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.


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

    1. 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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