Ebook vs Audiobooks vs Paperback Books: Putting an End to This Never-Ending Debate

Acclaimed writer Stephen King once said, “Books are a uniquely portable magic.” Therefore, does the medium in which we read them matter?

Whether you’re a new reader figuring out which medium suits you best, or a pro-reader looking to experiment with different book formats, Ebooks, audiobooks and paperbacks seem to always be in a constant battle trying to prove that they are the best way to read, or listen, to your favorite books. Having grown tired of their never-ending showdown, I have decided to end their fight once and for all, claiming one to be the ultimate winner. But before I do that, I thought it would be only fair to give each of these formats a final chance to prove themselves, presenting their best qualities as well as any weaknesses they might be ashamed of.

So, without further ado, please welcome to the stage our first contestant!



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Ebooks are electronic versions of books that can be read on digital devices such as laptops, phones, tablets, or electronic reading devices such as Kindles.


  • An infinite number of books. Imagine having access to almost every book ever published literally at the touch of your fingertips. Forget the days of calling librarians and bookshop keepers to ask if the book you wanted came in. Not only will Ebooks allow you to easily download both old and new books, but you can also get your hands on some great self-published novels.
  • Lightweight. Long gone are the days of lugging around heavy hard-covered books. Instead, Ebooks can be read on devices you always carry with you, such as your phone. Ebooks can also be described as lightweight in the sense that they do not clutter your area. All your past, current, and future reads can be stored on one small device, freeing you space that their physical counterparts would take up. Consequently, rather than feeling crowded at home, you’d feel lighter with the extra room.
  • You can still personalize your books. And I’m not just talking about highlighting in multiple colors, bookmarking pages, or adding your own notes. I’m talking about actually changing the book. With Ebooks, you can easily adjust fonts, line spacing, and background color to make reading as comfortable as it can be for you.
  • Inexpensive. Ebooks allow you to enjoy books, getting the same satisfaction of finishing a page or chapter by watching the page turn realistically, all for less money than buying physical books. This is also a great advantage for students as they can spend less money on electronic copies of textbooks than their physical copies.


  • An infinite number of distractions. Unlike giving all your attention to a physical book, disconnecting from the world, focusing on Ebooks might be more difficult as notifications and ads might constantly interrupt you. 
  • Need Power. The problem here is for the forgetful readers who suddenly get the urge to get back to their page-turner book… only to realize their device ran out of juice… and there’s no power outlet nearby (definitely not speaking from personal experience).



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Next up, we have audiobooks. These are downloadable books you listen to that are usually read by narrators and actors. Sometimes the author themself read their own work.


  • Great for the multitaskers. As you don’t have to sit down and physically read the book, you can still enjoy a novel while doing other menial tasks such as driving or cleaning.
  • Bring a story to life. As audiobooks are often read by actors, listeners can clearly envision and differentiate characters from their accent, tone, and idiolect. Voice actors could also pull you into a story you thought rather dull before as you feel the characters around you, their voices in your head.
  • The most environmentally friendly. Unlike paperbacks that cut down trees to be made or electronic reading devices that release greenhouse gases when produced, audiobooks are the book formats least damaging to our environment.


  • Awful for the mind wanderers. While audiobooks might be the perfect companion when doing boring tasks, one can easily put them on but still have trouble focusing, the mind deciding to harp on that melody of that one song you can’t get out of your head and simultaneously don’t know the name of.
  • Long books can drag on forever. Unlike reading a paperback or Ebook, you cannot skip anything in an audiobook. You know those boring parts in a story that you’d usually skim over; you can’t do that in audiobooks either. 
  • No book-like qualities. An obvious difference between audiobooks and other formats is that you cannot highlight, make notes, and bookmark any pages or passages. 



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Last but not least, we have paperbacks. Having been around since the beginning of time, paperbacks are perhaps the most common format of books consumed.


  • Physical objects that will last a lifetime. Don’t you just love the feeling of an old book, the pages soft in between your fingers? Or the warmth you feel in your heart when rereading personal inscriptions. That’s the magic of having a physical object and not relying on technology that continuously evolves and will need to be replaced with newer versions such as electronic reading devices.
  • Swap and share with friends. Aside from being used to build a beautiful, colorful library, paperbacks can easily be borrowed between friends. And you know what they say, a group that reads together sticks together (them being me)!
  • Visiting bookstores. While this point may be unimportant to some, to avid readers taking a trip to our favorite bookstore, spending hours browsing all the various paperbacks can be as much fun as actually reading them.


  • Most expensive. Out of all three options, buying paperbacks will create the biggest dent in your bank account. Hardcover books are also usually pricier.
  • Can’t always be read. Although Ebooks and audiobooks have the disadvantage of needing the power to charge the devices they’re being accessed on, they can be read and/or listened to everywhere. Paperbacks can’t be read in the dark or when you’re going on a trip and must pack lightly. 


And the Winner Is… Drumroll, Please

While I would love nothing more than to have an exceptional home library filled with books I can brag about, Ebooks have somehow managed to slither their way into my heart and permanently reside there. However, that might not be the same for you. After hanging out with these contestants, getting to know each of them in a way I didn’t before, I’ve realized that they all have their specialties, a unique selling point that makes them perfect for one reader and not another.

For instance, audiobooks are great for new readers who love short stories, while paperbacks can be the perfect fit for those who want to have physical copies of their favorite books and pass them on to the people they love. And Ebooks can be the solution for individuals who love to read but always forget to carry a book.

Just don’t get too caught up analyzing each format, trying to decide which is the best that you forget to actually read.


Illustration: KatePilko/Shutterstock


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