My Trends in Reading Media Format

Yesterday, I got to thinking about how much I’ve taken to the audiobook format. I’ve transformed from someone who was once certain the format would never work for him, to a huge consumer of audiobooks. The clear advantage–the realization that I could read more in the same amount of time–was a big motivator. But I’ve also come to enjoy the performance dimension of the readings. My recent re-read of Stephen King’s It and 11/22/63 have demonstrated to me just how good such performance readings can be.

Since I have data on my reading going back to 1996, I thought it might be interesting to plot my reading over time, breaking it down by the media format of the book. To keep things simple, I divided this into three categories:

  • Paper: all formats of paper books.
  • E-book: all formats of electronic books.
  • Audiobooks: those books I’ve listened to via Audible.

Aggregating the data by year (so that I don’t overwhelm anyone), here is what I get:

Reading Media Trends

From 1996 through 2008–a period of 13 years inclusive–I read nothing by paper books. Then, beginning in 2009, I began reading e-book. Halfway through that year (right around the time the Little Man was born) I got a Kindle. A year later, in 2010, half the books I read were e-books. The trend reversed somewhat in 2011, when the bulk of my reading for the year were the old issues of Astounding Science Fiction. Last year, e-books once again made up half of my reading. It wasn’t until February of this year that I started listening to audiobooks, but already they make up the vast majority of my reading for the year.

Note, also that while we are only 5/12ths of the way through the year, I’ve already read nearly half of what I read on my best year. I suspect that 2013 will set a new record in books-read, in large part thanks to audiobooks, which allow me to read when I am doing other things–something I couldn’t easily do with either paper or e-books.

If we breakdown the time period from 2009 (when I started reading e-books) through the present by month, you can see a little more detail:

Reading Trend 2009-Present

Note that we are only about halfway through May so that last data point is incomplete. I will also point out that in April, I listened to Stephen King’s It for the bulk of the second half of the month. That is a 44 hour book and since I didn’t finish it until May, it goes in the May column instead of April. Finally, there should be one paper book in the April column, but I forgot to add it to my list before running the data.

See that blue trend (audiobooks) over the last three months? Given my experience so far, I expect that trend to continue. I expect the green (paper) to fade out almost (but not quite) entirely, and the red (e-books) to shrink somewhat, replaced by audiobooks. I will be interesting to recreate this chart a year from now and see how close I am in my predictions.

About Jamie Todd Rubin

Jamie Todd Rubin writes fiction and nonfiction for a variety of publications including Analog, Clarkesworld, The Daily Beast, 99U, Daily Science Fiction, Lightspeed, InterGalactic Medicine Show, and several anthologies. He was featured in Lifehacker’s How I Work series. He has been blogging since 2005. By day, he manages software projects and occasionally writes code. He lives in Arlington, Virginia with his wife and three children. Find him on Twitter at @jamietr.

4 thoughts on “My Trends in Reading Media Format

  1. I wonder if we retain less or more content by listening to audiobooks compared to reading ebooks/paper books?

  2. Ryan, in listening to books that I’ve read before (like Stephen King’s It) I’ve found that I retain more–indeed, come across whole passages I didn’t recall from before. I suspect that is because, when reading, I can skim, but when listening, you go at the readers pace and hear everything at the same pace. It has been a rather startling revelation to me.

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