimalism is the widespread reports of less stress. Stress is a huge trigger for fibro and so anything I can do to drastically reduce stress could reduce the severity of my symptoms and prevent flare ups. An added benefit is: less stuff, less cleaning. Cue the hallelujah chorus because I have less laundry! Cleaning is hard. And boring. And nobody wants to do it. But when overdoing it can leave me bedridden in excruciating pain? Extra awful.

Now, back to the clothes. Before The Purge I looked around and done my research on minimalist wardrobes. Between that and my own experience there are a few key takeaways I found:

 

1. Empty it ALL out on the bed

My bed looked like a plush mountain after I dragged everything out. It was insane and it really drove home how ridiculous my clothes habit was. It reaffirmed that I was making a sound decision. Plus the mess made sure that I stuck with the task until it was finished.

2. Donate, Decide, Dump

I set up three cardboard boxes (which quickly turned into five as they filled up) for clothes to donate (or sell if you have some good quality items and are looking for extra cash), clothes I was torn over and clothes that weren’t in good enough condition to donate and had to be thrown away. After I had gone through everything, I went through the Decide box/es and narrowed things down further. In the end, most of them ended up in the Donate boxes anyway.

2.Keep items that you love and regularly wear

There’s no point keeping that cardigan I bought a few months ago that makes me itch. Forget price tags (seriously, it saves some anguish) and forget sentimentality. If it isn’t comfortable, if it doesn’t make me feel good, I am not going to want to wear it. Who wears things that make them feel like crap? Nobody.

3. Pick a neutral colour scheme

I’m not saying wear black, black and more black (unless that’s your thing, then go for it! Ryan over at The Minimalists wears a black t-shirt and jeans and that is it). But a few neutral colours set a good base for your wardrobe. They can go with one another and, more importantly, they will go with the statement pieces (more on that in a second. My scheme is black, navy, grey, white and variations on tan (beige, blush etc. You get the idea). If everything is cohesive, it saves one from struggling to get ready in the morning. It also prevents this:

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Sorry Cher, but I do not have time for that. I have better things to do. Like sleep.

4. Have a few statement pieces

This is what keeps me from looking like I’ve stepped out of a sepia photograph. Bright clothes and accessories pair well with the muted tones and keep things interesting. Keep it minimal (har har) so that you keep it cohesive.

5. There is no ‘Number’

I gave myself no limit. I didn’t want rules that inhibited what I thought would be a really difficult process. As long as your wardrobe is deliberate and full of things that make you feel good that you’ll wear, then your purge is a success. In the end, I ended up with about 60 – 70 items including shoes and accessories. It all fits nicely and cleanly in one section of the wardrobe (my partner was pleasantly surprised). I have what I consider to be a good number, but I didn’t give myself a number.

 

Honestly, the whole thing was a lot easier than I thought it would be. I began talking to my clothes, as crazy as that sounds. I managed to decide on what I would and wouldn’t wear pretty quickly. Afterwards I did the same for shoes and accessories and then for my makeup. For someone who had hundreds of clothes, I had it all done in under two hours. Afterwards I felt great. I felt lighter. And I was excited for the next time I needed to get ready, because it was going to be a breeze.

How I Got Here. AKA from Healthy to Hell

We – meaning myself and my doctor – can trace the beginning of this hell to April 2014. I was studying a Bachelor of Arts at a university in Sydney when I woke up one day and could barely walk. My body twitched and trembled. I remembered watching my hands, feeling as if they were suddenly alien to me.

I skipped my next class and went to the nearest GP. I tried to move quickly but it was as if I were wading through water. Luckily, it wasn’t far. I can still picture the blue-gray colour scheme of the waiting room. The wailing of sickly kids.

The doctor had no answers. They took some blood, gave me a certificate for missing class and sent me home to rest.

Then, at about 7pm that evening, the doctor I saw called me from his mobile. I could tell by the distorted audio that he was talking hands-free while he drove. He tells me to go to the emergency room. My white cell count was at 23,000. Which, apparently, was very bad.

Medical students take turns trying to put a drip in my veins. Blood is drawn. Pee in this. Lie down there. Does this hurt? How do you feel? You look a bit pale.

I joke that it’s just how my face looks. I’m scared. I was a healthy person. I wasn’t too into exercise but I ate well. Didn’t have more than the occasional cold. I had never broken a bone or needed stitches. Hospitals were for people who were sicker than me. Surely I couldn’t be that sick?

Four days in hospital with antibiotics through a drip and then the doctor shrugs his shoulders, writes down ‘viral infection’ and has me discharged. They thought it might have been leukaemia, but there was no sign of cancer.

Two months later, I’m in agony with three slipped discs and muscles that spasm with the slightest pressure. I go to physiotherapy for three months and I breathe a sigh of relief. That was it. It was over.

I would have another several bouts of being unable to walk, of strong pain in my legs, over the next two years. I would be tested for lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and a host of other diseases. Everything came back clean and the doctors sent me away.

Then, in August of last year, I started having the worst digestive problems. I was sleeping more than nine hours a night and waking up tired – I didn’t see how this was a problem, I was always tired. It was just what I knew. I was put on a gluten free diet for seven months. It eases the digestive problems, but does not make it go away. The pain in my legs returned, and as the months passed, it spread. My legs, my back, my hips, my wrists and hands. Headaches, nausea, dizziness, fatigue. Pain, pain, pain.

The wrist pain is the worst. I live with my hands. I’m a writer, an artist, a cook. I derive joy from these things, and the pain took it away from me. My wonderful partner, Patrick, and my mum were supportive and helped me when I couldn’t help myself. But I hated being so dependent.

My doctor finally gave my hell a name – Fibromyalgia. A chronic disease with over a hundred symptoms. Every ill could be attributed to this disease. And there was no cure, only treatment. I was struggling to work a full day at my full-time admin job. I’d run out of sick leave. I felt trapped. I knew that at some point, I had to get out of full time work, but financially that wasn’t feasible. How could I afford to live if I couldn’t work?

On one of my many bedridden days, I watched a documentary on Netflix called Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things. It followed a few people, but centred on two young men called The Minimalists as they went on a book tour and talked about their journey into minimalism. They were happy. They had financial freedom. They had less stuff.

I will be the first to admit that I’m a shopaholic. Clothes, books, games, stationery, whatever. I hoarded. I was constantly buying things that I really didn’t need. I could feel the weight of maintaining an overflowing wardrobe when I could barely manage laundry. Maybe the key was to get rid of it.

I watched Minimalism again and again. I bought books, listened to podcasts, looked at half a dozen blogs about this thing called minimalism. I wanted to try this. I wanted to see if living simply, living deliberately, could help give me the space – physically and mentally – to cope with my disease.

That’s where this blog comes in. There are millions of people struggling with chronic disease and mental illness. I don’t know how much this journey will help me, but I want to put it out there. Maybe it will help someone else.

My name is Alexis, and this is my minimalist journey.