A Custom Fit: So Many Ways To Read A Thing!

Autostraddle o.b. tampon article series
Inspired by how happy you are that o.b.® tampons expand all around to custom-fit your body, Autostraddle’s “a custom fit” article series will tackle how to make all the other parts of your life expand/adjust all around to custom-fit your life/self. You’ve got your own place, you’ve got clothes that fit you just right, how to work exercising into your schedule and how to garden in containers. Congratulations! Today we basically just wanna talk about all the ways in which we bring reading into our lives.

I love to read. I don’t think I have to justify that sentiment to this audience — y’all are keeping the publishing industry alive, enjoy a little bit of biweekly Lez Liberty Lit in your life, and get really really really excited when we write about books. I think everyone here is on board the reading rainbow, and it rocks. 

remember when reading just meant grabbing a book? it still means that, but also so much more!

With technology giving us so many different options for interacting with texts, we can fit reading into our lives in all kinds of ways. So let’s take a look, it’s in a book (or a laptop, or a phone, or an audiotape) at all the colors of our own perfect Reading Rainbows, and then you can tell us all your preferences, tips and tricks.

This is the Way That We Read

check out lemon reading a book (hardcover, no less!)


I see you there, rolling your eyes. But let’s be honest: books cost money, and are sometimes hard to find, and sometimes you need to bring enough literature for a whole week of vacation without making your carry-on weigh 100lbs, so while timeless, a book might not always be the best fit!

Sometimes though, it absolutely must be a tangible book: Riese says that when she reads anything involving knowledge she may need, such as reference books or non-fiction, she must use “old-school books,” so she can flip through them later and find the highlighted parts. Malaika needs to read fiction in book form, because “the bright computer screen lights come between my imagination and whatever story I’m reading.”

And sometimes you might opt for a book because you’d like to own it – many people have personal libraries, and to be honest I’m always a little bit skeptical if someone doesn’t have a lot of books in their house/apartment/dorm room. Reading is special and some words are magic, and if you find a text that speaks to your soul you’re allowed to own it. It’s never a waste of money to buy a book, so don’t feel bad about it – these babies are first on this list for a reason!


A few summers ago I realized I’d barely read any books over vacation and I felt upset, wondering when I’d become such a “non-reader.” Then I realized that I was devouring hundreds of news stories, essays, poems, and personal narratives on my computer, and just because I wasn’t flipping through well-worn pages didn’t mean I wasn’t reading.

While the computer isn’t ideal for all reading — my mother refuses to read the news online because she doesn’t like to be reminded that print is in danger — the Internet offers an unparallelled array of options, and best of all (or worst of all, if it’s 3am and you should really go to sleep), no matter what you read, there’s always a link to something new.  Plus, if you work a desk job or take notes in class on a laptop, you can totally read Autostraddle while pretending to be engaged in the task at hand. Not that we condone that or anything…

check out lemon reading at her computer


Lots of humans really enjoy the morning paper. You can curl up on the sofa with a cup of coffee and the Sunday paper and read for a few hours on the weekend, or scan the headlines on your lunch break or between classes or while the kids are napping. You can clip the pieces that are meaningful and either save them in a box or stick them in your scrapbook or mail them to your best friend. Newspapers have always overwhelmed me because of their size — I have small hands and a short torso and it just seems like the act of reading a broadsheet publication was not invented with me in mind. And yet! I still make it a point to pick up a newspaper when anything major happens, because I like the idea of holding on to history in a tangible way and a poor-quality print out of major news just does not compare to the front page of The New York Times, ya know?

Kindle / iPad / eReader

People love eReaders. The fact that it allows you to carry your very own lightweight digital library with you everywhere you go is incredible, especially for folks who love collecting books but have limited space to keep them. And not only is it perfect for vacation, it also lets you share digital copies amongst friends and check out books from the library! To be honest the more I think about it, the more I believe I could have a really beautiful relationship with an eReader.

check out lemon reading her kindle

Riese says it’s really easy to read a kindle on a train, and nice for trips when you’ve got more than one book and limited space. It also enables you to get books the moment they come out or without having to get up and go to a place. It’s also her preferred way to read magazine articles, by also using Instapaper which I’ll discuss now…


If you don’t already use the app Instapaper, I am about to change your world. Here’s the deal: you know all those articles Riese posts in TIRTIL? And how sometimes you can’t finish them over the weekend? With Instapaper, you can save the article as a PDF, store it on your computer, eReader, or iAnything, and read it whenever you want even if you don’t have access to the internet. This. Is. Life. Changing. I would honestly be a millionaire if I got paid $1 for every time I recommended Instapaper to someone, so I’ll leave it with this short endorsement, but I promise, Instapaper will make your world a better place. Go forth and PDF All The Long Reads, kids. You’re welcome.


When a friend told me that not only did she read full novels on her iPhone, but she actually liked doing it, I didn’t believe her. Eight months later I bought an iPhone and now I’m addicted to this method. Look, I love books. That’s a given. But sometimes you’re on the subway and it’s packed and you’re lucky to stay standing, never mind balance a book while you attempt to do so. This is where your phone wins everything! Also your phone allows you to read in the bathroom, even at work where you don’t have a stack of magazines just waiting for you, and that is a truly special thing.

check out lemon reading on her phone in the bathroom


When I asked everyone to tell me about their reading habits, Ali said the following:

I prefer real books, but because I drive a lot every day, I have a sizable collection of audiobooks that I listen to via my phone plugged into my car. I use Audible to get them at a discount and some titles with very good readers are The Night Circus, The Help, Happy Accidents (Jane Lynch!), Drift (Maddow!), and The Casual Vacancy.

check out lemon listening to an audio book (she was very hesitant to lie in the hammock which is why she looks grouchy)

While the act of reading is not technically involved, audiobooks are a great way to consume texts and are beloved by road trippers, vacationers and hammock lay-ers everywhere.


I refuse to believe the hype that the magazine industry will one day be obsolete, because everyone likes to flip through something light and pretty and glossy. Most magazines aren’t available in any other format, either, so the only way to consume them is to read the actual magazine. They’re great for airplanes, long car rides (if you can read without puking in a moving vehicle), doctor’s offices. Magazines are also the greatest source material for DIY crafts like collages and zines.

What are your favorite ways to read? How do you fit reading into your life? Did we leave out your favorite? Let’s all nerd out about reading in the comments!

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Vanessa is a writer, a teacher, and the community editor at Autostraddle. Very hot, very fun, very weird. Find her on twitter and instagram.

Vanessa has written 404 articles for us.


  1. I want nothing more than to be in a hammock reading or listening to books. Especially a hammock full of pillows. This looks like heaven.

    Also I’m thinking of getting a Kindle Paperwhite because reading books on planes and stuff is hard and then I finish one and then I have to scrounge around for the next one and IT’S COMPLICATED. Really it’s not that bad, but I think I might read more with an ereader and that is only a good thing.

    • Hammocks are the absolute best places to sleep or read. It’s like sleeping or reading inside of a hug.

  2. For reading fiction and non-fiction, it has to be a book… and I prefer hard-bound ones.I just have to hold it and feel the paper and have it to bury my face into. Also, for textbooks, it has to be a book because I’m a highlight monster and I have to highlight important stuff so I remember them.

  3. Hey, how do you get a hammock in there? I’ve been wanting a hammock or one of those hanging rope chair things in my apartment but I’m afraid the walls won’t hold the weight

    • it’s a standing hammock! we had a big roommate discussion about drywall / hammocks and we had a Very Serious Vote wherein we decided it would not be okay to put a hammock into the walls of our apartment, so the roomie who was buying the hammock found a standing one. i’ll ask her where she got it. google “standing hammock” or “hammock in a stand” i imagine.

    • You can also get hammock straps (ha) if you want to hang it between trees but don’t want to hurt the trees.

  4. For textbooks, I also prefer actual books; highlighting and writing in the margins is so much easier!

    For fiction, I usually prefer paperbacks because they’re cheap, but sometimes the English paperbacks are hard to find here, so I’ll buy the Kindle ebook (also, I think the aspect of instant gratification instead of waiting a week for the book to arrive plays an important part here!)

    I’m only just getting into audiobooks, but so far I like them!

  5. I love reading books for fiction, but I read a lot of fan fiction, articles, and any free kindle books on my phone.

    One of these days I may buy an actual kindle instead of using my phone, but I feel as though I will wind up buying a physical copy then getting a digital copy of every book if I do.

    I’m not a big fan of audio books because I read too fast, but they are very good for books I am being forced to read.

  6. My personal favorite reading method is secondhand books. I like that someone else has held them and read them and experienced them, but mostly I like that they’re hella cheap. There’s also the thrill of finding a cool old edition of a classic, or a newer book you never expected to find, or just something with a cool cover that you’ve never heard of but end up loving.

    • Yes! I love the smell of second-hand books. Yummy!

      I also love finding dedications written inside. They’re cool snapshots into other people’s lives. My favourite is a copy of Steve Martin’s Shopgirl that I bought solely because inside was a note saying something like “To my honey on Valentine’s Day, I love you so much and I love you forever”, and I got such a kick out of the fact that it had been sold. Did they break up? Are they still together? I’ll never know, but I’ll always wonder.

      • I got my gf a really funny used book for Hanukkah (The Pun Also Rises), and there was a dedication inside from the previous owner’s sister – dated June 2011. Did the guy not like his sister? A year and a half is a very short time to keep a book. I want the story!

  7. I’m really sad that you didn’t mention the library in this article! I love libraries so much. And I know lots of other straddlers do too! Yes, books can cost money, but guess what? Not at the library! Lots of times they have digital editions of books for your various E-reader situations too.

    • I love love LOVE the library! At any given time, I usually have about 4 or 5 books checked out. And most libraries have a system that allows you to borrow from other places and have it sent to your home library so that even if you live in a small town, you can still get new books and other materials relatively easily. So perfect.

      Also, asking a librarian for information about the services your library offers can lead to some very surprising discoveries about the many, many things your library can do for you that you never even dreamed of.

      Even when I lived in Nowheresville, Michigan, it was actually really easy to check out manga, comic books, cds, movies, and recently released books. When in doubt, ask your friendly neighborhood librarian!

    • life got a bit crazy during december hence my very late response, but you’re right, libraries are incredible! i actually work a block away from the main NYPL and sometimes i go on my lunch break just to sit in the reading room and soak up the atmosphere of so many humans enjoying words on a page. so thank you for filling in this omission, and everyone else take note — libraries are very important when decided how to read a thing!

  8. I absolutely have to have a real tangible book/magazine when reading anything other than a strictly online thing (such as Autostraddle and tumblrs and quick info). Like, completely, absolutely, 100%, positively, for sure, no exceptions, no ifs, ands, or buts (pinball machine schematics don’t count). I don’t care if I’m going on a 10-day-long train trip and only have room for five novels. I’ll read each of them five times if I have to. I don’t know why I’m such a stickler over having the real thing in my hands, but I am. Maybe it’s something about the feeling of the pages, whether the pulpy paperback pages or smoothed over textbook pages. Or the smell of the book, or the sound of opening a fresh hardback or an older, wrinkled paperback. Maybe it’s the lack of backlighing that appears so often in all the electronics that occupy the daily life. Maybe it’s the artwork on the cover. Whatever it is, it’s all come together in a little package of beauty that cannot be created quite the same in any other way.

    I really, REALLY like books.

    For online things, I prefer the computer when doing extensive typing in addition to reading, but my iPhone when I’m on the go or when I don’t have a computer at my disposal, but mostly when I don’t want my parents looking at what I’m reading *coughautostraddleagain* LEMON! YOUR NAME.

  9. Awesome. I had never heard of Instapaper, and I just finished signing up and linking all my accounts to it – as you do, haha. Thanks so much!

  10. So I just found this huge used bookstore/warehouse only 10 minutes from my house. So long, free time and extra money!

  11. I prefer real tangible books (new or second-hand, it doesn’t matter), but I’m starting to get into this ebook thing. I’ve been reading a few books on the kindle app on my phone and I’ve come across some really cool stories for free. I bought my OH a Paperwhite for Christmas and it’s quite nice (I had to “set it up” [i.e. play with it]) so I can see myself getting one soon enough.

    I’ve been resisting the move for a while because I LOVE our groaning bookshelves and the mad scramble to jam new ones in wherever there’s space and MOSTLY because our friends treat our house a little like a library, and I love that I can recommend a book to them and just give it to them rather than telling them to go off and buy it. But the friend who borrows books from us the most is also getting an ereader for Christmas so once I figure out how to send her stuff, we’re laughing!

  12. While I belong to the like-to-hold-a-dead-tree-in-hand book lover camp,a friend’s passing on her second handle Kindle means I’ll be taking my first steps of gingerly dipping into the world of e-books.

    A lot of these comments remind me of Anne Fadiman’s Ex-Libris: Confessions of A Common Reader and a conversation among friends recently about how the best birthday gift ever would be to be unleashed in a bookstore with a very very very high credit limit.

  13. “And sometimes you might opt for a book because you’d like to own it – many people have personal libraries, and to be honest I’m always a little bit skeptical if someone doesn’t have a lot of books in their house/apartment/dorm room. Reading is special and some words are magic, and if you find a text that speaks to your soul you’re allowed to own it. It’s never a waste of money to buy a book, so don’t feel bad about it – these babies are first on this list for a reason!”

    Thank you so much for this. I recently moved out of a house with several roommates who are minimalists, which is a lifestyle I certainly respect, but I definitely felt a bit of judgement from them regarding my overflowing bookshelves. One whole carload to my new apartment consisted entirely of boxes full of books, and I’m not ashamed. I love all of the stories within those pages. (Thank the universe-governing forces for used bookstores – books in decent condition, and less than half the price of new ones? Yes, please!)

    I’ve tried audio books for personal research/study/larnin’, and the only problem is I zone out way too easily when listening to things. That also makes class difficult… when I need to learn something, I prefer to read it. But I value the efficiency of learning something besides music lyrics while I’m on the road, which I why I still try audio books sometimes.

    When I’m looking to expand my knowledge, I generally turn to Google. When I want to escape, I always pick up a novel.

    Also — is that a HAMMOCK BED? zomg that brings me so much joy.

  14. I’ve got to say, even though I LOVE books, I mean I love having them on my shelves and being able to physically SEE the amount of fiction I’ve devoured, I prefer reading on my laptop or an e-reader. (Hopefully when I leave for uni I’ll be able to get a kindle for myself.)

    I think this has to do with the amount of fanfiction I read on my laptop or Ipod, which is a HELL of a lot.

    Also, if it’s a very THICK book (think of the millennium trilogy) it’s difficult for me to get comfortable and holding the books gets annoying after awhile. I always fidget and move around a lot, so sometimes a book can be more of annoyance than anything else.

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