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How Do You Read? On the debate of print, ebook, and audiobook

March 23, 2017

Written by Nicola Cayless

How we read has been a debate for as long as people have been writing. From the transition from tablets to papyrus, from papyrus to parchment, parchment to the printing press, humans have argued about how we should read literature. Catholic priests in the 1600s were adamant on the Bible being read only aloud and in Latin, while in the 1800s publishing novels had to be in serial form in the local newspaper, in pamphlet style. Now, with the arrival of e-readers and audiobooks, the debate continues, but this time around how electronic technology affects our reading habits.

In December 2016, we at Better Reading ran a Facebook poll to find out what you loved to read, and how you loved to read it. With over 1500 comments, it’s pretty clear that readers have a plethora opinions about the ‘right’ way to read. We’re used to arguments around every new technology, and reading tech is no different – and you had some pretty interesting opinions!

17440280_10154320199762109_1489680222_nOverwhelmingly, the Better Reading audience favoured print books. More than 60% of responses mentioned that print media was your favourite way to read. There were many reasons around this, but most had to do with some form of nostalgia. There is something about picking up a print book, curling up in your favourite armchair with a hot cup of tea or coffee, and disappearing into that world for hours. Geoff said, “I love to pick up a book, open a page, and read a chapter. […] I read them, pass them on, and maybe if I’m lucky, get a few in return.”

Reading a physical book is different to reading on a Kindle – there’s no denying it. Holding the book in your hands seems to allow you to delve deeper into that imaginary place even easier. Maybe it’s the smell of the pages, either brand new and crisp, or musty and old. Maybe it’s the satisfaction of finally turning that final page, and sinking into the feeling of completion. Whatever it is, print books seem to remain a firm favourite, even with all the new technology.

There was a high percentage of people who preferred ebooks over print, however. Around 30% of the Better Reading community found the ease of an ebook made for a better option than print books. People said that as their bookshelves became fuller and fuller, they turned to ebooks, as devices like Kindle and Kobo allowed them to store many books simply the press of a button away. An e-reader allows you to store up to a thousand books, if you are using a Kindle, which saves physical space and allows the user to even categorise books according to author or genre.

As well, while buying an e-reader can cost up to $200, ebooks themselves cost far less than the print versions. You’re also able to trial books, reading the first chapter to see if it’s something you’d like to continue reading. Denise said, “E-readers let me take multiple books with me while travelling, and it allows me to read in the dark if I wake up in the middle of the night.” Furthermore, an e-reader has increased accessibility, as you are able to change the font type and size. While responses favouring audiobooks were small, those that did stated their convenience while driving and on public transport, particularly for the morning commute. Additionally, for the legally blind or hard-of-sight, audiobooks allow great accessibility to readers who might not usually be able to pick up a book and read.

However, what surprised us at Better Reading was the amount of responses that named all three. While some did have clear preferences, several of our community said they loved each and every type, as each one had their own place and time. Print books for your favourites, e-readers for travelling, and audiobooks for when your hands are busy. Reading is reading, and however you do it, it’s okay. You’re still a voracious booklover all the same.


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