Is Listening to an Audiobook Better Than Reading?

What do you prefer?

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Is listening to an audiobook (a talking book) better than reading the actual book? The simple answer for me is NO! Listening to an audiobook is cheating, surely? That said, people are all different and retain and comprehend the information from whatever they are reading/listening to in different ways.

Audiobooks are becoming increasing popular. With an audiobook you can listen to your favourite author whilst walking down the street or in the car on the way to work – but is it really more enjoyable and do you fully take in the story being told. For me, an audiobook will never replace a good old-fashioned book. There is nothing better than picking up a book, seeing how sentences are constructed, how words are spelt and even learning new words (I will stop reading and use a dictionary to look up words I am unfamiliar with, and do enjoy learning something new), plus using your own imagination to set the scenes and deciding what characters would look and sound like can’t be beaten. For me, listening to an audiobook is no different than watching a movie version of the book – whilst it may be good, it is never as good as reading the book.

I can see how audiobooks would benefit certain groups such as those with poor eyesight, dyslexia or other learning disabilities, making audiobooks a great idea as it makes sure that the listener is not excluded from the wonderful world of storytelling. For me, as long as I am able to pick up a book and read the words on the page audiobooks will never be my thing.

Whilst I am not a big fan of audiobooks, my partner is. She loves to listen to them whilst driving to work or doing housework. There was also another benefit that we found – during the first lockdown, the kids started listening to audiobooks, and whilst the youngest was reluctant to read she enjoyed stories this way and has developed an enjoyment of reading. Yes, reading actual paper books rather than just listening to one – that has to be a massive bonus.

Then there is the cost. Audiobooks are expensive! If you thought that the latest hardback edition of your favourite authors book at around £20 was out of your price range, then audiobooks will make your eyes water with them costing generally £25-£30. Whilst books have printing costs, they seem to be less that paying someone to read and record a book, getting the tone right etc.

Then there is the problem with getting distracted. If someone interrupts you whilst reading, you just put your bookmark in and go back to where you were with ease. If you get distracted whilst listening to an audiobook you could very easily lose your place in the story and potentially miss big, and even important, parts of the story, forcing you to rewind and try to find your place again. With a book you can flick backwards through the pages with ease if you want to check something, have missed or not understood something, something that is much more difficult with an audiobook.

I also read a lot in bed. If I fall asleep whilst reading (which does happen quite a lot), at least when I wake up I am still on the same page. If I were to fall asleep listening to an audiobook, when I awoke the story would be finished and then I would have the chore of trying to rewind to the last part that I remembered.

So is listening to an audiobook better or worse than picking up an actual book and reading it for yourself? Or is one really better than the other? I think it just comes down to personal preference. They are probably no worse or better than each other depending on how you comprehend and retain the information. Some people respond better visually, some respond better with audio.  Maybe, the best way would be to mix it up and use both ways. For me, a physical book will always win. I prefer a proper printed book, but also enjoy my Kindle. Listening to an audiobook just doesn’t work for me, I just cannot sit there and listen for any length of time before I get bored or distracted and start doing something else and not paying full attention to the story, which is shame for the me as a listener and also the author who has put so much time and effort in creating a story that they want people to read and enjoy.

I will stick to reading a book rather than listening to one, but that’s just me. You might prefer listening to the same book and enjoy it more that way. There is no right or wrong way, no better way than another. It all depends on your circumstances, the best way you take in information and how you get the maximum enjoyment for an author’s piece of work. They might even be good for your reluctant reader to discover a world of adventure and stories, and maybe they will start to read more too!

What do you prefer and why? Let me know in the comments beneath this post.

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