Saturday, 12 September 2015

eBooks vs. Audio Books vs. Actual Books

All readers are well-acquainted with the struggle of deciding which format is best for their next book bargain. It may seem like such a shallow problem (they’re all books, you might say, they all have the same story) but, speaking from experience, sometimes reading a book in the wrong format sucks. I once downloaded Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children on my Kindle only to discover that its beautiful black-and-white photographs wouldn’t show up in the ebook format (many tears were shed that night). And of course, listening to a book with illustrations totally defeats the point.

A lot of people tend to ask me which format I recommend, which is dumb, because everybody has a personal preference. Just because I like mermaids more than unicorns doesn’t mean that unicorns aren’t badass, right? Right. And all formats have their benefits! I’m not about to tell anybody that they must only ever read hardback books, because they’ll run out of money for food and then they’ll literally have to live on words alone. (This is a serious issue. Guys, please don’t ever eat your books. Contrary to popular belief, eating a page out of The 5th Wave won’t help you survive the apocalypse.)

But because I love being an opinionated reader, I’ll share my thoughts on all three formats without necessarily choosing the best one. That way I can’t be blamed for ruining somebody’s life.


Ebooks are the best technological invention of the decade (other than e-readers, obviously, and also those reading lights you can clip onto your glasses). Do you frequently find yourself seeking intellectual stimulation whilst aimlessly scrolling through your cellphone in public? Look no further than an ebook! You can read it on your phone! You can read it on your tablet, iPad, iPod, Kindle! Even your watch! (All right that one’s a lie, but one day…) Seriously, ebooks are awesome. They’re cheap, immediate and image-friendly – no more worries about appearing “nerdy” or “weird” in public because you’re hauling around a suitcase filled with all your favourite books, because now you can keep them all in the wondrous digital cloud!

Downside of owning only e-books: When we have a solar flare and all our technology gets wiped out, you won’t be able to read ever again. Sorry. I’m sure as hell not sharing my precious few paperbacks when you’re bored and looking for a way to escape from the reality of a dystopian world through contemporary YA fiction. (Ha. That’s so ironic it’s almost an awesome concept. Someone write a book, quickly.)

Audio Books

Up until recently, I flat out refused to listen to audio books. “I’m a reader,” I would argue, “not a listener.” Well, clearly I was missing out. The beauty of an audio book is simple: they are perfect for multitasking purposes. You can paint your nails, cook dinner, play rugby, type up an essay, sleep, eat dinner with your family, sit in a lecture, or even read another book, all whilst listening to your audio book. That’s not to say that you should – playing rugby while you listen to a romance novel doesn’t sound all that safe. Imagine if you started crying during the match because your favourite character died? You’d probably be given a red card.

Also, audio books are awesome if you’ve always wanted to live inside the story. You can pretend that the voice is narrating your own story – you can become the protagonist. Sure, you might get yourself sent to an asylum, but you’re Celaena Sardothien, now. You’ll find a way out, right?

Downside of owning only audio books: I’m not going to lie, sometimes the voices get annoying. Not only because you’re literally hearing strange voices in your head for eight hours at a time or more, but also because sometimes those voices get annoying. I mean that in the least offensive way possible. Sometimes, I’ll be listening to a book, and the woman reading it will have an amazing accent. Then instead of focusing on the story, I’ll start trying to figure out where she’s from, and how I can get her accent (South African accents suck. We sound like we’ve swallowed ducks that are stuck in our throats and are speaking in unison with us. I’m always trying to give myself a nonchalant British accent, and failing miserably, but audio books are helping me learn).

Paperbacks and Hardbacks

I know this sounds terrible, but I’m incredibly vain when it comes to purchasing books. As in, I am perfectly willing to spend an absolute fortune on a paperback or hardback book just so that I can admire how beautiful it looks on my bookshelf. Other bloggers have pointed out that physical copies also just look way better in their booklr and bookstagram photos, and I say I have to agree. Trying to arrange a cellphone in an aesthetic position next to a bunch of flowers just doesn’t give the same vibe as a pretty paperback covered in autumn leaves or whatever. Then there’s that irreproducible feeling of getting books in the mail, especially after you’ve been anticipating their arrival for months. And the way a paperback smells, even when it’s old and dusty and falling to pieces. And the way you can pile them around you to make an impenetrable fort of literature.

Downside of owning only physical books: People can ask to borrow them, and then you have to come to terms with the prospect of somebody breaking the spine, or dogearing the pages. Or worse, they don’t give it back, and then it’s lost forever. These are the things that keep me up at night.

What do you think? Do you prefer listening to books or reading them? And is it better to keep a physical copy just in case the apocalypse wipes out your e-reader, or are ebooks just more convenient?


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  2. Can't live without my Kindle but then I still prefer the smell and feel of a good book. Discussions decisions...

  3. Two major downside to audible (for me): 1) I keep falling asleep and, unlike a normal book, that automatically stops being read upon napping, the dratted narrator keeps droning on and on! 2) audible forces you to hear every. Single. Word. So gruesome murder scenes I would skip over in my book I am forced to endure blow by blow. Literally. Downside of Kindle - not great to read in the bath, you can't lend it out and the battery is always flat when I do actually decide to use it. So, it's good old fashioned books for me.