No Time to Read “Real” Books: My Reading Habits and a Love of eBooks and Audiobooks

January is coming to a close and my reading goals (if not my writing goals) are on track, for the most part. As planned, I’ve read five books this month. (Though one of them wasn’t a writing craft book like I’d wanted it to be. I’m only 8 percent through Hooked: Write Fiction That Grabs Readers at Page One & Never Lets Them Go.)

When I was updating my reading accomplishments on Goodreads, it struck me:

I’ve read five books this year, but haven’t flipped a single page.

Of the five books I’ve read this month and the two I’m currently reading, 3 are audiobooks and 4 are eBooks.

In this article about Audible.com, the “world’s largest producer and seller of digital spoken-word entertainment,” I was struck by this statement:

“I’ve heard from friends and family that audiobooks are the only way they find time to read anymore,” said Hugh Howey, best-selling author of Wool (forthcoming in print from Simon & Schuster).

This, for me, is partly true. I spend a minimum of an hour a day driving the commute, and I usually spent somewhere more in the ballpark of an hour and a half and three hours in the car a day, depending on traffic and other activities I’m committed to. Audiobooks open up extra hours of reading time that otherwise would have been lost to mindless radio stations. I get more read a year because of the availability of audiobooks.

I love reading physical books. In fact, sometimes I prefer it. I read slower when reading paper and can savor passages more, can reflect on the excellence of the craft. I’m encouraged to reread sentences that struck me.

On Kindle, it’s about reading faster, flipping those digital pages and getting to the next chapter. With audiobooks, I actually double-time them, so the narrator talks at warp-speed and I can listen to twice as much book in half the amount of time.

I own two Kindles–a Fire and a normal one, both gifts–and I am constantly reading on them.

It’s easier to download five eBooks for free from my local library–while lounging on the couch in my pjs–than to spend another half an hour in the car driving to the library to get physical copies.

Also, no late fees, ever. When they expire–when my loan is up–they simply disappear off my Kindle. (This is a great thing because, as my boyfriend likes to tease me, I probably keep my library in business because of my regular late fees.)

Same for audiobooks. They’re so easy to download from my library’s website, and less clunky to travel with than an audiobook on a pack of CDs (also, you can’t listen to CDs at the gym. You need to listen to your iPod). This ease and preference probably could open into a broader discussion of brick-and-mortar bookstores chances in the Renaissance of online bookstores, but I’m not going to go there for now.

With January being a completely page-free month, I was wondering if this is normal for me now. Though I still go to book stores and the physical library and I still buy paper copies of books–will they soon be in the minority?

I’m interested to see how my reading habits develop over the next year, but without those statistics in existence yet, I thought I’d look at my past year in reading.

In 2012, I read 64 books. Of those, 28 were physical books, 22 were Kindle or Google Reader eBooks, and 14 were audiobooks.

Rounding up those percentages, that’s 44% paper books, 34% eBooks, and 22% audiobooks.

Honestly, these numbers surprised me. My memory has me stuck on the idea that I read more on Kindle than I did of physical books this year. Glad I keep track of it all on Goodreads, or else I’d be clinging to that misconception!

I wonder if the percentages will tip this year.

How do you prefer to read your books? Despite preferences, do you still read more eBooks than paper ones because of convenience?

(Image Credit: Flickr Creative Commons; John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland)

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14 thoughts on “No Time to Read “Real” Books: My Reading Habits and a Love of eBooks and Audiobooks

  1. T. W. Dittmer says:

    Some books I have to own on paper, some even as a hardcover. I read more ebooks than physical books, partly because it’s so easy, and partly because of the number of self-published authors I’ve become acquainted with.

    • hannahkarena says:

      Me too! The ones I read over and over again–or craft books that I need to be able to flag pages, etc. I haven’t gotten to the point that I need cloth copies of books–but I think that might be because I’m a bit cheap, haha.

      That’s interested that your forced into the form, eBooks, because of the content, self-published authors! I realized that a lot of the paper books I read last year were ARCs and I only had paper copies available, so I really had no choice.

  2. jkfalkner says:

    I find sometimes with ebooks I forget very quickly what I have read. Something about the tactile experience of a book, the texture of the cover, the weight of pages read and left to read, the size and shape of it, provide extra cues to my memory. It just occurred to me… maybe the ebooks I’ve been reading were not all that gripping in the first place?

    Great post, as always. I think it’s important to track the changes technology makes in our lives and it’s very easy to forget to do so.

    • hannahkarena says:

      I don’t find I have a reading memory issue with either form–that’s interesting insight on your part. Do you always finish reading those ebooks?

      For someone who is as terrible with numbers as I am, I love statistics and keeping track of changes in everything. Excel makes it so easy!

  3. creativityorcrazy says:

    I like the convenience of being able to quickly get an ebook anytime I want…pop online and send it to my kindle. I also like being able to carry a multitude of books on one little device, instead of a big stack of books. Still, I prefer paper books and tend to read more paper books. Interesting on the percentages though. I’ll have to make myself take note of my own reading habits more this year.

    • hannahkarena says:

      Me too! The convenience of traveling with twenty books for less than a pound and can fit in my purse? Awesome! The first year I had my kindle, I preferred paper books, but now I’m finding I don’t really care. I just really enjoy the content. The medium doesn’t affect me one way or another.

    • hannahkarena says:

      I probably would have been that way too. I don’t think I would have ever bought a kindle for myself, being as traditional as I am, but when it was a gift, I felt I had to appreciate and use it. And ended up being won over!!

  4. lovethebadguy says:

    I’ve only ever read paper books. I can see the appeal of e-books, and if someone were to give me a Kindle or something similiar, I would be most happy to use it. But for now, I’ll be a traditionalist! Nothing like the feel of paper… 🙂

  5. Theresa Hupp says:

    “It’s easier to download five eBooks for free from my local library–while lounging on the couch in my pjs–than to spend another half an hour in the car driving to the library to get physical copies.”

    Isn’t that the truth! I have become a real fan of Overdrive and free ebooks from my library. I converted to ebooks overnight when I got my first ereader.

    I even like the elliptical machine now — I put the ereader type on a large size and have a wonderful reason to read for 30 minutes.

    Now when I read paper, I find myself tapping the page and wondering why it doesn’t turn automatically.

    But for taking notes, I need paper, pen, and yellow highlighter.

    • hannahkarena says:

      I LOVE OVERDRIVE! Best invention ever. And yes, I do the same thing–big font on an elliptical! It actually gets me to the gym more often than before…probably not a good thing that I have to multitask to go to the gym and am not 100 percent focused on excerpting, but I think it’s better than nothing!

      Yes, for serious non-fiction books or craft books that I need to take notes for, I need a paper book too. I can’t retain that kind of information otherwise. It’s a different kind of reading experience.

      I have found that when I really fall in love with a book on Audiobook, though, that I feel the need to read it again in a physical reading form, either paper or eBook. I want to see and appreciate the construction of the sentences.

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