The Sad Truth About Used Books

Mon, Apr 15, 2024

I love “real” books. 

Not knocking eBooks (my Kindle Scribe is my favorite device) but nothing will ever replace the feel of an actual book for me. I buy dozens of books monthly and always opt for used copies if available. But there’s something really sad that happens with used books. 

One of the reasons I love used books is that they often come with previous readers’ highlights, underlines, and even notes. I think it’s so special to commune not only with the author but also with a complete stranger yet kindred literary spirit. 

Here’s what’s sad: Of the marked-up books, the vast majority (and I mean 80%) end at chapter two or three. This means most people only make it a few chapters into the book and then quit. 

This might be a metaphor for how humans approach life.

First, I don’t fault anyone for not finishing a book if it’s not worth the time. As a reader, I’ve evolved and no longer force myself to go further than my attention will carry me. It’s okay to jump ship on a book that’s just not doing it for you. That’s not what I’m saying here at all. 

If the book hadn’t landed, it wouldn’t have been highlight-worthy in the first place. It’s sad to see the start of someone’s journey into a resonating book only to watch that journey come to an abrupt end. The highlights never peter out; they always just stop cold.

As I write this, I’m worried that it might come across as judgmental. That’s not my intention at all. I’m not trying to shame anyone. It’s just an experience I’ve had enough times to want to put down on paper and think through.

Why does it make me so sad? The answer (as always) has to do with my insecurities. 

They make me think about all the symbolic books I left unfinished—things that resonated but I didn’t see all the way through for whatever reason. When I stop to think about it, there are way too many.

There are entire businesses I started working on, things with real hope and promise that I was excited about, that I dropped at chapter two. Books I started to write, courses I started to outline, trips I started to research, training I started to take, communities I started to engage with…

I hate thinking about all of the two-chapter books in my life. It reminds me of the “half-built bridges” talk that Ryan Deiss always gave to the DigitalMarketer community. If you need to get more familiar with it, I’ll write about it and see if I can do it justice. 

What sucks about these half-built bridges and two-chapter books is that I didn’t stop because they didn’t have promise; I stopped because they got complicated.


The excitement wears off the minute something requires us to roll up our sleeves, sweat, and maybe even bleed. 

That’s the part of me that I want to overcome. 

That’s the script in my brain that I would like to find and rewrite. No more two-chapter books. Even if it means I must slow down and go at a snail’s pace, reading one page daily. As long as I know that book has promise, I stay with it. 

Because I know the cost is worth the reward. The few outstanding successes I’ve had in life came after a line of demarcation where I usually would have quit and, for whatever reason, didn’t. 

The most significant yields are always on the other side of the line, where most people quit.

No more two-chapter books: That’s my commitment to myself. 

I hope writing this offers the opportunity for Providence to hold me accountable. I’d love to know from you what a two-chapter book in your life you think you should go back and finish.