Internet Self Improvement

8 Alternative Ways to Be Smarter Without Reading Anything

Khamosh Pathak 23-02-2017

Reading on the web is quite straight forward. It’s usually easy to do and doesn’t take up a lot of bandwidth. You can quickly skim through long articles, get the information you want and get out. But it’s possible that you can’t or don’t want to do that.


After spending eight hours a day looking at a computer screen, reading on it can cause eye strain. Or maybe reading is something you just don’t enjoy. Yet you do want to learn things, hold your own in an argument, or get better at your job.

Thankfully, we live in the era of the internet and reading is now just one of the many ways to gain knowledge.

1. Podcasts

Podcasts have quickly become my preferred method for entertainment and gaining knowledge. Some of my favorite podcasts are those that manage to do both at the same time.

Podcasts have been around for a decade now and in the last few years have seen a renaissance. The list of awesome podcasts is no longer limited to technology.

You’ll find awesome podcasts about the history of the world, current events, news of the day, science, psychology, and the future just to name a few. NPR’s entire catalog of radio shows is available as podcasts.


Podcasts are easy to listen to. You can listen to them when you’re doing your chores, walking your dog or when commuting.

I’ve tried to describe my love for podcasts in words but nothing comes close to this quote from an article in Kernal Magazine:

Podcasts gave me the one and only thing I want from media: I want smart people to talk to me. And I will listen to them for as long as I possibly can. Whether it’s a well-produced story, or just telling me their thoughts on a recent event (whether news, sports, or even a movie), or conducting an interview with someone interesting, I want to be listening.

If you have an iPhone, use the built-in Podcasts app or the Overcast app to get started The Best Podcast App for iPhone and iPad: 7 Top Choices Compared Looking for the best podcast app for iPhone and iPad? Enjoy your favorite podcasts with these great feature-filled podcast apps. Read More . On Android, you’ll find some podcasts in the Google Play Music app if you’re in one of the supported countries. Third-party apps like PlayerFM and Pocket Casts The 8 Best Podcast Apps for Android Looking for the best podcast app for Android? We have you covered with apps that help you download, discover, listen, and more. Read More do a better job because they have their own built-in discovery section.


podcasts discover section

Once you’ve downloaded a podcast app, use the category view to browse top podcasts in things that interest you — like history, technology 7 Great Podcasts That Delve Into Tech, Gadgets, and Hardware Podcasts are one of the best ways to expand your knowledge while being entertained, and these tech-related podcasts will surely turn you into a tech expert in no time. Read More , comedy, science and so on. Get started with the following podcasts:

2. YouTube Videos

I’m still surprised that not everyone knows about the sheer amount of interesting educational content available on YouTube 10 Educational YouTube Channels Made for Marathoning YouTube is now the go-to place for nearly any video you could want -- and that makes it a wonderful educational resource. Especially if you binge-watch the best YouTube channels out there. Read More , for free. It’s possible that YouTube’s algorithms have kept you inside your own little echo chamber of similar videos.


Here are some of the top educational YouTube channels you should follow to learn all sorts of interesting and insightful things.

3. Online Courses

YouTube is great for short videos that give you an overview of a topic, but what if you want to go deeper into a topic? Like learn a new programming language 6 Easiest Programming Languages to Learn for Beginners Learning to program is about finding the right language just as much as it's about the edification process. Here are the top six easiest programming languages for beginners. Read More or learn about business principles, without picking up a book? You’ll find in-depth courses for almost anything you want to learn online. Some will be free, some will be paid, some will require a subscription.

Start with sites like UdemyCoursera, and edX. You’ll get to learn for free, from some of the top universities in the world.

If you want to learn creative or technical skills, look at sites like Lynda, Treehouse, and Skillshare.


4. Text-to-Speech Everywhere

ios text to speech

Text-to-speech is finally getting to a place that it’s no longer annoying to listen to for long periods of time. And it’s one of the best ways to “read” a random article you stumbled upon.

Pocket and Instapaper — Both Pocket and Instapaper have a text-to-speech mode. For Pocket, it’s in the menu section. Instapaper hides it under the Share menu. Instapaper does one better by letting you select a couple of articles and turn them into a playlist Instapaper Premium Is Free: 6 Features You Can Try Now Instapaper Premium is now free. Here are the six read-it-later features that could make you both a better and more productive reader. Read More .

Browser Extensions — You’ll find a variety of text-to-speech extensions for desktop browsers. Try Voice Instead for Chrome. It’s a simple, free extension that uses a human-like text-to-speech engine. — The website lets you listen to curated blogs and websites. They have a Chrome extension and their app is coming soon.

Speak Screen for iOS — iOS has an accessibility feature you can turn on from Settings > General > Accessibility > Speech > Speak Screen. Now, when you swipe down from the top of the screen with two fingers, Siri will start reading everything that’s on the screen. Open a web page in Safari, switch to reader mode, and listen to an article that way. You can also listen to ebooks using this trick in apps like iBooks and Kindle.

Speak Selection on Mac — Mac has a similar feature in Settings > Accessibility > Speech. Here, check the option to enable speak selection using a keyboard shortcut. Next, when you’re on a page you’d like to be read aloud, select the text, and press the keyboard shortcut.

5. Listen to Blinkist


Blinkist is an excellent service Blinkist Helps You Read A Book In 15 Minutes If you've been wanting to read books, but can't always find the time, a Berlin-based book collection startup called Blinkist thinks it has a solution. Read More that takes long works of text (sometimes referred to as books) and distills them to their most important bits. At only a couple of pages, they’re the cliff notes version books. But why read even that much? If you subscribe to their premium plan, you can have it read to you.

6. Audiobooks

audiobook apps ios

After podcasts, Audiobooks are my second favorite kind of audio entertainment (yes, music is now number three). You can find audiobooks from different sources. LibriVox gives the audio treatment to classics that are officially out of copyright 10 Ways You Can Download Audiobooks for Free Right Now Audiobooks can be a great way of "reading" while doing other things. The only problem is that free audiobooks are rather hard to come by. This list of online resources should help. Read More , so you can listen to classics like Huck Finn and Pride and Prejudice instead of reading them.

On the other side of the spectrum is Audible. Where you’ll find the latest professionally narrated audiobooks. Subscriptions cost $15/month and usually gives you credit for one new book.

7. Audible Channels

audible channels

The Audible app has recently added Channels, which is a nice perk for subscribers. You’ll find exclusive shows (podcasts), playlists and news stories from sources like New York Times, Washington Post, and more.

8. Ask Alexa or Google Assistant for a Briefing

If you have a device with Alexa or Google Assistant Amazon Echo vs. Google Home vs. Apple HomePod In this article, you'll learn the differences between the Amazon Echo and Google Home. We'll also take a look at what features an Apple speaker may include. Read More , just ask your lady in the cylinder to give you the day’s news. You’ll get the day’s top stories, from the sources you’ve configured in the app. CNN’s “Skill” (Alexa) will read you top stories from the network five minutes after broadcast.

If you do have an Alexa enabled device like the Echo or the Echo Dot Amazon Echo vs. Dot vs. Tap: What Are the Key Differences? One common complaint against Amazon Echo was that it had too many features and cost too much. Amazon's response to that? Releasing two variations with smaller price tags: the Tap and the Echo Dot. Read More , you can do a lot of interesting things. Once the TuneIn skill is added, you can ask Alexa to play you a podcast or a radio station. After connecting it with your Audible account, you can ask Alexa to start playing or resume an audiobook, which is just plain cool when you think about it.

A Note About the Blatant Hypocrisy

You’re probably reading this as text. It was written by me, using a keyboard, in a text editor. I make my living writing articles on the internet so I’m not saying let’s all get rid of text altogether. There’s so much utility in just being able to read or skim over some text. It’s also one of the quickest and best possible ways to retain information (through spaced repetition How To Be A Smarter Learner By Using The Method Of Spaced Repetitions Spaced repetition is a method that can help you plateau out the downward curve of your forgetfulness and help you memorize large amounts of data. It is an accelerated learning technique. This article is about... Read More ).

You might forget what was in a five-minute YouTube video the very next day but if you take the time to read a five-page article about it, it might just stay with you for much longer (I’ve seen this happen to myself).

Even when I’m using mediums like podcasts, YouTube videos or online courses, I take notes, in you guessed it, text.

It’s Not the Only Way

These are of course not the only ways to consume knowledge without ever picking up a book. Go to local meetups, socialize with people who share your interests or watch a documentary or two.

How do you consume knowledge? The old-fashioned way? Share with us in the comments below.

Image Credits: aslysun/Shutterstock

Related topics: Audiobooks, Education Technology, Podcasts, Reading.

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  1. Robert B.
    February 24, 2017 at 9:02 am

    Books, books, and then some more books :)