There has been an ongoing battle that has been rocking the world of book lovers everywhere: a schism, in many ways, that divides many readers around the world. The question of which of one is better, audiobooks or physical texts, has been a prominent dilemma since the explosion of the audio medium in the 1970s.
For many, audiobooks are a way to listen to their favorite stories when on-the-go, while others think of it as cheating the reading experience. At the end of the day, while there are very minute differences between audiobooks and an actual book, they give readers the same joyful experience of entering the product of a person’s imagination.
The primary argument against audiobooks is that, compared to reading a physical book, in a way it ‘cheats’ the system. While this may seem so on the surface, in reality, there is no real difference between listening and reading, especially on a psychological level.
According to Atlantic writer Olga Khazan, studies have shown that there seems to be a strong correlation between both audio and reading comprehension in the brain. This means that both mediums have the same effect on mental process and result in similar levels of understanding. This is against the belief that listening to audiobooks cheapens the experience. On a basic level, it doesn’t matter how a person does it, since it will ultimately be the same
While this is true for most cases, there is a small caveat. University of Virginia psychologist Daniel Willingham explains that although there are no differences in the way adults may understand a story, whether it’s through reading or listening, for smaller children there is a gap. Since most kids don’t know how to read, it’s better for them to have a physical book rather than listening. When they reach a point where the action becomes automatic, usually around fifth grade, the difference disappears.
Another benefit to audiobooks is how convenient it is for people who are always on-the-go. In a time when everyone is constantly moving, hustling between home, work, school and social life, there is not much time left for reading. Yet, instead of being deprived of works of art like “Moby Dick” or “Frankenstein,” people can use audio books to supplement their lack of books. It would be difficult to read “Animal Farm” while standing on the public bus. However, with a pair of headphones, that problem is easily solved.
In the end, a combination of audio and physical books are great to have in one’s daily reading. People should not discount audiobooks as a valid way to appreciate great works since not only do they provide the same mental effect, but they also help those that are too busy to stop and read. Audiobooks do not cheat the system, but rather makes sure that more people become involved in literature.
Photo courtesy of Bonner Springs Library