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Audiobook vs. Reading — Is One Really Better Than the Other?

A woman sits at a microphone with headphones on and reads from a piece of paper.

RevBlogTranscription BlogAudiobook vs. Reading — Is One Really Better Than the Other?

It might surprise you to learn that people could listen to audiobooks before they could use a shopping cart at the grocery store — but it’s true! Audiobooks were invented in 1932 by the American Foundation for the Blind.

An audiobook is a recorded version of a written work, like a book, that’s read aloud. They were invented to help blind or low-vision people enjoy books or other written works. However, today they are enjoyed by all, as many people listen to audiobooks while driving, cleaning, working, and more.

As audiobooks gain popularity, some friction has arisen between those who enjoy listening to their favorite book and those who think books can’t be beat. But in the battle of audiobook vs. reading, is one really better than the other? And does listening to an audiobook even count as reading? Let’s look into the benefits and drawbacks of both reading and listening to books.

The Argument for Audiobooks

53% of U.S. adults have listened to at least one audiobook. That equates to almost 140 million Americans! Audiobooks are a huge and ever-growing market. What started as an accessibility feature has become a phenomenon, with many enjoying the ability to take in their favorite stories while doing chores, exercising, or cooking.

Benefits of Audiobooks

First and foremost, the biggest benefit of audiobooks is that they allow blind or low-vision people to enjoy books. Accessibility is crucial to building your brand and audience, and being able to listen to an audiobook version makes the content more accessible for those who can’t read physical books.

Beyond accessibility, audiobooks can provide the following benefits for students and younger kids:

  • Access to more difficult books
  • Improved reading accuracy
  • Increased motivation to learn
  • Increased engagement in reading
  • Stronger emotional response to reading
  • More reading because of the convenience

So, are audiobooks as beneficial as reading? For developing readers, the answer seems to point to yes. Given how younger generations are being raised with technology, access to audiobooks helps them improve their language comprehension and engagement with books.

Many of these benefits carry over to older adults as well. Audiobooks allow more people to ingest books at their own pace and in their own time, leading to an overall uptick in book consumption and motivation to read.

Cons of Listening to a Story

Perhaps one of a book-reader’s most beloved experiences is the intimacy of reading their favorite novel. When moving over to an audiobook, some of that personal feeling may be lost in translation.

For example, a narrator’s voice may not entice you, or you might lose focus for a few seconds and find yourself having to rewind, rewind, and rewind again to grasp what is happening in the story. It can also be harder to find a section you enjoyed when you’re unable to physically mark it, like you can in a book.

Reading 101

Many feel that nothing compares to the feeling of holding a book and flipping its pages. Even with new advancements in digital and audiobooks, there is still a sizable market for good old hardbacks.

Benefits of Reading Books

Books provide entertainment value by introducing people to new stories, characters, and worlds. But reading books actually has proven health benefits as well, even including increased lifetime longevity in readers.

Research shows that reading books also provides other benefits, including:

  • Enhanced critical thinking skills
  • Broadened vocabulary
  • Lowered stress levels

There have also been reports of less mind wandering when you’re engaged in reading yourself, rather than listening to someone else read to you. This can mean you’re overall more focused on the book and retaining the information presented.

Drawbacks of Physical Books

Physical books can demand space in your home (it’s not uncommon to see an overflowing bookshelf in someone’s living room) and a considerable amount of money. Physical books are also easy to damage by water, food, or other substances. However, there is a workaround for this: reading books on a mobile device can help reduce the risk of damaging your physical book or taking up too much space in your home.

Let’s Settle the Debate: Reading vs. Audiobooks

In truth, both audiobooks and physical books have their time and place, and though they are similar mediums, they’re almost incomparable. As far as differences in understanding text from reading vs. listening comprehension, it seems pretty even, especially when you factor in the audiences that primarily use both mediums.

An audiobook is better for a low-vision or on-the-go person who still wants to get lost in a story. A physical book, on the other hand, is better for someone who loves to be totally absorbed in a page and has some time to snuggle up in a chair with their favorite novel.

What it all comes down to is your level of accessibility, the amount of time and money you have to devote to reading, and how busy you are. But at the end of the day, both physical books and audiobooks encourage people to read — and that’s a win.

Should Content Creators Focus on Physical Books or Audiobooks?

You’ve already done all of the hard work writing a book, so you don’t want to miss out on a potential audience, right?

Content creators should focus on both audio and physical books. By cutting out the audiobook market completely, you’re ignoring readers who might want to enjoy your material but can’t access a physical book (and with audiobook usage rapidly growing, you’re missing out on a lucrative market to boot).

Tapping into audiobooks allows you to get your content out to everyone who might want to engage with it. Simultaneously, physical books are widespread, beloved, and nostalgic, and you should honor this literary tradition by going for print as well. Online voice recording services can make it easy to take your physical media into the auditory world.

Transcribe Your Audio for the Best of Both Worlds

No matter if you’ve written the next big thriller or a romance novel that tugs at heartstrings around the world, getting an audio version of your story out into the world will help grow your following. Thankfully, Rev offers an easy way to record an audio version of your book with our online voice recorder and transcription services.

Affordable, fast transcription. 100% Guaranteed.