Who Won? 2014 Edition: Audiobooks vs. eBooks vs. “Real” Books

As I do every year around this time (reflect back to 2013 stats and 2012 stats, respectively, if you so chose) I examine not just what I read, but how I read it.

In 2012, of the 64 books I had read in the calendar year, 28 were physical books, 22 were eBooks, and 14 were audiobooks. Rounding up those percentages, that’s 44% physical paper books, 34% eBooks, and 22% audiobooks.

In 2013, I read significantly more, clocking in at 98 total books read. Of these, 46 were audiobooks, 29 were eBooks, and 23 were physical books. That’s 47% audiobooks, 30% eBooks, and 23% physical books.

This year, in 2014, I read 73 books total for pleasure (I’m not counting manuscripts that I copyedited). Of that, 42 were audiobooks, 19 were physical books, and 12 were eBooks. That’s 51% audiobooks, 23% physical books, and 14% eBooks.

I’m a little surprised, honestly. Not that I read a greater percentage of audiobooks this year than anything else (I noticed that throughout the year), but the sheer number of audiobooks. Forty-two!! At each clocking in at, let’s say, an average of 10 hours each, that’s at least 420 hours spent LISTENING to audiobooks this year! That’s a solid 17.5 days of my life–this year alone–spent simply listening to audiobooks (to be fair, I usually listen to audiobooks while doing other things; folding laundry, walking the dog, driving somewhere). Admittedly, I listened to more audiobooks the year before, but I guess I had never done the math before.

Otherwise, the physical book spike, in percentages at least, makes sense to me. Once I started at HarperCollins this year, I started having access to a ton of great print books to read, more access than I’ve had in previous years.

I’m pretty happy with the amount of reading I did this year. I read a lot of interesting books I really enjoyed. I read a lot more middle grade than I’ve read in recent years, which helped keep me in the mood for my WIP. In 2015, I want to keep up about the same pace, perhaps increasing the number of under-reviewed books I choose to read, the smaller, less-well-heard-of books. Mostly, this year, though, I want to enjoy reading but also put down the books long enough to have enough time to write my own books and finally get them onto somebody else’s to-read list.

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Changing Reading Habits

Back in 2012, I did some math (this alone is an amazing fact worth noting) and figured out that I wasn’t reading many “real” (i.e. physical) books. In 2012, of the 64 books I had read in the calendar year, 28 were physical books, 22 were eBooks, and 14 were audiobooks. Rounding up those percentages, that’s 44% physical paper books, 34% eBooks, and 22% audiobooks.

I kept careful records in 2013 so I’d be able to compare, and see if how I read morphed at all. The results:

In 2013, I read significantly more, clocking in at 98 total books read. (Sidenote: This is probably the most books I’ve read in a single year since middle school, when I had carefree, jobless summers in which I crammed book after book after book.) Of these, 46 were audiobooks, 29 were eBooks, and 23 were physical books. That’s 47% audiobooks, 30% eBooks, and 23% physical books. That’s almost a complete flip-flop in formats! While eBooks maintained the middle ground as my second-most-preferred method of reading, and maintained a similar percentage in the 30% range, audiobooks and physical books completely switched places. I clearly read significantly more audiobooks then I read in any other format this year.

Why did this happen? I don’t think my reading method preferences have changed, necessarily, and that from now on I’m going to be consistently reading more audiobooks. If polled, I would definitely not agree with the statement that I like audiobooks best (though I am very fond of them). And I don’t think my changing percentages are a reflection of reading habits changing in the large reading community or an indication that there’s a  general movement towards preferring digital over physical books.

Rather, I think these numbers reflect a very personal situation. I think that I’ve been in more situations in 2013 that allowed for consumption of audiobooks rather than physical books. For example, in June, my office changed locations which increased my total time in the car for the commute to an additional 3 hours a week, at minimum, so that probably helped increase my audiobook consumption. Also, I think these numbers are a reflection that…
1) My life was busier in 2013. I often have an audiobook on when I do housework; reading a physical book, on the other hand (excuse the pun), requires complete dedication of my mind and hands. I can’t hold a book with one hand, have my eyes on the page, and fold laundry with my free hand!
Also, my eBook reading (22 in 2012) increased slightly (29 in 2013) while my physical book reading (28 in 2012) decreased slightly (23 in 2013). I think this trade off was due to the fact that I was often out–doctors waiting rooms, waiting in the car to pick up my little sister, etc.–where I had access to my phone, and thereby my Kindle reading app, since, being the forgetful person I am and the fact that I downsized to a slightly smaller purse that makes it slightly harder to pack a book at all times, I was often without other, more traditional forms of reading materials.
2) I think these numbers also reflect that I’m getting more creative in how I’m managing to squeeze more reading time into my life. If you round out the numbers, while I read roughly about an equal amount of eBooks (22 in 2012; 29 in 2013) and physical books (28 in 2012; 23 in 2013) in a year to year comparison, I nearly TRIPLED the amount of audiobooks I read. That’s about triple the amount of hours of my life I dedicate to listening to audiobooks in 2013!
While I’m proud I read more this year, no matter the format, at the same time, I certainly hope to find more time in 2014 to read more and multitask less! Most of the past year I was so busy doing a million things at once (and worrying about all the other things that still needed to get done next) that I felt like I was unraveling at the seams. Reading will always be a priority, but having a few reading sessions this next year, curled up under a blanket with nothing else to do or worry about? It sounds like a nice thing aim for.

The Books I Loved in Seventh Grade

Even though I moved out of my mom’s house and into my own place about eighteen months ago, there’s a moderate-sized pile of stuff still lingering in her basement: A half-dozen boxes full of glitzy prom shoes, a childhood shell collection, hard copies of a few papers from high school I was particularly proud of,  faded Girl Scout projects, and other things that managed to survive the severe bedroom/drawer purge that I always conducted the first week of summer.

It finally came time this past weekend to begin sorting through it all, in a final purge, deciding what tiny artifacts of my childhood would be kept, tossed, or shelved in the garage for a yard sale. My favorite thing I unearthed, though, was my end-of-the-year portfolios from elementary and middle school–fifth through ninth grade–each folder containing my best writing samples and a few with recorded lists of all the books I had read during that school year.

I’ve always been a voracious reader–I remember sneaking in chapters under the covers after bedtime, checking out the maximum books from the library (according to my seventh grade report, I went to the library every Saturday, the entire school year), and reading them all before they’re due, never going anywhere without a book in my bag–but seeing the numbers in front of me, in my own handwriting, was really surprising. It was like having Goodreads stats from ten years back. I was surprised to see I managed to read more books in a school year back when I was thirteen (and definitely at least a slightly slower reader than I am now) than I can read in an entire year! I feel like I’m reading constantly–I read at least an hour every day, if not more–so I can’t imagine how I managed to eat/sleep/go to school/do homework/be a kid and read that much all at the same time! In hindsight, my time management skills (or, maybe, my mom’s, who made sure I got everything done) were pretty impressive.

The tiny sliver of my brain that loves numbers (this is a very small sliver, and it’s mostly dominated by my interest in book sale stats, WIP word counts, and my own pathetic bank account digits) wishes I had more records. I’d love to know how many/which books I’ve read in my entire lifetime.

So, without further ado, the lists!

In fifth grade, with my lovely reading teacher, Mrs. Neff…(please excuse my egregious spelling!)

Reading List_0001Reading List_0002

These are the only two lists in the folder. I don’t know why there are two separate lists–maybe we did one every semester, or kept a different list for Fall and Spring half years–so the records are a little incomplete. I feel like I must have read more than what’s listed here, but maybe not. Also, I’m disappointed I didn’t rate the books on this list, but it’s interesting to see whether I picked up a book thanks to a recommendation (either through a friend, teacher, librarian, or the Reading Olympics list) or through my own library perusal. Though completely anecdotal, the list seems to reflect that recommendations are important guides for younger readers (at least, it was for this young reader)!

I still remember the moment when Harry Potter was recommended to me in fifth grade that year. I was an after school safety and one of the teachers in charge of the program pulled out one of those Scholastic book fair order packets and pointed out the little blurb and book cover of book one. “Apparently this is supposed to be really good.” I still have the book that arrived a few weeks after my mom offered up the $5 check. Obviously, that set off a reading binge! I begged and pleaded for the second and third books for Christmas and finished both before going back to school in January.

Now this list is more complete: It’s the motherload of book stats. Every single book I read in seventh grade, from September until June 2001-2002:

Reading List_0003Reading ListReading List_0004Reading List_0005

It’s funny to see the series I practically ate for breakfast. (Redwall, anyone? Redwall Minecraft (aka “AbbeyCraft”) is in the works!) And how I bent the rules (ranking was only 1-5) to satisfy my need to express how I really felt about a book. Despite the guidelines, I gave The Red Pony a “negative one”–and I still remember how much I disliked that book, a good indication of how much I would dislike Of Mice and Men in later years, though I did like Cannery Row–and a ten to Ella Enchanted, one of my favorite books of all time. The level of difficulty I gave for Seabiscuit (“Hard!”) makes me laugh because I still remember when my dad gave me that book as a random gift one day and I picked it for that month’s required book report. I had never read a book that difficult before–it was advanced non-fiction–and it wasn’t that it was hard to read, but hard to read on a deadline. I recall panicking to finish the book by the end of the month, struggling through the chapters, needing to look up words I was unfamiliar with constantly. I had never been that challenged by a book before, nor read one so slowly. But the work was worth the effort. I still vividly recall many of the descriptions in that book, though I haven’t opened it’s pages since I read it TWELVE years ago. I remember the descriptions of the rubber suits that the jockeys would run around the track in, in mid-day heat, to lose weight, and the single leaves of dehydrated lettuce that they’d reward themselves with.

I still remember many of the characters and plots of the books on these lists. It’s kind of fantastic, when you think about it, how books stick with us for so long. Mia from Princess Diaries and Grandma Dowdel from A Long Way from Chicago and A Year Down Yonder.

I’ve been interested recently in figuring out my writer DNA, as encouraged by Robin LaFevers and reading through these old lists has been a good way to jog my memory for my favorite and biggest impact books.

Do you remember what books you read in fifth and seventh grade? Have some of them stuck with you, all these years? Were they your favorites, or the ones you really despised?

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)