Readers/Textbooks: What are you looking for in one?

People have been asking (read: begging) for graded readers & other similar-type textbooks for a while.

After the newest ones came out even more requests for specific readers, etc. came out.

What are you looking for in a graded reader or textbook?

I'd always been a big listening-based learner: Pimsleur + podcast kind of guy (chinesepod, popupchinese, etc.), never really got into learning books as such - so I'm curious as to what you guys think about readers and the like.

interesting question; I think one important difference between podcasts like ChinesePod and studying textbooks is that with the former, you learn explanations of grammar (and sometimes vocab) as you go, while with textbooks, you can study grammar/vocab separately, before or after absorbing a text. A textbook also allows for more detail and examples in the explanations of grammar, and you can use your imagination more than with a podcast, where you're busy with listening. I guess it also boils down to whether you are more of a visual or auditory type, and whether you want a lot of detail or just reach a certain goal.

I've never really liked graded readers due to their sometimes unnatural and repetitive language. (It's a compromise they have to make when there's a fixed vocabulary.) But of course, if a regular book isn't your level, they give you an opportunity to read a lot. In textbooks, the vocab you learn is determined at least somewhat by the needs of the lesson texts, so the texts can be more natural.

I studied using the New Practical Chinese Reader because I wanted a detailed description of Chinese grammar and usage, and it also has very high-quality (I think) accompanying audio material. I also listened to ChinesePod a lot, though I often felt the information density was a little low. With books, you can more easily look up some particular fact that you wish to repeat than with podcasts. Podcasts give you a more colloquial setting and can be about interesting topics that wouldn't fit into a regular textbook.

So, to sum up, paper is more patient than an audio recording, and it can contain more information, which is why I’d prefer it if I had to choose one.
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FWIW, I just started using the graded readers from Mandarin Companion. They are a bit below my level, but that is somewhat the point of "extensive reading", as I recently learned. It felt good to finish my first 74 page book, and I plan to measure my reading speed now and then after I finish several more. To me, getting a lot of practice in is most important, and a novel will hold my interest to get me to finish it, even if it isn't perfect.
The best reader (in my personal opinion obviously) is the one that introduces words that are new for me at a reasonably slow rate, maybe 5% of the text. Ideally it has to be interesting ;) but that's a matter of personal taste. I'm a huge proponent of Kato Lomb / Steve Kaufmann etc school "just read a lot, the grammar will take care of itself (beyond basics)". Speaking of Kaufmann, maybe I need to re-explore Linq.

N+1 sort of reader would be awesome, but I understand that it is impossible to implement. So I often check "new words" using Chinese Text Analyser before diving in. CTA's word segmentation is rather strange, but the software gives me a general idea of how annoying it will be to read the text (>10% of new words on average it definitely is!

The best middle ground are readers that take a specific HSK/TOEFL/[some standard level, listed in the text's glossary] as a given and then introduce words on top of that level at <10% speed.