Does Format Matter When Reading Books?

does format matter?

It’s time to settle the age old question: which book format is better? Is it paperback? Hardcover? Audiobook? Ebook? Answer: ALL OF THEM! (Or I guess none of them? They’re all great, is my point). And I’ll tell you why.

We’ve all heard people make comments about book formats. Whether it’s that they love the floppiness of paperbacks (same), or that they think audiobooks “don’t really count” (I have a whole post about audiobooks, so you can go argue over there and see why I don’t agree with this statement) or that ebooks are killing libraries and bookstores (don’t worry, it’s actually the other way around!). There are people who will only read ebooks because they don’t like book clutter (I get it, I just don’t know if we can be friends), people who literally don’t care what format their book is in (it’s still a book), and people who literally just listen to the same three audiobooks on repeat and never try anything new (and yes, I have met this person).

I personally don’t think any book format is better than the others. I read hardcovers, paperbacks, ebooks (on my phone, iPad, and occasionally my computer), and audiobooks. However, for me, format does actually matter. Why? Because I find different formats suit different books. (I know I might sound like a crazy person, so if you agree with me, please let me know in the comments!)

I like to use different formats for different genres, or different reading moods. For example, I really love listening to nonfiction – especially history or biography – on audio. I find they keep my attention a bit better, and I retain more information that way. Which is weird, because I’m a pretty visual learner, but it works, so I’m not going to analyze it too much. The only downside is that I will typically end up purchasing a physical copy so that I can see the name of a specific dinosaur (now I know how to spell guanlong) or a random town in Russia (like Oranienbaum, where the Romanovs had a house). Audiobooks are also great when I’m tired or have a migraine. Nothing is worse than staring at tiny words on a page when your head feels like it’s going to explode.

Obviously, since I am a visual learner, I do really like reading books with my eyes as well. I will always like physical books, because they’re tangible. It’s such a different feeling sitting down to read a book. I could go full Rory Gillmore with the smell of the pages (yes, I do have both a candle and a perfume/cologne that smell like books, in case you were wondering – so I could totally just have those around when reading an ebook or listening to an audiobook).

Ebooks are something I probably couldn’t avoid, even if I tried. I do get the vast majority of ARCs I receive digitally, so I use some sort of e-reader (my phone or my iPad) at least once a week. And there are some pros to reading a digital book. The thing I like most about ebooks is the scrolling feature. Your eyes don’t move as much, so I can read much faster that way. It also hurts quite a bit less to drop your phone or tablet on your face while reading in bed than, say, an 800-page novel (yes, I am speaking from experience).

I also tend to instinctively have a different feeling when reading different formats. If a book is deep, literary fiction, I’d probably want to slow down and curl up with a paperback. Contemporary romance or thrillers, I can fly through in a day on my iPad. Memoirs are a lot of fun when you listen to the author read them to you. For me, each format is valuable for a different reason. But they’re also interchangeable. I’ve read memoirs as hardcovers and ebooks, and listened to literary fiction.

Ultimately, I think it all comes down to preference. And that is totally, one-hundred percent okay. Everyone likes different things. How many other people have read like six contemporary romances, four biographies (about everyone from Catherine the Great to Einstein), a book about zombifying parasites, and a fantasy book about different worlds (among 100 other things) this year alone? I’m guessing not a lot. And that’s fine, because I realize my reading habits are kind of crazy (even though I wouldn’t trade them for the world). So it should also be acceptable if you only like audiobooks or ebooks or prefer paperbacks. No format is superior to the others, and I’ve come to appreciate all of them for their different qualities.

So, do you have a favorite book format? Which ones do you read?

23 thoughts on “Does Format Matter When Reading Books?

  1. It’s not a strong preference, but generally speaking, I prefer print for nonfiction and am okay with ebooks for fiction.

    Reading fiction is more of a linear reading experience — starting at the beginning of the text and proceeding a page at a time, and not skipping things or jumping around. Ebooks work very well in that regard.

    With nonfiction, however, depending on the book, I often will skip around and find chapters or sections of relevance or interest. I personally find that flipping through the pages in a physical print book in that manner is more productive than trying to do that in an ebook.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I can definitely see how flipping around would work better in a physical book. Sometimes ebooks don’t have very clear chapters, or the chapters are just really long, so I can imagine it’s hard to find what you’re looking for.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I prefer physical books, but I use all formats when reading. I am really starting to like listening to audiobooks of mysteries, especially when they take place outside the US. I see more of the clues that way, and I can actually hear the accents instead of having to imagine them.

    Liked by 1 person

        1. I definitely do that sometimes, too. I just wish I was patient enough for audiobook mysteries. I think part of my problem is I really only listen in the car, and two 30-minute sessions a day isn’t enough.


  3. I prefer hardcover to buy and physical arcs to read. I do read on my kindle a lot, but I try to go back and forth because my eyes are pretty bad. I also listen to audiobooks from time to time (mostly in the car with my husband). I love books in any format.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Me too! I love that there are so many different formats that help anyone who has difficulty reading. I have MS, and it affected my eyes for a few months last year, so audiobooks were a lifesaver. I also don’t like reading a ton of ebooks, because it hurts my eyes. I actually had a blue light filter put in my glasses, which helps A LOT with the eye strain from digital screens.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. You are my reading spirit animal. I also think the format depends on the book and my mood, AND I also have a list of weird and completely different books that I’ve read just this year. In fact, I can match your list minus the parasite one.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This made me smile so much! I think we need to be friends now, because who else has such crazy reading habits?

      (Also, the parasite book was AWESOME. It’s Plight of the Living Dead, in case you’re interested. Just be prepared to annoy the living hell out of all your friends with nonstop talk about cockroach wasps. It’s been months, and I still can’t stop.)

      Liked by 1 person

        1. It’s seriously one of my favorite books of the year. And now I know way too much about very weird things. Nature is crazy. Hope you enjoy that one if you end up reading it!


  5. I do have a preference for physical books, but more than that, format matters to me depending on what I want from a book. For example, a physical book is preferable to me for something like Marie Kondo’s book, since I treated it almost as a reference book. It helps me to physically mark it and treat it as a textbook. If it’s fiction, I can go physical or digital, but I haven’t really tested audiobooks, so I can’t really tell if that works for me. My personal issue with audiobooks is that I tend to zone out (it’s a habit borne out of listening to music while studying hahaha), so I’m a bit wary that I’ll be missing out on stuff. I’ve dabbled a bit on listening to podcasts, so I may try audiobooks in the future.

    Interestingly enough, I remember using an audio codal (of laws) when I needed to memorize some provisions of law in school, and that was pretty useful, so audio may be a good format to me for that purpose, too. I distinctly remember it helped me “study”/memorize while on a bus which gave me a sense of productivity even though I was on a trip, and while lying down on my bed to give my eyes a bit of rest.

    This became an essay of sorts, but this was a fun topic to think about. Thank you for sharing this!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! I can definitely see where you’re coming from! My trick with audiobooks is to keep my hands busy, so I can focus on listening. I like them when I’m driving or cleaning, it’s harder to get distracted.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Awesome post! To me, reading is reading and no matter what the format is, if you are reading than it is awesome! (and yes I count audiobooks as reading!)

    I am the same way, I like different formats for different kinds of books. Non fiction books I like audiobooks. Romances, I like mass market paperbacks. Though, like you, I mix it up all the time.

    Overall hardcovers are probably my least favorite only because they are heavier to carry around everywhere and my arms get tired holding them up when I am lying down and reading and they do hurt a lot when you drop them on your face 😂😂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I’ve over-analyzed reading formats so much it’s not even funny. I kept feeling like I had to pick a “team,” as if reading is a sport! I’ve realized that format doesn’t matter and whatever format you use doesn’t change the fact that you’re a valid reader. For me, I alternate a lot between physical and ebook, simply because I’m one of those people that gets too distracted while listening to audiobooks. I have listened to a few, however, and enjoyed the experience enough that I’d be willing to try it again – particularly if its nonfiction like you said. 🙂

    Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! I do agree that it’s easy to get distracted while listening to audiobooks. I really only do it when I’m also doing something else (driving and doing the dishes are my go-to audiobook listening times). I do love nonfiction audiobooks, I find I tend to actually get less bored, so it might be worth a try.


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