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Editorial: The evolution of books

Peter Shokeir | editor@fitzhugh.ca

Although readership for print books has waned over the past decade, physical books are refusing to go away so easily.

According to Statista, book consumption in the United States still lends towards print with 65 per cent of survey respondents in 2019 saying they read at least one print book in the past year.

This is 40 per cent more than those who had read an ebook in the same period.

Print remains the most popular book format. The reasons behind this are numerous: the feel and smell of the pages, the ease on the eyes, the intellectual vanity of having a bookshelf full of the classics.

There is a contender, however.

Many thought that ebooks would be the new go-to format, but audiobooks continue to grow in popularity and may one day reach the same level of popularity as traditional print.

Unlike physical books, audiobooks don’t require your full attention when consuming them. One can listen as they work on their laptop, go for a stroll or embark on a four-hour drive to Edmonton.

Although listening to an audiobook may be slower going for some compared to reading, they can fill plenty of deadtime.

In his 2000 memoir, On Writing, Stephen King advocated for listening to audiobooks while driving, joking that you could only listen to Highway Star on the radio so many times. (It’s one doozy of a song though.)

Reading a book is much like examining a city’s street system from a high vantage point where your eyes must do a good amount of work following the roads but you have the luxury of looking down at it all.

Listening to an audiobook, in contrast, is more akin to driving through those streets where the scenery flies past on its own accord with the tradeoff that if you’re not paying attention, it could all rush by you.

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