Almost a universal truth, as the movie almost always seeks to summarize and shorten the book into two hours or less. Thus, the book is much more detailed, and in the case where the movie is very much unlike the book, it's probably a lot better. The book is also much more absorbing because it requires the reader to actually digest the words and paint a picture of what's occuring in their mind. Rather than being a passive audience that uses merely the visual and auditory senses, the reader has to use their imagination; a very alien concept these days.

Too much depends on the type of book. Books that have a great deal of backstory or action taking place inside the character's heads typically fare poorly on the big screen (Dune, for example). Books in which the story is largely driven by the environment can fare much better on the big screen than in print (Das Boot). Sometimes both the book and the film are giants of their genre (Princess Bride, Gone With the Wind). Sometimes, but rarely, the movie can be a modified version of the book which stands alone independent of the book (The Postman, The Forbin Project). Lastly, a movie is almost always better than its novelization.

However, both epic tales and short stories can almost certainly be expected to be mangled in the translation. Movies must fit certain formats to be commercially viable, and existing stories must be changed to fit that format.

There is a definite reason why the book is almost always better. Books, especially novels, run into the hundreds, or if you're Stephen King, into the thousands of pages. Screenplays and shooting scripts have only about a hundred to a hundred and fifty pages, most of them being taken up by the white space between paragraphs.

The very very difficult job of ripping the bare bones of the story out of all of those pages gets delegated to the screenwriter in the transition from book to script. Something always must be left out, and quite often, it's most of what people liked about the book in the first place. All of that gorgeous descriptive language talking about The swirling of the snow as it falls from the looming grey sky on the cold November day gets compressed down into "ext. snowstorm" on the page.

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