Pros and Cons You Must Know Before Buying an Audiobook

It’s not a secret that many people over the world enjoy listening to an audiobook rather than reading the original written version. But at the same time, for book lovers, an audiobook is another version of the book and they may be eager to know how much they are alike or different.

In this post I present a list of pros and cons from text length, health risks, and quality of narration, to the kinds of genres that provide the best benefits to the listener, that can help to make a decision before buying an audiobook: 

  • Pro: Text length can discourage from reading
  • Con: Wearing earphones or earbuds can cause hearing loss
  • Pro: The quality of narration makes the magic of audiobooks
  • Pro: It’s easier to recall spoken language than written language
  • Pro: Listening stimulates imagination and visualization
  • Pro: Excellent option for non-fiction genres
  • Pro: Audiobooks allow a greater amount of literature consumption
  • Pro: Book reviews can encourage listening to the audiobook version
  • Myth: Are audiobooks more expensive than books?
  • Will audiobooks continue being popular in the future?

Pro: Text Length Can Discourage From Reading

The main factors that can lead book lovers or occasional readers to disregard reading a physical book or ebook and go for the audiobook version are:

  1. Time limitation: school, college or work assignments can be overwhelming if the time available to cover them is short
  2. Level of language: when the reader is not used to high-level literature works, comprehension might not be easily achieved. This can also happen with technical vocabulary from nonfiction or academic language titles
  3. Short books: for some people books under 180 pages might not represent good quality content. Therefore, they would rather invest their time listening to the audiobook version

Con: Wearing Earphones or Earbuds Can Cause Hearing Loss

Wearing headphones, earphones, or earbuds for extended periods of time and at a loud volume can stress the tiny hair cells inside the cochlea (in the inner ear) so they stop sending sound messages to the brain. 

Noise-induced hearing loss does not happen immediately but gradually. The issue relies on the fact that we tend to be unaware of it, and frequently spend hours not only listening to audiobooks but also music. 

Look at the following indicators that can help you notice if the level of volume is risky or too high:

  • When listening with earbuds, talk to someone near you and ask if he/she can hear what you’re hearing. If they say they do it means that level of volume is harmful
  • As a trained sound engineer, I recommend listening for only 45 minutes and then having a 15 minutes break. Try not to exceed this more than twice a day
  • To know what is a safe level of volume: set your device to silent mode and start increasing the volume one point at a time. The fourth point is an optimum safe level. 
  • Choose headphones over earphones/earbuds. Nevertheless, the same safe level of volume should be set.

The World Health Organization stated on 1 April 2021 that

“By 2050 nearly 2.5 billion people are projected to have some degree of hearing loss and at least 700 will require hearing rehabilitation. Over 1 billion young adults are at risk of permanent, avoidable hearing loss due to unsafe listening practices.” 

Pro: Books Take Up Space and Need Furniture to Be Stored

Book lovers adore the smell of a new book, the appearance of a magnificent hardcover classic, the excitement of holding a first-time edition, and the passion of collecting bookmarks, just to mention a few.

But all of the above represents using furniture (bookshelves, drawers) and taking up space in a room. Also, some books develop a musty smell, if not cared for properly.

Therefore, audiobooks can be a more efficient choice, as they only need:

  • An electronic device to be stored: tablets, iPods, smartphones, desktop computers, or laptops, which take very little space and are portable
  • An audio file player: either from a platform like iTunes, Google Play Books, or the ones preinstalled in the electronic device
  • An Internet connection: to download the audiobook or listen to it online  

Pro: The Quality of Narration Makes the Magic of Audiobooks

In most cases, one single narrator or voice actor can perform all the characters in a story. This challenge involves applying intonation and pitch fluctuations to make each character easy to be recognized chapter after chapter.

Using onomatopoeic sounds also provides a rich experience and gives a boost or dramatic impression that will retain the listener’s attention to the end.

I consider that voice acting is essential to make an audiobook successful in fiction stories. 

Although voice acting would not be appropriate for nonfiction-informational contents, applying intonation fluctuation does provide a better experience than listening to a permanent neutral voice.

Pro: It’s Easier to Recall Spoken Language Than Written Language

Throughout history and for thousands of years spoken language was the only way to transfer knowledge to the younger generations, who at the same time preserved this tradition. 

We can also recall what a movie is about when someone who has already seen it tells us the entire plot. The linking of vivid images created at the moment of listening to a story helps to keep a logical sequence of events that we can recall and repeat when we talk to someone else.

Pro: Listening Stimulates Imagination and Visualization

Every time we hear a word, our brain shows up a series of images that represent it. Context helps refine which of them is the correct one to give the correct interpretation to that sound. 

Most of the time when we read we “speak” in our minds and that internal listening presents (as mentioned in the previous subheading) a sequence of events that can be recalled later. 

The richness of vocabulary in an audiobook stimulates not only using the images we already know but also creating new ones. 

Therefore, visualization represents perceiving and processing visual models, whereas imagination uses not only seeing but also the five senses.

Audiobooks that use a soundtrack and sound effects create a great almost cinematic experience, and that’s one more reason why they are so successful nowadays.

Pro: Excellent Option for Non-Fiction Genres 

Personal growth, history, science, success mindset, autobiographies, chronicles, technical skills, training audio courses, and many others are types of books that benefit from being available as audiobooks.

Two excellent examples of nonfiction audiobooks narrated by their authors:

According to that, you may wonder:

What makes a good quality nonfiction audiobook narration?

  • The tone of voice of the narrator is interesting
  • The pace of speech is not too fast and not too slow; although a few moments of fast speech help captivate the listener’s attention
  • There is a good amount of fluctuation in the intonation throughout the text, which makes the entire book very interesting to follow chapter after chapter
  • The narration shows precise timing (amount of time where the silent moments generate attention) 
  • The quality of the sound production as a whole (voice narration, soundtrack, sound effects) provides the feeling of having found a great audiobook

Pro: Audiobooks Allow a Greater Amount of Literature Consumption

A physical book or ebook with 768 pages can be read at an average speed in 21.8 hours. The issue is that when we read books in this format we need to manipulate it with our hands (no matter the size of the book or digital device) and set our eyes exclusively on the text.

With an audiobook you can listen from any type of location: from a room in your house, an office, or when running, working out, commuting on public transport, or driving. Therefore, there is no need to set aside exclusive time to read but get the best of your available time to get quality content.

Audiobooks show on their cover image or description if the book is an unabridged (original) version or an abridged (short adaptation) version, plus the amount of time it will take to listen to the whole work.

To get an idea of the amount of time a person spends reading a book aloud, we need to do the following calculation:

  • The average single-spaced page usually has 500 words
  • The average reading speed of 500 words  is 1 minute and 40 seconds (1.7 minutes)
  • The resulting reading speed per word is 0,0034 seconds

This is an example with a 500 pages book:

Total amount of wordsAverage reading speed per wordAmount of time needed in secondsAmount of time needed in hours
250,0000,0034850 seconds14,2 hours
This table provides an example to calculate the amount of time spent reading a book aloud

Let’s take Barack Obama’s “A Promised Land” once again: reading it aloud can take less time than listening to the audiobook, but during that amount of time you wouldn’t be able to do anything else:

  • The book version has 768 pages
  • It can take about 21,7 hours to read it aloud
  • The audiobook takes 29 hours and 10 minutes

Do your calculations and make sure to get your favorite titles for the month!

Pro: Book Reviews Can Encourage Listening to the Audiobook Version

This image shows the standard 5-stars ranking system

A very good source to know if a book is worth the time to read is the New York Times Best Sellers. 

Platforms such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Bookshop also provide a 5-stars ranking scale where people can get an idea about the quality of the content rating on the latest reviews.

After a print or ebook version has been ranked with 4 to five stars or is granted a position on the NYT Best Sellers, authors and publishing houses release the audiobook version, knowing that the work has already been acclaimed by the critics and the public. 

This information can encourage book lovers and occasional readers to choose the audiobook version knowing that:

  • Reading a book at an average speed can take about 75,6% of the time that it can take to listen to the audiobook 
  • Reading a book implies being limited to doing anything else
  • Physical books take up space on a backpack or purse
  • Audiobooks can be accessed on any electronic device, from the user’s login account

Myth: Are Audiobooks More Expensive Than Books?

When the book is a recent release, the price of the print and audiobook versions tend to be similar. After a few years, only the price of audiobooks keeps higher than the other formats, as well as for both unabridged and abridged versions.

Let’s take a look at a few examples from the past 10 years:

A Promised Land” by Barack Obama, available since November 17, 2020
Hardcover book 
(768 pages)
Paperback book 
(768 pages)
Audiobook (Unabridged) (By
$20.95$18,77$29 purchase on Audible Plus
$20 Audible Premium Plus 
1 credit  Audible Premium Plus
Origin” by Dan Brown, available since October 3, 2017
Hardcover book 
(463 pages)
Paperback book 
(463 pages)
Audiobook (Unabridged) (By
$7.82$6.72$35 Audible Plus
$24.43 Audible Premium Plus
1 credit  Audible Premium Plus
Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence” by Daniel Goleman, available since October 8, 2013 
Hardcover book 
(320 pages)
Paperback book 
(320 pages)
Audiobook (Unabridged) (By
$12.38$15.36$27.37 Audible Plus
$19.16 Audible Premium Plus
1 credit Audible Premium Plus
The Night Fire: A Ballard and Bosch Novel: Harry Bosch, Book 22.” by Michael Conelly, available since October 22, 2019
Hardcover book
(416 pages)
Paperback book
(416 pages)
Audiobook (Abridged) (By
$13.09$11.47$28.50 Audible Plus
$19.95 Audible Premium Plus
1 credit Audible Premium Plus
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” (Millennium Series) by Stieg Larsson, available since November 22, 2011
Hardcover book(672 pages) Amazon.comPaperback book
(672 pages)
Audiobook (Abridged) (By
$26.40$14.92$26.64 Audible Plus
$18.65 Audible Premium Plus
1 credit Audible Premium Plus

Will Audiobooks Continue Being Popular in the Future?

According to Edison Research, the percentage of subscriptions to audiobook platforms (Audible, has increased from 23% in 2015 to 47% in 2020. Based on this tendency, audiobooks will become much more popular than print books by 2050.

“If two people share a log-in or an account, that’s one subscription but two people who would say “yes” to subscribing.”  

Recent Posts