If you’re an avid reader, chances are that you have a strong opinion on where you get your books from. Some purists might prefer to have paper and ink in their hands, and those who are busier may swear by audiobooks. Meanwhile, someone else may be partial to the ease and accessibility of an eBook.
While each medium has its pros and cons, is there one in which readers can find the most benefits?
We have been reading print books for centuries. The practice has evolved over time, but despite the rapid increase of technology, print books continue to maintain their relevance. Why is this?
In a world where we’re used to having everything at the touch of a button, print are the hardest format of book to access. You either have to go in person to get one or you have to order one online and wait for it to arrive. When you do, it can be inconvenient because of limited storage space.
Still, people swear by them. Some readers love the feel of a hardcover book in their hands. Some people like the ease of taking notes in the margins or highlighting certain passages. For others, it’s simply an aesthetic. But there might be reasons other than just these.
Reading print books may come with benefits other than just pleasure. For example, while you can take notes virtually by using an eReader, studies have shown that the physical act of writing in a book can help you maintain knowledge and increase comprehension.
Along with this, reading fiction in a print format may help with your understanding of the story. It is theorized that having a physical representation of where you are in the story, complemented with your knowledge of the story itself, can add to your understanding overall.
In other words, those purists might be right.
Potentially the most popular medium, eBooks have made reading accessible for almost everyone. It’s possible to find and acquire new books within minutes, all from the comfort of your own home. For voracious readers, there are plenty of benefits to this.
This makes storage of books much easier, their purchasing much cheaper, and their distribution much more seamless. No longer do readers have to find space, make trips to the library or book store, or even save as much money. The average eBook can be as little as a fifth of the cost of its hardcover counterpart, making it a much more appealing option.
Along with this, new technology has made it possible to annotate eBooks, opening the medium up to the practical use of non-fiction and textbooks. All in all, they are the economical option.
For those who don’t have as much time to read, whether because they are busy or simply because they prefer to multitask, audiobooks can be a godsend. With an audiobook, you can work out, commute to work, or even finish household chores while “reading” a book.
So, is there a downside to not physically reading? The answer is complicated.
Studies have shown that those who listen to information rather than read the same thing tend to retain less. This is theorized to happen for a very simple reason—our minds like to wander.
When we read a physical book, this isn’t as much an issue. We already have an automatic impulse to go back and reread the occasional word or phrase, and this helps reinforce that knowledge. When listening to an audiobook, it’s not as organic. If we hear something in a section or story and start thinking about it, we lose part of the information being presented to us. In a print book, we automatically hit “pause” when this happens. For an audiobook, that isn’t always the case.
That being said, there are some definite benefits to listening versus reading. There is some information which is best presented audibly. Things like tone and inflection can have a huge impact on the material being presented. When reading a book, you have to add your own where you think it might be appropriate. With an audiobook, it is already there, and it can help illuminate concepts the author wants highlighted.
So, which is the best?
The honest answer is: It depends.
If you’re reading for comprehension or to gain knowledge, your best bet is probably a print book. That way, you’ll be able to annotate and mentally keep track of information based on its physical relation to the other pieces of information on the page.
Of course, if you’re reading for enjoyment, then the obvious answer is that the best format is the one you enjoy the most. If you like audiobooks because you can multitask or you enjoy the narrators (and you should—they work hard), then listen to audiobooks. If you’re voracious and like the accessibility of getting a new book within minutes of finishing your old one, use an eReader.
In the end, what matters the most is that you’re reading. Go out, enjoy books, and don’t let anyone stop you.