Pick Your Platform: Paper, E-Reader, or Audiobook?


Printed Books: Have you ever walked into a second-hand bookstore, stood in the open foyer to shake the rain off of your umbrella, and drawn in a long, deep breath through your nose? That glorious smell lingers thanks to the slow breakdown of substances called lignin and cellulose, which are found in wood (and therefore, paper), releasing volatile compounds that we recognize as certain scents. These include vanillin (vanilla), benzaldehyde (almond), and even certain floral or sweet smells can sometimes be detected. The older the better.

Ah, but then there’s the new book aroma. *Inhales*. There is nothing like that smell, wafting through the crackle of the new book’s spine as you journey through the story. Ink, paper, and adhesives give off this intoxicating aroma and can vary book to book based on the products used to make them. Check out this useful printable infographic by Compound Interest for more on the chemistry of old and new books.

Pros: What’s not to love? You can twirl around with them in your arms like Belle and cross your fingers wishing for a giant palace library from a prince. You can visit used bookstores for the low prices and amazing aroma experience. Everyone, of course, loves a good #Bookstagram: Taking photos all day of your color-coordinated bookshelves, coffee mugs, and long socks (bonus points if you have a cat in the photo). The best feelings are the butterflies you feel when that beautiful rectangular package is awaiting your arrival, leaning against your front door, like a lone cowboy from a romance novel leaning against a fence, waiting for you and tipping his hat (shirt optional). Howdy.

Cons: Books are a guilty pleasure for many of us readers, however, the soaring expense of printed books can be staggering (especially new release hardcovers). The physical lack of room can become a problem when your little book collection overruns your spare bedroom (actual book walls were banned at our house, despite my creative suggestion). The gut-wrenching wait for Amazon deliveries hurts, but thankfully Prime has relief for that.


E-Readers (Kindle, Nook, etc): About 3 months ago I purchased a non-backlit Kindle. I was hesitant at first. There was no intoxicating book smell, no physical pages to turn. I tried to hold it in one hand above me as one would a beloved paperback while laying down on my favorite couch, but it merely fell straight onto my face and bruised my ego. It was a rough start to our relationship. But after I downloaded a few books and found the ease of the features, I absolutely fell in love with it. Its portability makes it perfect for my busy schedule and frequent air travel. It makes me go to bed at a reasonable hour as I can only use it with the lights on. When my husband and I are ready to fall asleep, I turn it off and can fall asleep much sooner.

Pros: Lower cost than printed books and most audiobooks. You can highlight important sections and make as many notes as you want while staying organized—fantastic news for Goodreads users! Immediate delivery of e-books (sweet satisfaction!) and very large amounts of storage space make it a great deal. Purchasing a refurbished non-backlit Kindle is very economical. And if you forget to bring it along, you can download the app onto your phone.

Cons: Some models are a bit of a budget squeeze. The backlight on certain models can induce eye strain and affect sleep patterns. The battery life may be a problem depending on your model. You also may accidentally drop it on your face. No judgment.


Audiobooks: My dad got me hooked on audiobooks a very long time ago. He would listen to them during his almost one-hour commute every day to work. Plowing through audiobooks, we would go to the library and check out even more. Back then they were all on cassette tapes in an enormous, squishy plastic case. The cassettes were a pain to cue up, typically more than seven or eight in a set. Throughout the years, audiobooks moved on to CD’s and finally onto smartphones and tablets, making them more portable than ever. The only time you won’t catch me with an audiobook is when I’m reading another one in print.

Pros: Perfect for people on the go, especially with long commutes. Very handy for multi-taskers as you can tuck your phone in your pocket and get your to-do list done. They also can be a fun book-club alternative—club members attend to listen together over a glass of wine or two. For individuals utilizing English as a second language, audiobooks are excellent practice. Some studies show that audiobooks can actually increase reading accuracy and fluency. If you are tired, have difficulty with vision, or experience frequent eye strain, audiobooks are a comforting alternative.

Cons: Expense can be an issue, however, there are memberships available that may decrease the cost. Audible offers a free book when you sign up, and you get to keep it if you cancel. Storage can be limited if books are kept on a phone app. Sometimes the story itself is awesome, but the voice acting is absolutely awful, thus ruining the experience. I recommend downloading the audio sample before purchasing (if they offer one).

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Books that are available in all platforms bring larger audiences as they offer more options for virtually all lifestyles and budgets.

At the end of the day, if a story is meaningful and speaks to your humanity, get your hands on it and hold on. Stories have the power to bring change to our lives, and that is the magic of books.

What’s your favorite platform? Take the poll above!