If you have a long commute or some spare time, you may be wondering if you should pick up a book and read or spend that time listening to a podcast. Both mediums can be entertaining and informative, but which is better?
Whether a book or a podcast is better depends on personal preference and priorities. A book is better if you want more engaging, creative, and informative content. If you want more easygoing and short-form listening and mobility, a podcast is better.
If you want to settle the debate once and for all of whether you should reach for a book or a podcast, listen up (pun intended)! This article will discuss the benefits and disadvantages of each medium to help you decide.
Reading a Book
Parents and teachers are always encouraging children to read in the hopes of establishing a lifelong reading habit, and for good reason! Reading is a wonderful habit with lots of advantages.
Here are some good things about books:
- You’ll improve your concentration. Reading books encourages the muscles in your brain that deal with memory and concentration to grow, so the more you read, the more your brain will be able to flex these muscles in your daily life.
- Reading improves your vocabulary. Reading books exposes you to lots of words, and many new words, which can help you know the right word you need to express yourself in the future.
- Books can help you be more open-minded. Books can expose you to a variety of different opinions, thoughts, settings, and perspectives that can expand your horizons beyond what you experience in your daily life. This can also help you become a more understanding, compassionate, and empathetic person.
- There’s a vibrant reading community. Reading books can help you make friends who have the same tastes in books as you. Book clubs and author events are great ways to build connections and friendships.
- Books are informative. Because books require focus, they’re a great way to learn something new.
Books are great and have a lot of benefits, but they aren’t perfect. Here are some disadvantages to reading a book:
- Books can be extremely time-consuming. Have you ever tried reading War and Peace or Moby Dick? The reality is that books can be long, and therefore extremely time-consuming. If you are busy and don’t have a lot of spare time for reading, it could take months to get through just one book.
- You have to carry a physical book with you. If you don’t carry a purse or a backpack, it can be difficult to carry a physical book around, so if you’re out and about and have some spare time, you may be without your book.
- You can’t multitask. Reading requires focus and you have to hold the book, so you can’t really do anything else while reading. You can risk taking a bath with a book, but I’ve ended up with some water-damaged books that way!
- Books can be expensive. New hardcover books can cost around $30, which is not cheap! If you go through books quickly, reading can be an expensive habit. If you have a library nearby, you can use that to solve this issue, but not everyone has access to good, well-stocked libraries.
- Reading is largely a sedentary activity. While you can listen to podcasts while running or walking, most people can only focus on reading if they are sitting or lying down.
Listening to Podcasts
Podcasts, which are similar to radio shows but with more focus and continuity, are also exploding in popularity, and it’s easy to find a podcast on almost any topic.
Here are some of the best things about listening to a podcast:
- Podcasts are broken down into bite-size chunks of listening material. While some books would take you more than 20 hours to read, many podcasts are broken down into smaller chunks of time, from ten minutes to an hour.
- Podcasts are more conversational in nature. The casual and conversational style of podcasts makes for an easy listening experience.
- Podcasts are usually free. You can get podcasts for free on a variety of platforms.
- There’s a ton of them. Even if you have a really specific and niche interest, you’re most likely going to be able to find a podcast about it.
- There’s a variety of voices. Podcasts often have guests, so the experience of listening to a variety of different voices can keep your listening experience interesting and engaging.
- You can multitask. Because your hands are free when you’re listening to audio, it’s easy to do other tasks while also listening to a podcast. If you’ve got laundry to fold or cleaning to do, turning on a podcast can make these chores more entertaining and easy to get through, and you can learn something new or entertain yourself at the same time!
- Many podcasts have lots of episodes. If you find a podcast you really like, it’s possible that it has a backlog of dozens or even hundreds of episodes you can listen to!
- You don’t need a light source. Sometimes you don’t have access to a light source, and if this is the case, reading is not a possibility. However, you can still listen to a podcast! I listen to podcasts when I am on a plane or a bus and I don’t want to turn on the reading light, as it may disturb my sleeping neighbor.
There are some bad things about podcasts that you should consider:
- Some podcasts have bad sound quality. Some newer or smaller podcasts don’t have the necessary equipment or studio space to produce quality sound, and you may find the low-quality sound distracting or unlistenable.
- Episodes are hit or miss. The pressure of having to regularly release new episodes can make for some subpar podcasts.
- Some podcasts aren’t as engaging or informative as books. Is listening to an hour of people talking about The Bachelor as informative as reading a book? Probably not. But it’s fun!
- It is easy to get distracted and miss things. When you’re listening to audio and multitasking, it can be easy to zone out and miss large chunks of the podcast. This is okay for most shows, as they’re meant for more casual listening, but for more narrative-based podcasts, you can easily get lost in the story.
Podcasts or Books: Deciding Which Is Better for You
Now that you know some good and bad things about books and podcasting, which is better?
Whether you should open a book or listen to a podcast depends on your circumstances and what you’re looking for. If you want engaging, informative, and long-form content, and you’re physically able to hold a book, go for a book. If you want short-form easy listening and the ability to multitask and do other things at the same time, a podcast is better.
Books are ideal for people who want something that’ll engage them for a longer period of time and for those who are able to sit and focus on words on a page. If you really want to be immersed in a separate world, books are a great way to escape.
However, you can’t really multitask while reading, so you’ll have to dedicate the time entirely to reading. Additionally, you’ll have to be holding a book, so you’ll need your hands available to do that. (Of course, audiobooks are an entirely different story; if you want the thrill and entertainment of reading but the hands-free multitasking experience of podcasts, get the best of both worlds and download an audiobook instead.)
Podcasts are great for those situations and listeners who want something more casual and conversational in nature and shorter pieces of audio. Because my hands are free while listening to audio, I listen to podcasts when I’m also doing something else, such as cleaning or cooking, so if I lose focus on the audio for a minute or so, I’m not completely lost.
Whether you opt for a book or a podcast, you’re bound to find interesting and engaging content. Give both mediums a try in different situations, and you’ll be able to find out when a book is better and when a podcast is best.
And hey, you can also split the difference and download an audiobook instead! Happy reading!