Confessions of a Paperback Purist

Audiobooks might be convenient on your walk to class, but they shouldn’t serve as all-encompassing replacements for reading the physical words.

Sima Doctoroff

I have a grudge against audiobooks. I’ve always thought that books can only be truly respected in one form, and that is a classic paper copy. While I am not conservative in any sense of the word, I have come to think of myself as something of a paperback purist. Nothing compares to or replaces reading a physical book. Listening to audiobooks provides us access to literary culture, but we shouldn’t rely on the medium.

Now, for a disclaimer, I definitely do see that there are positives to this techy trend: convenience and accessibility to those with disabilities, such as dyslexia and blindness. I also acknowledge the advent of certain theatrics which are unique to audiobook narrations, and not achievable in print. Audiobooks are also easily accessible. Who wants to take a trip to a bookstore when you could just click download? Audiobooks provide an alternative to your music playlists or podcasts and can be downloaded just as easily, within seconds.

But alas, my attempts at jumping on the audiobook bandwagon have proven futile. Each time I’ve given audiobooks a try, I end up breaking down and buying a physical copy of the book. I used to blame my attention span, because audiobooks seemed to be working for everyone else around me. Then, I realized that I just could never fully engross myself in an audiobook; the format allows our attention to span to multiple tasks, which can reduce our reading retention. When you pick up a physical book, you are looking at words on a page, as you are right now. You are less inclined to zone out or stop paying attention. Books have been around for millennia, and by the very virtue of the medium, they are meant to be read, not heard.

With most things in my life, I find it important to invest time and care; the same goes for books. It is important to put time and care into something. Audiobooks reflect a sort of complacency, while a tangible object gives reading more weight, more importance. And it’s so much more satisfying to collect physical copies of books you have read. Seeing your collection on a screen is nowhere near as lovely. There is something satisfying about seeing physical books sitting on my bookshelf — a digital collection doesn’t even compare. Perhaps my qualms may seem unreasonable to some, but there must be others out there who feel the same way.

If you only listen to audiobooks because of their convenience, consider them a stepping-stone or a temporary fix rather than the end all, be all. Try something classic again, or for the first time. You’d be surprised by how magical turning a page can be.

Opinions expressed on the editorial pages are not necessarily those of WSN, and our publication of opinions is not an endorsement of them.

Email Sima Doctoroff at [email protected]

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