October 3, 2018

The fight for (or against) audiobooks


The long time audiobooks versus physical books debate is going strong.

Photo via wu yi/Unsplash

Studies from experts strongly support both sides. Personal conversations with friends (not experts) vary from indifference, strong supporters and audiobook opposers. Even Time reported on audiobooks, with experts giving pros and cons from both sides of the aisle. We’re not sure what to believe, so we made a pros and cons list.


1. Audiobooks are accessible for all readers.

Audiobooks are a major asset for any person – no matter what they’re reading level or background may be. So for young readers, it’s a great way to get started. Or, for a person who suffers from chronic migraines, it’s a superb way to dip into a story without eye strain.

2. Audiobooks are a commuter’s ultimate sidekick.

If you don’t commute by bus or train, it is super unsafe to catch up on your reading on your way to work with a print book. Commuters that drive or walk can enjoy their favorite stories on-the-go with audiobooks. We do occasionally see pedestrians walking while reading and although charming, it’s just as dangerous as texting and walking. Look out for people, poles, and cars!

3. Audiobooks are great for people with jam-packed schedules.

Maybe you have chores, you need to go to the gym, you need to cook dinner after you go to the gym, you have a new baby, etc. There are so many things that can prevent people from reading physical books that can be accompanied by audiobooks.

4. Audiobooks are a group experience.

While you may have good memories of popcorn reading in elementary school, that’s not really a fun way to leisurely read as a group. With audiobooks, friends and families can listen together anywhere.

5. “Experts” say listeners and readers retain the same amount of information.

After reading the research from the experts in Sage Journal, please see number 5 in Cons. 


1. Don’t like the reader’s voice? You might miss out on a great book.

Spending hours listening to someone with a grating voice could ruin a reading experience. Readers might drop off after a few minutes if there isn’t that right amount of chemistry, so to speak.

2. Audiobooks require technology.

There’s no way around it: audiobooks require access to internet and a phone. On a remote camping trip? That audiobook might not load without any cell service. Or, expect to pay more data fees for downloads and storage.

3. You will be scolded by book purists.

You will be called a cheater and all of the knowledge you took in will be discredited by print-only snobs. If you feel sad about this, try to follow Alex Watt’s approach in his article “Listening to Audiobooks Is Just As Good As Reading, If Not Better, So Back the Hell Off.”

4. Audiobooks lack that sweet smell and feel of books.

Although only a book could replace the feel of a book, audiobook lovers have gotten crafty with replacing the smell of a book. Check out the Etsy artist, Frostbeard, that created
an old books scented candle and brags that it smells of aged paper and dusty shelves.

5)  “Experts” say listeners don’t retain as much information as readers. 

After reading the research from the experts, please read number 5 in Pros. 


In conclusion, we think you should do what works for you, as long as you’re reading.

Christina Cerio is the Manager of Direct Sales & Special Projects at Melville House.