Discussion: Audio Vs. Print

Straight up, I love audiobooks.  I became a fan way back when I was in high school, and I’d listen to the Harry Potter books on tape (yes, tape, because way back in 2000 audiobooks were still made on tape and not CD).  I even just recently subscribed to Audible!

And that brings me to what I want to talk about today.  So, I’ve always borrowed audiobooks from the library, because they are way too expensive to buy, and the library is FREE!  However, recently there have been some books that I’ve really wanted to read, but only via audiobook, and the library hasn’t had those books in audio format.

That got me thinking . . . Why do I only want to read certain books via audiobook?  Are some stories better as an audio?  And are some better in print format?


Of course, I love print books.  I love holding the book in my hands, being able to flip through the pages, and just plopping down on the couch for an all-day reading binge.  There is nothing like digging into a print book.  But just because I love reading print books, doesn’t mean I can love and appreciate audiobooks.

Obviously, I love audiobooks.  I understand that they are not for everyone, but they sure are for me.  Here’s what I love about them:

  • I can listen to them while driving
  • I can listen while cleaning
  • I can listen while walking the dogs
  • I can listen while getting ready in the morning
  • Basically, I can listen to them while doing things I don’t like to do, which makes those things much more pleasant.
  • By listening to audiobooks, it helps me have enough reviews for my blog
  • Sometimes, listening to an audiobook makes me enjoy the book more than simply reading the print book (ex: The Scorpio Races)

But something that I am really appreciating lately, is that I’ll listen to an audiobook of a novel that I probably wouldn’t have read in print format.  We talk a lot about reading outside our comfort zone; reading those books that for whatever reason make us a little uncomfortable.

For me, those outside-my-comfort-zone books are usually those extremely emotional reads, but science fiction books, or even books that I’m just a bit apprehensive about.  Even though certain books are outside my comfort zone, I often want to read them.

BUT, reading those outside-my-comfort-zone books via audio calms my nerves enough so that I can actually enjoy those books.

Here’s some examples:

These are all books that I don’t know if I would have read if I didn’t listen to the audiobook.  And they are all books that I am ridiculously glad that I ended up reading.

So, what I’m wondering is, if you’re an audiobook lover, does reading a book via audiobook make it easier to read those outside-your-comfort-zone books?  And if you’re not an audiobook listener, how to you find ways to read those books that make you a little uncomfortable?

About Quinn

I'm a twenty-something children's librarian at a public library in Central New York. I've long left my teen years behind me, but I love to read YA and children's books. I have two adorable dogs. Ginger is a mix between a poodle and havanese, and Daphne is Bichon Frise. Other things I love: Favorite Movie: Singing in the Rain Favorite Book: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen Favorite TV Show: Monk
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22 Responses to Discussion: Audio Vs. Print

  1. Aidan Brack says:

    Great post! I am an audiobook listener but I had never really given much thought to why I pick some books rather than others to listen to.

    Certainly I think the choice of narrator makesa big difference. Some books are on my to listen list simply because of the reader. For instance, I am listening to The Selection because Amy Rubinate blew me away with her perfect narration for Cain’s The Cocktail Waitress. I am pretty certain I would never have read that had it not been for the audiobook.

    There are some types of book I prefer to read in print though… Biographies generally don’t work for me because I feel I miss important details while I avoid literary novels because a narrator with a strong point of view can end up shaping your listening experience too much, changing how I view the book.

    • Quinn says:

      Oh yes, I definitely will pick up a book because I love the narrator. Or sometimes it works the other way. I wasn’t a huge fan of the narrator of the Percy Jackson books, so I never listened to any others.

  2. I’m a bit of a hater of audiobooks, just because I’ve never liked anyone reading anything to me. From the moment I learned to read for myself as a kid, I was on my own. It actually makes me really agitated to have to listen to an audiobook!

    I think it’s because for me, hearing someone else’s voice makes the book somehow not my own. If I rely on someone else to give tone to the characters or story, then I lose half of that imagination process that really gets me into a book. I need to figure out the setting and picture it in my own head and hear the characters’ voices as I interpret them.

    Plus, with an audio book – especially like those tearjearkers you mentioned, it just keeps rolling. There’s no pause for you to re-read a page or two so you understand and let everything sink it (IE: the ending of Mockingjay). There’s no time to curl up with the book clutched to your chest while you sob it out (IE: TFiOS). You can pause it, but somehow that doesn’t really feel the same to me.

    Now of course I am completely biased as I absolutely loathe audiobooks and haven’t given many a chance. So, who knows what’ll happen in the future?

    • Quinn says:

      Certainly, audiobooks aren’t for everyone.

      Those reasons why you don’t care for audiobooks, that it just keeps going, is something I love when it comes to the emotional reads. I don’t want to dwell on that. It makes me too upsest.

  3. Jocelyn says:

    I began listening to audiobooks earlier this year when I started walking to work – and I’m hooked! To start with I went for autobiographies read by the authors (Stephen Fry, Tina Fey, Mindy Kaling) because I was worried about what an off narrator might do to a story.

    the first fiction audiobook I listened to was The Scorpio Races – and WOW! I had to comment and say OH HELL YES because that was fantastic. I really enjoyed Puck’s narrator, but especially Sean’s (side note: yum).

    I’ve now finally got my hands on Harry Potter, read by Stephen Fry, and I just don’t think audio books get any better than that.

    You’re right – they’re a different experience to print, but just as valuable!

    • Quinn says:

      Oh my gosh, yes to Steve West narrating The Scorpio Races. It’s like ear candy! I think I enjoyed that book so much BECAUSE I listened to the audiobook. I’m sure I would have liked reading the print version, but the audio made it a much more enjoyable experience.

      I’ve only listened to the Jim Dale narrated HP books. I would love to hear Stephen Fry narrate!

  4. Lucy says:

    I feel about the same as you about audiobooks, Quinn. Honestly I wouldn’t get to half of my reading if I didn’t have audiobooks. They are so great for multitasking.
    And definitely agree about the books outside your normal comfort zone. Memoirs, humor, historical fiction, etc. are a few categories I’m more likely to try in audio format.

    I’ve noticed too that some audiobooks don’t turn up in libraries or overdrive, so that’s where those audible credits are handy. And sometimes I’ll just look up my favorite narrators and check out whatever their next book is- and sometimes that’s out of my comfort zone, but the narrator makes it work for me.

    Great feature! Happy listening 🙂

    • Quinn says:

      Yes, that’s exactly what I’m going to use my audible credits for, those books that the library doesn’t have.

      And I’m definitely getting into particular narrators, too. I’m really excited to use audible more!

      And I’m glad to hear that you also will read books outside your comfort zone via audiobook. For me, it makes the whole experience so much more enjoyable.

  5. I’m not sure what it is, but I just can’t listen to audiobooks and it doesn’t feel like ‘reading’ to me. I think it’s because it goes too slow for me and I always lose my concentration. I’ve tried it several times now (even with Harry Potter!) and it doesn’t want to work. It’s a shame, because I think it would be easy to incorporate with other things.


    • Quinn says:

      I know for some people audiobooks just aren’t their thing. I totally understand that. I love them, though, and I think it’s very enjoyable. sometimes certain audiobooks make me think that that was what those radio plays were like in the 1920s and 1930s.

      I do feel like listening to audiobooks is reading, though. There are actually lots of studies out that that listening to audiobooks, or being read to, is just as valuable in the learning process as reading the print books are. Lots of people also recommend to keep reading aloud to your children, even after they can read on their own.

      • I used to read to my children when they were very young, but it was murder on my throat. Then the lightbulb went off and we’ve listened to audios ever since, 1 disk (about an hour) a night on school nights. My kids are 16, 14 & 13 now and still love listening. We’re listening to Earth Unaware by Orson Scott Card (basically it’s the prequel to Ender’s Game) and we just finished Rot & Ruin. Long way from Charlie Bone and Harry Potter. lol

  6. I like audiobooks on long journeys or road trips..Aidan and I have listened to quite a few that way!

  7. Well, you know I love audiobooks! I have a long commute to and from work and listening really helps me get through it. I do believe that I have been able to step out of my comfort zone with audio versions. For example, I have been a fan of paranormal romance for awhile, but was a little wary of the urban fantasy genre. But, I decided to try Karen Marie Moning’s Darkfever in audio for something different and have been hooked ever since. Great discussion!

    • Quinn says:

      Audiobooks are ideal for long commutes. I love music, but after awhile I get sick of it. And I’m glad audiobooks have encouraged you to try different genres, too!

  8. I’m Kayla on this. I hate audiobooks with a passion. I can not stand them. Having to listen to someone else’s voice just throws me completely off. Instead of listening to the words I’m analyzing the voice of the person and the person itself. The book is no longer a book for me. I have tried listening to some but I actually end up cringing when I they start talking and it’s all a very unpleasant experience.

    Nyx @ Unraveling Words

    • Quinn says:

      I’m a very auditory person. In fact, when I read a book, it’s like I’m reading it aloud, but in mky head. What I mean is that I will pause at all the commas, elipses, etc. So listening to someone else read a book aloud is a treat. I do listen to the voice, accent, etc of the narrator, but if it s done well, it really makes for an utterly enjoyable experience for me.

      But I understand that audiobooks aren’t for everyone. But they sure are for me.

  9. Hannah says:

    I’m sort of in the middle on audiobooks. I love the idea of them – and there have been a few I’ve listened to that I’ve just adored. My biggest problem is that 1) I usually get frustrated because it takes me a LOT longer to listen to one than it would take me just to read it and 2) I can’t always concentrate very well while I’m listening. I’ve sort of come to a happy medium in that I most prefer listening to re-reads via audiobooks. I don’t mind experiencing it at a slower pace AND don’t mind if I somehow miss out on some details. It’s how I balance what I don’t love about audiobooks with the fact that I love experiencing a book that’s read aloud. I had an Audible account for a while, but I wasn’t using it enough for it to be worth it so now I just grab books from my library when I’m in the mood 🙂 I’m hoping that the more that I listen to re-reads the more comfortable I’ll be with audiobooks and will one day be able to listen to them as much as you do! I’d love to be able to read while getting household chores done! For now, I just stick to listening during my commute.

    • Quinn says:

      You are so right, it definitely takes a lot longer to listen to a book as opposed to reading the print version. I don’t mind that so much, though, because I will have another book that I’m reading via a print copy. Audiobooks also inspire me to get the chores done, because I’ll want to listen to it, so I’ll doing something while listening.

      I think listening to re-reads is a great idea, though! That way you can go at your own pace, and if you miss some of the details, it’s not confusing.

  10. I became a fan of audiobooks when I was delivering the newspaper. The radio played the same songs over and over and over…you get the idea and silence was too boring for an already boring too-early-in-the-morning job. So I started getting audios from the library just for me. The kids & I have listened to audios for about 10 years now, but the ones in the morning were any that I could get at our library (this was long before I got a Fire and thus way before Audible). When I quit delivering the paper in 2008 I was left with just what the kids & I listen to such as Harry Potter, Artemis Fowl, etc. Excellent to be sure, but I wanted more. I’m just now getting back into audios as I walk on the treadmill and I’m loving them. Audios give me the chance to listen to a book I would never have time to read with my reviewing schedule the way it is. Additionally on the plus side, audios give me extra reviews *and* the ones the kids & I listen to get reviewed by all of us. Win-win-win. 🙂

    • Quinn says:

      I think you and I really got hooked on audiobooks for similar reasons. I was driving to college once a week and it was a 3-hour drive one way. I could only listen to so much music.

      And they are great for walking. I’m glad it works out well with you and your children!

  11. Candice says:

    Ooh, great topic! I got into audio books when my commute was an hour 1 way (so 2 hours a day) and it really helped me still “read” when I couldn’t actually read. Now though I have trouble listening to them. It’s like my focus is gone. But… on long trips, I think they’re fab!

    As for how I pick them… I think I’m kind of like you. I think audiobooks give me the opportunity to listen to something that I might not be 100% into reading. Example: Cinder. I was sooo not wanting to read it because of the cyborg thing. So I got the audiobook of it because I was really hesitant to read… I really think that’s the reason I love that series so much. Another example is The Book Thief. While I’m sure the book would have broken my heart too, the audiobook affected so much more than I ever thought anything would.

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