Audiobook vs Paperback: The Ultimate Showdown

No matter what anyone says, nothing – and I mean literally nothing – beats the physical presence of a book. I can only think of one exception, and that’s the 750-page, large print, ex-library CJ Sansom book I read recently. That thing was heavy.

Long before the eBook came to lighten the load, there was the audiobook.

Where it all started

Back when subscription music didn’t exist and we judged each other based on our CD collection, audiobooks were able to deliver the joy of storytelling to those with little time to sit and read, or those with visual impairments.

My brother bought me my first audiobook – it was a James Patterson crime thriller that still sits on my bookshelf today. In all honesty, I was at a loss what to do with it. Downloading it onto my 2nd generation iPod only created issues; Track 1 was always followed by Track 11 – how on earth could I get it to play in order and not alphabetically?

I used to listen to it while driving, and found the whole experience quite therapeutic, but audiobooks were expensive. You were looking at £20-£30 per book, just for the pleasure of listening to it and that seemed pretty steep.

It wasn’t until 2019 when someone suggested Audible to me. In fact, they were surprised I hadn’t already discovered it.

I gave it a shot.

Every day on my commute* to and from work, I’d plug in and listen. And boy did I just love it.

Now, nearly two years later, audiobooks are a part of my every day.

So who wins? Audiobooks or paperbacks?

In all honesty, that’s a moot question. It’s like asking do you watch movies or TV shows? Most people will say both but have a preference for one over the other.

I love a good audiobook. Mainly because I can still find myself absorbed into an adventure while I’m doing the cleaning, or painting a room. But that doesn’t mean it’s better than a classic paperback. I can’t read a paperback while I’m walking to work* – I tried it once and almost walked into a lamppost.

Diving into the world of audiobooks

Just like some books don’t really grab you, audiobooks can have a similar problem, except this time it’s often to do with the reader. I’ve listened to a few now where the reader isn’t the right voice and for that reason I haven’t enjoyed it as much.

But some are even better to listen to than to read. Take Beth O’Leary’s The Flatshare or The Switch. Both books have multiple readers to suit the character POVs and it just makes them all the more entertaining. The Game of Thrones series is another example of an excellent reader, one who goes to great lengths to do different voices for the characters, making it 100% more enjoyable.

My recommended audiobooks

Whether you’re a firm lover of audiobooks already or are looking to dive in for the first time, here’s a few of my favourites:

  • Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay (Crime)
  • Dead if You Don’t by Peter James (Crime)
  • Inventing Joy by Joy Mangano (Autobiography)
  • This is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay (Autobiography)
  • The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See (Literary fiction)
  • The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker (Historical)
  • The Humans by Matt Haig (Sci-fi)
  • 1984 by George Orwell (Dystopian)
  • The Inn Boonsboro series (The Next Always, The Last Boyfriend and The Perfect Hope) by Nora Roberts (Romance)
  • The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary (RomCom)
  • The Switch by Beth O’Leary (RomCom)
  • Game of Thrones series by George R.R. Martin (Fantasy) – although the quality of the audiobook deteriorates at book 4

*in a pre-COVID world

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