Woman reading a physical book in a library

E-books vs. Audiobooks vs. Physical Books: How To Find The Right Reading Medium For You

Ahh, the forever ongoing cold war between e-books, audiobooks and physical books. Google each of them and various articles will pop up saying which is better. I too have been in the war myself. However, a couple of months ago, by the influence of a friend, I thought to myself: “Oh well, why don’t we give it a try?” So, here I am writing this piece to tell you that each medium is great!


There’s a quote that says, “If you don’t like to read, you just haven’t found the right book.” I think that’s true but I also think that if you don’t like to read, maybe you just haven’t found the right medium. Read on if you’re curious to know which medium suits you best and how it gives an impact on your reading habit. A little warning. Your personality may play a role in this too.


1. E-books

Most suitable for busy bees, the ones who are always on the go and speedy readers.

Person reading a e-book

E-books are great because they give instant access to a lot of books with a click. You can buy the books within minutes and read them straight away; no more waiting for the delivery service (if you buy books from overseas or online). Plus, not having to wait for it to be delivered will give you more time to read. On the downside, the subscription might be costly. But if you’re the type who reads more than five books a month and someone who is always on the go, the subscription is a bargain! After years of avoiding e-books, I finally gave e-books a shot. To my surprise, I love them more than I thought I would. They are accessible and can be read anywhere and anytime.


There are a lot of apps that cater to e-books you can download. Some of the famous ones are Audible, Amazon Kindle, Google Play Books, Scribd, etc. Personally, Scribd is my choice. It is easy to navigate and they are Asia friendly. Some apps are only available in certain countries and Malaysia rarely is on the list (sad, I know). This is why Scribd is my favourite now. Here’s a tip I have learnt from a friend. If you want to avoid paying RM40 every month, buy their gift card for 50 USD (+- RM200) and you will get a six-month membership. You will save around seven ringgit but hey, a save is still a save!


Personal thought: The only thing I don’t like about e-books is that it lacks an immersive experience. You will miss the feeling of flipping through the pages or simply the feeling of holding a book in your hands. And yes, no more sniffing through the pages as well. Sounds weird but my fellow bookworms will understand.


Wondering where to get affordable, cheap and free e-books? Check out this article on the best websites to get e-books!



2. Audiobooks

Most suitable for highly imaginative people and those with exceptional listening skills.


Audiobooks are great if you are an auditory person. Some people argue that listening to audiobooks is equal to reading books. The answer is, yes, it does! In this article, according to a psychologist, Daniel Willingham the act of reading requires you to “decode”. In other words, figuring out words from print. While if you listen to the words, it requires you to “process the language” or “language processing”. Language processing refers to the mental process you use for oral language. In short, the processes are different but the end goal is the same.


If you miss the feeling of someone telling you a bedtime story, an audiobook is a perfect choice. With the right narrator and the right story, you will find yourself being transported into a different world. This means this is a great choice if you are a highly imaginative person. Audiobooks are also a great choice of medium for oh-so-long books such as War and Peace and Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. Side note, I am writing this with my unopened War and Peace novel staring at me since I bought it five years ago. Maybe now, I will try to give it a listen (if I can stay awake that is).


Personal thought: After a few tries, I have found that audiobooks are not for me as I am a visual person. I find myself dozing to audiobooks a few times. How I can stay awake through podcasts and not awake through audiobooks are beyond me. It might cure my insomnia but is not good for my reading goals. So, this is something to think about if you want to try audiobooks.


If you need some audiobook recommendations, check out this list of audiobooks you can listen to while working on other tasks!


3. Physical books

Most suitable for the romantics, traditionalists and avid collectors.

Woman reading a physical book in a library

Last but not least, the good old physical books. It’s the most traditional form of reading which proves that it is everlasting. Like I have said before, physical books provide a more immersive and engaging experience. You can highlight and bookmark important or your favourite quotes. I also find that it helps me to disconnect from the digital world which makes it a perfect distraction. A distraction for when I need a break from staring at the computer screen. Sometimes, you just need to rest your eyes and you can’t get that with e-books.


Of course, you can’t talk about physical books without talking about the covers. I know we’re not supposed to judge books by their covers but most of the time I do. Sue me. I’m sure a lot of bookworms can relate too if not all and the publishers know this! Hence, the many many versions. This is good news for me and all the collectors. If you are an avid collector, the only way to expand your collection is with physical books! Not to mention, the satisfaction of seeing all the pretty covers organised in your bookcases is one of a kind. Some people take this hobby very seriously so I don’t see the world of physical books going away anytime soon.


Personal thought: Physical books will always be my first choice of medium. The act of going to bookstores, browsing and purchasing books gives me another type of endorphin. A type of endorphin that I will once in a while need when the world gets too heavy. What can I say? Nothing beats the feeling of holding a good book in my hand.



I hope you can see now that no medium is superior to the other. Each has its pros and cons. It also depends on what type of personality you have and of course, your personal preference. So, try them all. Don’t limit yourself. Who knows? Just like me, you might be surprised with which one you like best. Most importantly, remember that whichever medium you choose, just do you! No one has the right to tell you which medium is better than the other. You decide that for yourself. Happy exploring!

An introvert by nature that can only be lured out when there is coffee. Chases deadline for a living while dreaming of her next getaway during her spare time or busy reading her to-be-read list that won’t stop growing.

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