I find audio books beneficial for relaxation, detail retention, and as a visualization booster. I have aphantasia and find it nearly impossible to sustain mental imagery whilst reading. Audio allows my mind to generate an adumbral, silhouette-like depiction of the storyline. Sometimes, when relaxed and focused enough, colour and clarity appear for a bit, which is always a plus.
The downside to listening (rather than reading) is that it can be far more passive in nature. With reading, you can pause, contemplating the author’s words, questioning them, considering his/her intent, method, insight, or error. Reading allows you to actively ‘listen,’ and to converse (in a sense) with the absent author. Whereas the audio method doesn’t afford the same opportunity. You can always hit pause in an attempt to obtain that same effect, but listening (in my opinion) makes it more likely that you will remain in that more passive/receptive/non-reflective state.
Thus, I find audio books best for lighter, more entertainment-oriented content. For heavier material, like the classics, personal development, and technical works, I prefer the ‘old method’ of active reading. Either way, it beats abstaining altogether, and missing out on an opportunity to learn and grow.
“A cognitive scientist explains the similarities and differences between reading print and listening to an audiobook… Ever since audiobooks began to gain in popularity more than a decade ago, this question has been raised: Are kids who listen to assigned books rather than reading them actually cheating? Is reading a book anywhere near the same thing as listening?”