Audiobooks, eBooks or Books – which is the best?
The way we enjoy novels, biographies and non-fiction has changed dramatically over the past decade, with audiobooks and eBooks challenging the dominance of the old-fashioned printed book… but which format is best? We decided to find out.
Is listening to someone read a book cheating?
No, according to psychologist Daniel Willingham. He suggests that people experience pretty much the same cognitive processes whether they’re reading or listening to a book, and that listening to a book can even make the intended tone and meaning of prose clearer.
You don’t have to drop everything to listen to a book either. Listening to novels in the car or while you’re working means you can read a lot more without making drastic lifestyle changes.
It’s never been easier to buy audiobooks either. 20 years ago, an audiobook would come in a huge set of CDs. Now, you just buy or rent a file from a service like Audible, Overdrive or Downpour and you’re set.
So why aren’t we all listening to novels instead of reading them?
Well, even though psychology suggests there’s no real difference between reading and listening, other factors come into play. When you sit down and read, it’s just you and the book; it’s relaxing, thrilling, enthralling. Unless you sit down and listen to an audiobook, the chances are you’ll be doing else that will pull your attention away.
Audiobooks can be expensive too. While services like Audible offer free books and discounts, most new audiobooks cost between $20 – $30. They’re expensive for good reason – audio production costs, paying the narrator, low demand – but eBooks and physical books are almost always cheaper.
The biggest problem of all, though, is that sometimes the narrator just plain sucks. The delivery might be off, their voice may be boring, whatever; sometimes a book is better enjoyed using the voice in your head!
Imagine going back in time and telling your grandparents that, one day, they’d be able to store their entire book collection in a pocket-sized device.
eBooks have revolutionized reading. You can read them across multiple devices, picking up where you left off seamlessly, while services like Kindle and Google Books offer expansive libraries too containing even the most obscure novels.
They tend to be cheaper too, as they cost a lot less to produce. In fact, the lack of production costs means you can pick up thousands of classic public domain works for absolutely nothing!
We’ve got a winner, right? Well, not quite…
Like a lot of digital formats, eBooks are restrictive. For example: a book you buy on Google Books can’t be read using a Kindle without converting the file type, and you can’t print them out if you suddenly decide you’d prefer to read them in a physical format.
eBooks aren’t great if you want to boast about your literary cred either. Scrolling through a list of books, even if they have cover art, just isn’t the same as walking into a room and browsing through a bookshelf.
Like vinyl records, physical books have a mystical quality in the digital age. There’s something about them that seems purer, less throwaway and special.
But are books really that special? They get damaged easily, they take up loads of space, they’re heavy (looking at you, Gravity’s Rainbow) and they’re expensive (if you’re not buying a used paperback). Why aren’t they obsolete yet?
Well, there is something undeniably special about settling down with a good book. They feel more intimate, like the author has typed the words of the very book you’re reading and bound it together themselves.
Less romantically, used books are ridiculously cheap – great news if you read a lot. Medical experts have also suggested reading a physical book is better for you as it reduces your screen time and helps you relax.
And then there’s the biggest benefit of all: you don’t need electricity to read a physical book, making them the entertainment format of choice in any kind of apocalyptic situation.
How do you like to read (or listen) to books? Let us know in the comments!
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