Having spent a good year listening to audiobooks, I thought it may be a good time to observe its utility for me over the past year, especially if there is a clear cut option that suits me? Note that this is purely an anecdotal standpoint, and what works for me would not work for you as everyone will have their own style and habits of reading. So here we go.


Books allow me to have a faster reading speed, where I have noticed that I can change my reading pace at a subconscious level of which my brain automatically speeds up or slows down. It is much easier to jump to certain passages or skim sections in which may be too dry or irrelevant if need be. Hence, it was easier for me to go deep on what is important, taking notes on the side where I could revisit certain passages that I’ve read to compare and reflect. On the other hand, there is the temptation to let an audiobook continue to keep droning on, but with a book in my hand, I was more likely to try and grapple with what I have just read, not moving on – checking previous passages until I understood the concept. In light of this, it is easier for me to go deeper with a book as opposed to an audiobook. Books allow me to reflect a lot more, as I could dwell on a certain passage for as long as I wanted. The format of audio is much more linear, in which to dwell on the same passage requires rewinding. For a book, the words were already on the page, and you could jump to any section quite quickly.


The flexibility of audiobooks is unparalleled, where I could supercharge any menial task with an audiobook. In our fast-paced modern lives, it is very easy to carve out time to listen to an audiobook. Additionally, the narration can add another dimension of meaning to the way that the words are expressed. For example, Shakespeare’s plays were written to be watched, not read as done traditionally in schools.

During COVID-19, in the midst of online work and online study, my eyes were consistently glued to a screen. Zoom fatigue was a very real problem. When I tried to read, there were times where my eyes literally felt like they were getting lasered, of which audiobooks were a lifesaver. Before I went to bed, I would listen to an audiobook and stretch at the same time #productivity. This single habit was a major supplement for me to get through the books that I did last year.


Both audiobooks and books have their own strengths and weaknesses. Thus, the advice that I would give is “Porque no los dos?” – why not both?

To not utilise both in order to ramp up the number of pages we turn would be shortchanging ourselves. I would make the argument that books from a reflective and learning point of view is better, in which there is more quality to be extracted for every page we turn. For serious study, this is certainly the way to go. Audiobooks in turn are a fantastic, even casual compromise where you can ‘read’ in situations never conceived before. Books are superior when you have the time to sit down. Audiobooks are superior in terms of their convenience being able to ramp up the quantity of reading, yet there is an exchange of quality and depth of reading. Some books can be better on text, some books can be better narrated (such as fiction). Choosing an audiobook over a book depends on the context of why you are reading (fun or study) and what sort of genre the book is too.

Perhaps, if one has a lot of cash to burn, it’s possible to listen to an audiobook and own the paper book to review, or for future reference if you needed to refer to it.

So the take-home message regarding books and audiobooks is this – utilise them both to maximise their strengths, bearing in mind each of their weaknesses.