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Let’s imagine, you hear about a great book somewhere on the internet. Whatever info you got made you curious enough to want to read it, but now you have a question – which format to choose?
Another scenario: one of your plans or resolutions for this year/month/week is to start reading more. It’s an excellent hobby for both self-care and personal growth, you go!
But what’s the best way to get about it?
In the 21st century, we have so many options for simply reading a book, from good ol’ libraries to apps that will read for you in multiple voices wherever you are!
And while I’m grateful for the access to everything at once, it often leaves me with the question. What to choose?
Well, I’m glad you’re here, because I prepared everything you need!
I love books, I love different formats of books, and I love to talk about the things I love. What a coincidence, huh?
Also, I know that not every book is perfect in every format.
Some titles are better for listening on the go, some can only be appreciated as a paperback, and some just don’t need much fuss – download and start reading right away.
Everything depends on the genre, content, and your personal connection with the title, so no, not all books are equal. You gotta figure out what works just for you.
And I’m here to help! So hurry up and make yourself comfortable, let’s dig into the big debate of printed books vs ebooks vs audiobooks.
According to Wikipedia, an audiobook is a recording of a book being read out loud. In the past, they were usually recorded on a cassette or CD, but these days it’s enough to have an app or an audio file on your device.
I’m currently using Audible [aff.] and can only speak for it – but you’ll find similar features in other audiobook apps as well.
+ Your Eyes Are Free (and Safe)
One of the biggest benefits of audiobooks is that, well, you don’t have to read them. You don’t have to have the book in front of you. You can walk, talk, sleep, eat, scroll through social media, ride a bus, work, practically live in your earphones!
Not like I expect you to.
Please have some mercy for your ears.
+ Anywhere, Anytime
Coming straight from the previous point.
As long as you have access to your phone, you can listen to an audiobook.
In a coffee shop? Absolutely. At the workplace? As long as your boss doesn’t see you. At your best friend’s birthday party? Ehm, maybe think again.
But whenever you have free time and a decent amount of free attention, you can open the app and keep “reading”. You can even switch from book to book without losing progress!
Most audiobook apps offer you an excerpt of any given book. These introductory pieces allow you to check the book’s style and rhythm before deciding on purchasing.
Also, you have a chance to hear the narrator, and for an audiobook, it’s very important. For someone like me – an HSP who pays attention to every sound – it can be even crucial.
+ Good Distraction
I’m the kind of person that loves reading. I love the process of it, no matter what format, and I firmly believe you can’t appreciate a book if you aren’t actually focused while reading it.
But sometimes even listening without focus can be a great help. These times are called bad mental health days.
Books are a well-known self-care tool, and audiobooks are no exception.
When you need a distraction from stress, anxiety, or negative thoughts, listening to an audiobook can be surprisingly relaxing. However, you won’t be able to remember much of what’s being said, so better choose something you don’t mind to forget.
+ Sleep Timer
If you love to read before falling asleep, this feature will be a life-changer for you.
And even if you’re not a fan of bedtime reading but have troubles with anxious thoughts at night, try it out!
Listening to a calm voice will help you relax and unwind, just like when you were a child. Only don’t listen to textbooks with a sheer goal of learning their contents in one night – the trick doesn’t work.
(Reminder that I can speak only for Audible here – you have to check for yourself if your chosen app has it.)
+ Exact Time
One of the benefits of audiobooks that’s not so popular – but I find it very helpful.
Unlike a paper book or even eBook where you can’t predict how much time it’ll take you to finish, an audiobook gives you the exact amount.
You can use this feature for different reasons. For example, if your goal is to read three books a month, you can easily calculate how much time you have to spend listening every day.
– No Time to Think Through and/or Note
The first and biggest con of audiobooks is this one. You’re unable to take a break and reread without jumping back and forth all over the player.
If you’re listening to a fiction book, you don’t have time to appreciate the author’s style and details. If it’s non-fiction, you have to pause to absorb the information properly.
Taking notes is practically impossible for obvious reasons. Unless you’re a transcriber, of course.
– Unpleasant Voice
I already mentioned how important a narrator’s voice can be for a pleasant experience. If it’s hard for you to focus on the book’s content because of the dialect or timbre, you won’t be able to appreciate the book.
I, for one, had to drop some books because of the voice and/or the manner of reading.
With that being said, I also had plenty of times when, at first, the voice seemed unfitting and pitchy – but by the end, I couldn’t imagine the book being read by anyone else.
So, always give the excerpt a thorough listening and every narrator – a chance. They were chosen for that job for a reason.
– Easy to Get Distracted
The thing is that, with all the benefits of audiobooks, you rarely give them 100% of your attention. Unless, of course, you are in a quiet room, doing nothing but listening to every detail (why not grab an actual book then?).
But in any other case, you’ll miss at least some details. Your thoughts may wander somewhere else or someone will call you in the middle of a chapter – and oops, what did they say, again?
– Needs Battery
Well, we gotta touch on that one, huh?
If you don’t have an app with membership options, you have to pay around 30$ for a single book. Yikes.
You can even find articles on why audiobooks are so expensive! (If you’re curious, the short answer is: production cost.)
The best way to avoid these prices is to sign up for a membership – they’re usually much cheaper (down to 8$ per month) and offer whole libraries of free audiobooks.
Audiobooks have plenty of benefits, but as much as I like them, I don’t think every title is suitable for listening.
If you’re excited about the book, if you want an immersive reading experience, if you want to appreciate the author’s style and dig through every detail, audiobook is not an option.
However, if you’re not that interested in the book’s content and just want to get familiar with the main idea, audio is the perfect format. Often in pair with nonfiction genres.
Personally, I use audiobooks as a kind of assessing tool. If a book’s description got me excited, I’ll find a way to read it. But if I’m not sure about it, I’ll probably go for the audio version first.
As for the best way to listen, an app is a way to go. Seriously, don’t even think about overpaying for a title (unless, of course, you are interested in one particular audiobook and want nothing else, ever).
Audible has everything you need for an audiobook app, so give it a go! You can start your free 30-day trial here [aff.] and close it at any time without losing a cent.
You can even sign up, download that audiobook you wanted for free, and cancel the trial the same day – Audible lets you keep all the books forever, no matter if your membership is active.
And if you’ll decide on continuing after the trial, Audible Plus [aff.] is only 7.95$ per month, which is already cheaper than 90% of the audiobooks out there. And I’m yet to see an audiobook subscription with a lower price!
eBook, or an electronic book, is a copy of a book in a digital format. As long as you have any device with a screen, you can read an eBook.
The best way to read an eBook is an e-reader, but you can opt for a smartphone, tablet, or even laptop instead.
+ Anywhere, Anytime
Here we go again.
But seriously, if you have a suitable device (and I bet you always have something around), you have access to your eBooks. Have you seen all these people staring at their devices in transport, at the coffee shops, on the street?
Alright, not everyone’s reading books, but you know, some of them definitely are.
Of course, an eBook is not as convenient as an audiobook – you can’t read while jogging or doing your monthly chores. But as long as your hands and your eyes are free, you can jump straight back into the middle of a chapter.
+ Literally Any Book
Or, okay, there are books, still, available only in paperback. (To balance it out, there are even more books available only in digital format.)
But let’s be real, when it comes to eBook vs printed book, the former is clearly the winner.
There’s a 99% chance you can find every book from your reading list online. You won’t even have to search for long – just google the title, and it’ll pop up immediately.
You won’t find such availability among audiobooks or physical copies. The first ones require more efforts to be made and the second, unless found in the local store, have to be delivered.
+ Easy to Buy
Googled the title and it popped up? Chances are, you’ll get a straight link to purchase as well.
You don’t even have to have an app or subscription (although you better do, I’ll touch on it later) – there are multiple eBook stores all over the internet. All you need is a credit card. Really, that’s it.
Whether it’s a benefit of eBooks or 21st century is up to you.
+ Easy to Store
All you need to keep an eBook is digital space. And while audiobooks can weigh up to a gigabyte, one eBook rarely crosses the 10 Mb threshold.
You can lose or break your device, though, but I bet books won’t be at the top of your priorities.
And usually, you still have access to your purchase online, so really, the book will stay with you for as long as you wish.
+ Taking Notes/Bookmarking
Yup, obviously, you can take notes while reading. Even if your reading app doesn’t have this feature (which is weird, every decent app nowadays has), you can just switch to a Notes app – done!
With bookmarking, well, it’s harder if your app doesn’t have the option (try taking screenshots?), but seriously, what kind of app doesn’t?
Ah, the sweetest benefit of eBooks! They are the cheapest form of reading on this list.
They have practically zero production cost – no printing, no recording, sometimes no cover even. Nada. You have text – you can sell it.
Indie authors often sell their books only in digital form for that exact reason.
Of course, there’s always an exception, like bestsellers that may cost just as much as the printed book if not more. But generally, eBooks are cheaper.
– Gotta Get Used To It
It’s something I’m still struggling with, because, despite all the advantages, I don’t really like eBooks. I read them, quite often – but I rarely enjoy the process.
Maybe because I don’t have an e-reader anymore and my phone screen automatically reminds me of everything else I could be doing? Especially when a notification pops up.
But if you read often and especially from an e-reader, you get used to eBooks much easier. Heck, I was used to reading only eBooks when I was a teen and it was the only available format.
It’s just that sometimes it takes time.
– Not as Immersive
I’m not saying that it’s not immersive at all. It’s easy to spend hours with an eBook if it’s a good one and you’re actually focused.
But it cannot be compared with holding a book, flipping pages, taking notes by yourself. A screen is still a screen, even with zero brightness and electronic paper.
– Needs Battery
– Eye Strain
Not applicable to modern e-readers – nowadays they all use special screens that don’t cause eye strain. At least, the good ones.
But if you’re going to spend time reading from a smartphone or tablet (like me, oops), beware that it’s bad for your eye health. I warned you.
As I said already, even though I don’t really enjoy reading eBooks, I still do it quite often. (It’s the most available format after all.)
If you don’t want to raid a library every month or spend an enormous amount of money on creating your own, eBooks is what you inevitably end up with. And, despite my whining about the lack of “real feel”, they are good.
You get to read the book and enjoy it all the same.
So, my opinion is that when a physical copy of the title is unavailable (or too expensive) and an audiobook is unable to give you a thorough experience (or unavailable), go for an eBook.
The best way to read eBooks is, of course, an e-reader. Seriously, if you plan on reading a lot, check Kindles like this [aff.] or this one [aff.]. These things are made specifically for reading eBooks and making the process as pleasant as possible.
However, if you prefer an app for your smartphone, I recommend Kindle Unlimited [aff.].
First, you can pair it with Audible and switch from audio to digital format in one click (keep in mind that it’s available only with books already present on Audible).
Second, you can have up to 10 books (from over a million available titles) in your library at any time – and I doubt you’ll need to start reading an eleventh.
And finally, Kindle Unlimited has a free 30-day trial as well! You can start by signing up here [aff.], see if it works for you – and cancel at any time. It’ll give you an idea of how the world of eBooks looks like without taking a dime out of your pocket.
Good old books. Nothing to add here, nothing to take – you all know and love them, no need for additional explanation, I hope.
+ True Reading Experience
First and foremost, it’s this. The biggest benefit of physical books is the process of reading them. I mean, that’s where we all started, right?
Hard or paper cover, printed letters, beautiful illustrations, the feel of paper under fingertips, the weight of it when you hold it. I don’t know how to put these feelings into words, but you know what I’m talking about.
Nothing can beat reading a good book at home, under covers, with a cup of tea, and, preferably, quiet all around you. And if it’s your favorite novel? Something fictional and out of this world? That’s where true immersion comes in.
+ An Actual Book You Own
Unlike audio and electronic books, a physical copy is something you can keep for ages.
You choose a book you like, you go to a store (or order online), you get it – and it’s yours now. An actual physical object you can put on a shelf and know that it’s there. Know you can always reach for it, open the first chapter, and start reading right away.
For me, it’s the biggest reason to buy a book in the first place.
If there’s a book I already know and love, I will purchase a physical copy sooner or later. Just to be sure that I always have it, and even if the internet breaks down and the world catches on fire, at least I have my favorite stories at hand.
+ You Can Borrow/Trade/Give It to Someone
Or someone can borrow/trade/give it to you (libraries, anyone?).
Every book in the world is unique, and when you give yours to someone it’s like giving a part of yourself. Sharing the good feelings and memories the book gave you.
And, just the same way, when you have someone else’s book in your hands, there’s a special feel to it. Pages that’s been turned multiple times already, tiny dark spot at the beginning of the last chapter, a piece of paper forgotten under cover – no other book is the same.
Digital files are literal copies of each other – but libraries, book cafes, flea markets, your grandma’s collection, or even your friend can offer a book with its own biography. Isn’t it cool?
+ No Battery Needed
Remember that eBooks vs printed books debate? When it comes to digital detox, we all know who is the winner.
To enjoy a paper book, you don’t have to stay close to chargers, internet, electricity as a whole. Go on a road trip, climb mountains, get lost in the forest, go wherever you like – and the book will always be with you.
Not every book has illustrations, of course, but the ones that do? Oh, it can’t even be compared to their digital counterparts!
Even if you get to see the illustration in an eBook, it’ll be small, less colorful, and, if you’re using an e-reader, black and white. Which is not that bad – usually, illustrations are black and white in the first place – but everything else is on point.
And if it’s something like “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” [aff.] or “The Invention of Hugo Cabret” [aff.] where illustrations are a crucial part of the story? Well, you’ll have to figure out how to enjoy both the text and the graphics on different pages at the same time.
– Takes Space
It’s as much as a pro as it’s a con.
Remember the point about a printed book you can physically own and carry everywhere? Well, you need space to do all that.
Of course, when we talk about one book, it’s not that big of a problem – but when you start growing your collection? Or getting ready for a trip with limited space in your luggage?
E-reader would carry every book you own (plus a hundred more, if you’d like) without taking as much as a few inches and a few ounces at best.
– Can Get Damaged
Even if your device gets damaged, you can often restore your eBooks in a couple of clicks. Which isn’t the case with physical copies.
If you spill even one drop of coffee, it’ll stay with your book forever, reminding that maybe you should’ve come back to reading after lunch.
Of course, you can look at this as a part of the book’s unique history – but when one drop turns into a whole cup, it gets harder to stay optimistic.
– Isn’t Always Available
Surely, there are hundreds of thousands of books on the internet, only waiting for you to order. But delivery is a tricky thing, especially since the beginning of the pandemic.
“Out of stock” can also appear out of nowhere, especially if the book is a big hit.
You can physically check local book stores – but they offer a limited amount of titles anyway. That is, of course, if you live in a place with many book stores around. Otherwise, your options narrow down to a few hundred titles.
And if you’ve never come across such problem, it may sound ridiculous to you, but trust me, there are books you won’t find anywhere around.
I love books. It should be obvious by now, but yes, I love reading, and I love physical books.
I love the feeling of holding a book, skimming through pages, leaving bookmarks, being immersed in it to the fullest, to the point where nothing else exists, except for your imagination. You can’t get that with any other format.
Printed books vs eBooks vs audiobooks, again? Printed books all the way for me.
But they are often hard to get, and with my love for reading, I’d sooner go broke than buy every book I want.
That’s why you have to be picky when it comes to paperbacks.
If you’re in for one particular book, and you know it’s worth purchasing for life (or giving it to someone else later) – go get it! Check your local or online book stores and enjoy the great experience of true reading.
But if you want to have access to a variety of titles and be able to drop one book and jump to another, look at the digital formats once again. Check Audible, Kindle, or any other membership apps, some of them will definitely offer everything you need.
Use the modern comforts to the fullest!
And that’s it for today.
Hope you enjoyed my guide and found a perfect book format for yourself. Let me know in the comments if my tips were helpful, and have the best experience with this new title on your reading list!