Print Vs. Audio Books — Is Comprehension A Factor?


Photo Credit cellar_door_films via WANACommons

For some time now there has been debate about whether listening to an audio book is the same as physically reading a book. Personally, as long as the book is getting into your head I’m glad you’re doing it. There’s no time to fuss about it when aliteracy is becoming more common.

My question is does the average person comprehend a print book better than an audio book? Sure, some people may have a hard time comprehending what they physically read, so they may turn to audio books as an alternative, and that is fantastic. I’m happy that those who struggle with literacy have are still able to enjoy the thrills of literature. But is it easy to comprehend and audio book?

I’ve never listened to an audio book, and I ask this questions because I feel that if I tried to, I would listen to it while performing other activities. Perhaps while running, or while driving, both of which seem like fairly prime times to listen. But, what if while focusing on driving, or avoiding the jerk who cut you off, or almost getting hit by a car, you find that you missed an important section of the book, but don’t realize it right away. Before you know it you may have missed out on a good portion of a chapter. Sure you can lose focus while reading a print book, but I feel that most people are in a much more controlled environment then and have a smaller chance of missing out on something.

I will note that, based on what I’ve seen of Goodreads reading updates, people who listen to audio books seem to finish books faster than those who do not, depending on the person, of course.

I’ve been considering trying out an audio book, and have also considered possibly trying to release one of my own books in this format. I know Createspace (Amazon) also has the option to publish CDs and I think MP3s as well, so it may be a viable option in the age of self-publishing.

Do you listen to audio books? Do you find it difficult to comprehend what you hear while performing others tasks? Do you prefer physically reading or listening to an audio book?

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5 thoughts on “Print Vs. Audio Books — Is Comprehension A Factor?

  1. I think as long as we’re consuming the stories it’s doesn’t matter whether its audio or we’re actually reading off a page. I could not have read I Am Legend of World War Z off of a page I don’t think.
    I’m lucky because my day job allows me to listen to podcasts, or audiobooks as I work and when I do miss something that I think is important I will rewind it so its never been a problem for me in that respect.

  2. I have only listened to short stories, and it’s great, but have never tried a full novel. I do like radio though.
    I know someone who reads excessively but also devours audio books, mostly as “Book at Bedtime”. When he mentioned this other people in the Book Group nodded and said they did the same.
    It also occurs to me that people learn differently – by hearing or reading – so may consume literature similarly…
    Just a thought 🙂
    Best way to find out is to give it a try!

  3. I definitely find it more difficult to comprehend some books when I listen to them rather than read them. I’m in the middle of Moby Dick right now, and I find myself sort of coming in and out of it, but I think that’s because I’m not really enjoying the story. (But, ever the masochist, I will press on.) For books I really enjoy, I haven’t had a problem with comprehension.

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