Audiobooks versus printed books: Is one version really better than the other?

A better question: Why should the writer care how readers experience a story?

Print books versus audiobooks

This month I’ve been thinking a lot about the way we consume stories.


Spinning yarns is what brings us all to the table, right? Whether our bylines appear in scripts, newspapers, magazines, or books, we’re all driven by the desire to share a compelling story – and to reach people who will find it meaningful.


So how disheartening it is to see some methods of content consumption branded as “better” than others. Once at a social gathering, I saw two acquaintances try to bond over a book they’d both enjoyed immensely.


“I read it at the beach,” one said.


“I listened to it on the drive up to Maine,” the other said.


“Oh, then you didn’t really read it,” corrected the first, as the second ducked her head in embarrassment. “You listened to it. It’s not the same thing.”


…But isn’t it, though?


Yes, yes, for the sticklers in the back, of course the physical act of seeing words versus hearing them are different, and they utilize different parts of our brains.


But until the one partygoer confessed she’d consumed the audiobook version, the two were merrily immersed in a discussion about favorite characters, plot twists, and the author’s writing style. They had both experienced the same story. Why should one vehicle be deemed “lesser” than the other? Especially since one vehicle undoubtedly fits better into a hectic modern schedule?


I’d like to set the record straight, friends: There should be zero shame about listening to a book for pleasure versus reading one on paper. Given the current downfall of “time-spent-reading” in our world, we should be rewarding book consumption on any platform, not stigmatizing it. A fan is a fan, no matter how she finds your work. (And let’s face it, a royalty is a royalty.)



A few years ago, my parents adopted my cousin, a warm and loving teen with autism who happens to be blind. We share many things, including a fondness for dogs and board games and a willingness to croon pop songs at the top of our lungs. Recently, we bonded over another love: Scott O’Dell’s classic Island of the Blue Dolphins.

We experienced the work via different mediums, but we were the only ones in my family who’d read it, and for a while it was like we shared a secret language, chattering at length about Karana, Romo, Rontu, and other characters while family members stared in bewilderment. I can’t wait to find out what he’ll read next.


In short: Stories bring people together.


Never disparage how people consume them.