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What are the advantages and disadvantages of various mediums when reading content? Does the medium affect the comprehension? In this lesson, we will compare text-only versions to audio, video, and multimedia versions of the text.

Reading Content

When reading content, whether it is your favorite novel, a short story, or a piece of nonfiction, you have many options of how to take in the information. Many years ago, readers were limited to written versions, but today we have several different options that fit different learning styles and preferences.We now have audio, video, and multimedia versions of various texts. What are the benefits of these new mediums? What are the challenges? Let’s explore these reading advancements.

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Listening to the Content

Audio versions of text can often be very exciting and offer many advantages.

They also, however, can present some challenges for readers that we need to explore.


  • You can listen when you can’t hold a book or need to complete a task. For example, if you are driving, exercising, cooking dinner, or otherwise engaged, listening might be a great option. *Listening helps keep your attention.

    Some learners do better with voice than with a white page.

  • Audio versions allow for voice inflection of characters. A good speaker can create character voices, show anger and excitement, and help you to experience the action of the story. The speaker can also emphasize key words and phrases that you should remember.

  • Audio versions allow for pronunciation of difficult words. The speaker does the pronouncing instead of you stumbling over them.


  • When listening, it is difficult to re-read a section did not understand or want to catch up on. You may not have the opportunity if you are listening to a live speaker, and playlists or CDs are awkward to go back on. This may slow your progress or comprehension.
  • You may not like the voice reading the story.

    He or she may have an irritating, scary, or dull voice, distracting you from the story or content.

  • Some readers may not want to give up the feel of an actual book.
  • You cannot stop to think about/look up difficult vocabulary. When reading, you can write down or look up these words. When listening, the words are gone before you have time to write them down.
  • Active reading strategies like highlighting, underlining, or making notes are are not possible.

Watching the Video

Videos are fun to watch and offer much action for the viewer. Like audio texts, however, video versions of texts have both advantages and disadvantages to consider.


  • Watching a video requires less cognitive function, or brain work. Unlike reading, which requires you to think, reason, and make connections, watching a video is a much more passive activity and takes less thought and energy.

  • You are able to see characters in action. Watching a character in active combat with a monster can be more exciting than simply reading about it. The video makes the action more engaging.
  • Videos connect better emotionally with viewers, as the characters come to life in action and music.

  • Words are not a barrier to comprehension as you watch the characters act out the plot. In nonfiction, seeing the presented material can make it easier to understand.


  • When watching a video, you have no control over the content and how it is presented.

    You are at director’s discretion as to how story plays out. The story or content may change when it shows up on video.

  • The characters may look and sound different than you imagined them. Often actors are chosen for their abilities rather than how closely they resemble the characters.
  • No active reading is possible.

    You cannot highlight text or underline key words and phrases. While you can make notes, those notes will not be right next to the text for reference later.

  • Because video is a passive activity, your brain won’t be activated in the same ways, and your attention span is likely to be short.

Viewing Multimedia Presentations

Multimedia combines the best of text, audio, video, animation, and interactive features to enhance the content. Even with all of these items combined, however, there are still both advantages and disadvantages to this medium.


  • The text comes to life through animation and video.
  • The animation of text allows readers to focus on one item at a time without being overwhelmed.

  • Presentations can allow readers to decide when to go to the next graphic.
  • Colors and graphics make the text more appealing. Unlike text-only content which has black words on a white page, multimedia allows for more color and font options.
  • You can interact with the text so active reading strategies are more effective.
  • Unlike audio text, most multimedia presentations allow you reread sections.


  • For some, the animation, bright colors, and graphics may be overstimulating.
  • You may be tempted to move too quickly through text because of animation.
  • You may not take the text seriously due to colors, graphics, and moving items.

Lesson Summary

Today audio, video, and multimedia versions of text offer readers many more options to receive content. There are advantages and disadvantages to both:

  • Audio allows for multitasking, narrators that keep your attention, and offers pronunciation help. However, a bad narrator can be distracting, and audio makes reviewing vocabulary, previous sections, and using active reading strategies (highlighting, note-taking) difficult.

  • Video can bring characters or concepts to life, engage emotions, avoids word comprehension barriers, and involves less brain work. However, it can decrease attention span compared to text, you’re at the mercy of the director’s imagination, and using active reading strategies is difficult.
  • Multimedia (combinations of text, video, audio, animation, and interactive features) brings characters or concepts to life through interactive elements, colors, and animations, allows the reader to be self-paced, and allows for easy review.

    However, it can be overstimulating, encourage skimming over points, or come across as less serious.


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