Should you listen to or read your next book?

Should you listen to or read your next book?

In For the Love of Reading by Molly Hurford

Should you listen to or read your next book?

As you're looking for your next title, you might debate whether it’s better to read or listen to that book. As audiobooks become more popular and easier to access, it's become mainstream to listen to a book while you workout, clean, commute, or walk. And ebooks have made it easier to have an entire library at your fingertips, so whenever you have an extra few minutes — as you wait in line at the grocery store or at the doctor's office — you can get through a few pages. But, which style of reading helps you learn and retain information most effectively?

Ultimately, the answer waffles between "it depends," and "it doesn't matter." Research has shown our brains process listening to an audiobook or reading the same text in a nearly identical way. However, depending on your reading material and lifestyle, one may be better than the other. Here's what to think about when deciding between audio and ebook options.

Start with what feels more do-able

At the simplest level, ask yourself if you're more likely to flip through a book on your phone or tablet, or if you'd rather pop in your headphones to get through a chapter. To decide between the two, the biggest question to ask is: "Which one am I more likely to do?" That's your answer. You may be surprised that you have an obvious gut reaction. Or maybe the circumstances simply line up so that an audiobook makes more sense, like if you have a road trip coming up and need some driving entertainment.

If you're as willing to read as you are to listen to a book, ask yourself a few more questions.

When do you have time to read?

For plenty of busy people, audiobooks are the most convenient way to find time to read. Think about how a typical day goes, when you have the biggest pockets of free time (or where you have small breaks throughout the day), and whether listening or reading makes more sense for those times. 

How much attention or "homework" will the book require? 

Some books — especially those in the business or self-help genre — can be difficult to listen to while commuting or exercising because there are workbook questions and journaling prompts to answer. If you're someone who listens to audiobooks as a way of passive multitasking (while driving, cleaning, or walking), you may find more involved books require too much focus. 

What stops you from reading?

Some book-lovers may find audiobooks of any type are more relaxing because reading itself is difficult, either due to a learning disorder like dyslexia or poor eyesight. Or perhaps you avoid reading because you spend so much of your day staring at screens that the idea of staring at an e-reader for your leisure time is too much for your tired eyes. Of course, if you're in a field where you're talking to people all day, you may prefer the quiet of the written word.

Mix and match

The best option is likely a mix of both ebooks and audiobooks. In fact, there's nothing wrong with jumping between an ebook and audiobook format as you go. The nice thing with Scribd is many of the books on the platform come in both formats, so you can download the book and start reading, then switch to the audio version. In some cases, if you just want to finish the book but don't want to commit more time to it, you can finish by skimming the Snapshot to get the key points. For books that you really love and find meaningful, you might want to do all three!

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About the Author: Molly Hurford

Molly is a writer and bookworm in love with all things wellness related. When not playing outside, she’s writing or podcasting about being outside and healthy habits for The Consummate Athlete. She also writes books, including the Shred Girls series. In her spare time, she runs, rides bikes, and hikes with her mini-dachshund and husband.
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