Choosing the right reading medium for the content, situation and your personality, can make a lot of difference in your reading experience and in helping you achieve your reading goals.
There are multiple options for reading, Print, E-Books or Audiobooks.
Although we're free to choose between these different mediums, people usually have a default favorite without putting much thought into the benefits of other mediums and it could be reducing the amount of books they can read in a year.
You have the freedom to discover which format works best for you, and you can mix and match based on some conditions like location, your physical energy, the genre, book popularity, non-fiction vs.fiction, technicality of the content, need for notes etc.
Here are some examples of how I've created a reading strategy based on these criteria.
Physical Books: I am most likely to read technical books, best sellers or classics, design/art, philosophy and medium length books as physical. These are books I frequently reference, have a lot of visual content, most likely to take a lot of notes in and would be proud to showcase in my library.
E-Books: Often books that are above medium length or very short length, topics or ideas that I'm curious about but are not yet mature or have little immediate use, self-development oriented books, fiction, books about new technologies, biographies or business books.
Audiobooks: Usually around history, biography, finance, economics, books of very long length, fiction or other narrative focused elements. Spiritual books seem to have a natural fit on audiobook. Listening to the Power of Now, narrated by the author Eckhart Tolle was a stellar experience, whereas reading it phsyically didn't observe as well through text.
A good audiobook speaker can draw you into the story better than a book at times, so be sure to go through reviews and sample listens. If you don't have audible you can get a free trial for audible from amazon that comes with 2 audiobooks.
A majority of the books I currently own are in the physical format, stored in my personal library that continues to expand. I do see myself buying more E-Books as I explore new ideas and genres. Commuting to work frequently, I may choose to use my kindle more as my travel time fluctuates, and it's easier to handle my kindle on a packed train, instead of trying to flip through pages sandwiched between multiple passengers. I am most likely to read a physical book, when I'm at home, a cafe, or if I am going to a casual location and I happened to bring my bag with me. Audiobooks are another great alternative if you find yourself unable to sit down and read, such as going out for a walk, jog or other exercises activities. You can also listen to audiobooks, while you cook, clean or while you're doing laundry. They are great for low-focus, repetitive tasks which allow your mind to multitask, having an audiobook play while you do that activity.
I tend to prefer different formats at different physical energy levels. You can find your personal mix, here's mine:
I try to avoid staring at screens for long durations as my eyes are sensitive. The newer versions of the Kindle have been doing a great job of reducing the stress of your eyes and have great adaptive lighting. If I don't have a tool like that, I would need to read print when I have higher levels of energy, because my mental energy seems to drain quicker when I use electronic devices after a certain length of time.
I'm comfortable reading physical books for longer durations of time than on my Kindle. Holding a book seems to motivate me a bit and to be able to make down notes and flip through the pages is an enjoyable experience for me, so I don't require as much mental energy to get through a physical book.
If I'm too tired to read a physical book, I'm most likely too tired to read an E-Book as well, so the next best choice is an Audiobook. During my consulting days when I had to fly back and forth, my physical and mental energy was regularly tested. I didn't want to sit idle, and Audiobooks allowed me to rest and relax while listening to some great content. I would close my eyes and immerse myself in some amazing stories. Audio is overall a more passive activity and can be done will multi-tasking and requires less engagement and mental energy.
Your personality and other preferences including learning styles will play a strong role in the medium you choose. I'll touch on some aspects in regards to the senses.
Print: It's hard to replace the feel of picking up a book and flipping through the pages. Touching and interacting with the book and drive more engagement and improve memory and focus.
E-Book: Swipes and Flips can "feel" like different things to different people. For some the lack of physical pages can make it difficult to engage with an e-book for others, a light weight device and a digital screen feels more natural and familiar to digital natives or the tech savvy.
Audiobook: There's not much to feel when listening to audiobooks or is there. The lack of physical sensation can be too passive to hold some reader's attention. For other's it can be liberating and more relaxing. You'll have to observe your feelings and experiences to decide for yourself.
Excluding the use of adjectives and other prose in the writing to describe smells, print would be the only medium to produce one that could impact your reading.
Print: I've joked around with a friend that we could smell a new book being opened from across the room. Then I became more mindful and the blissful feeling I get when I open an order of some fresh books and begin to open a new adventure and smell and the fresh pages welcome the air. Or the smell of walking into a library, giving me a feeling similar to that of walking into a bakery, but with a hunger for knowledge.
E-Book: E-readers with backlight are great for reading in the night. For some the digital screen can be irritating to look at for long durations. For kindle, the e-books are grayscale, so you lose the richness from some color books unless you have an e-book that is colored. The smaller screen size may be difficult for charts and other graphics. The kindle paperwhite is becoming more advanced and is much easier on the eyes. The wide array of reading options allows you to better customize it to fit your vision.
Audiobook: Audible is becoming more gamified visually, but it doesn't enhance the active listening experience much, so audiobook doesn't have much to offer to the native visual input.
Print: The sound of flipping pages can only be so stimulating.
E-Book: I haven't seen highly interactive e-books with sound take off, can't comment much here.
Audiobook: The clear winner here. If your strongest learning style is auditory, this is your best bet. Although I should add a disclaimer that a bad narration can make your experience even worse, so you may still want to consider print or e-book when high quality isn't available.
“Some books should be tasted, some devoured, but only a few should be chewed and digested thoroughly.” Francis Bacon
Library: Free (excluding any special membership costs)
Borrow: Free if you borrow from generous friend
E-Book: E-Books are usually cheaper than Print and Audiobooks books that both have a higher cost to produce. Things are changing as The Big 5 Book Publishers led by The Hachette Book Group got into a feud with Amazon for the right to set e-book prices on the site. The big publishers eventually won and agreed to an Agency Model, which let them set the price and send that data to amazon to be listed. This had led to an increase in e-book price even at the loss of sales for publishers and authors.
I've noticed this has changed my purchasing behavior, and I'm not quick to buy e-books like I used to. Especially, if the price of an e-book exceeds the physical book. Another option is Kindle Unlimited which costs $9.99 per month, and offers around 600,000 books that you can rent for as long as you want. Some other cons:
Audiobook: The standard Audible Gold Monthly Membership plan costs $14.95 / month for 1 credit/month. One credit = 1 book.
The Gold Annual Membership plan costs $149.50/year for 12 credits at one time, which comes out to $12.45/month or a $30 dollar saving.
Membership credits do not expire as long as you have a membership, however, there is a limitation on how many credits you can roll over. 2
Print: Assuming this is a book you own you can take notes at the margins of the book, underline and or highlight. Or you can use non-destructive methods like using post-it notes or post-it flags. If you don't own the book and rent it from the library, you can go through and extract notes into some other place.
E-Book: Using the kindle, you can bookmark, highlight or type notes within the kindle, which are synced and can be exported later on. I like clippings.io for organizing my kindle highlights and notes.
Audiobook: Audible provides a way to bookmark sections within an audiobook as well as a place to take notes. I personally rarely utilize either as it is very difficult for me to take notes while listening to an audiobook. I'm usually listening while I'm doing something anyway which makes it harder. Fortunately, because I use proper genre selection for my audiobooks I don't listen to the type of books which would need notetaking.
With Amazon Family Library, you can link two Amazon accounts to share books across select Amazon devices and supported Kindle reading apps. Family sharing also works for Audible audiobooks. Print books are made to be shareable!
I hope this information can help you better understand yourself and put you in a place of action to make reading an easier and more enjoyable situation for you based on your strengths, context and environment.
“In the case of good books, the point is not to see how many of them you can get through, but rather how many can get through to you.” - Mortimer J. Adler