Are Audiobooks Still ‘Reading?’


OK, let’s get the obvious out the way to begin with: I know you listen to an audiobook, but can you actually class it as reading? Let’s pick a book at random …. I don’t know, let’s pick Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. Now let’s say you downloaded the audiobook and listened to it. Would you then say you have ‘READ’ the book if anyone asks?

“Hey, have you read Gone Girl yet? It is amazing!”

“Yes! I loved it!”

Hmmm, but did you read it?

It’s a tough one, because literally speaking, no, you don’t read an audiobook, you listen, ergo my opening sentence above.

Awhile ago I wrote a post called Yes, I work in a Supermarket. I have a lot of time on my hands as it were. For the majority of the time I work, the shop is closed. No customers! But I am on my feet, busy busy busy. I decided to give listening to an audiobook a try. I could still do my work, but lose myself in a good book too.

And do you know what I found? I did still lose myself in the book, the story, the characters. I had to listen to the unabridged version, of course, but I found myself gasping, laughing, I still got goosebumps up my arms when something dramatic happened!

I LOVED IT!!

I can listen for a good five hours a night. I suddenly saw an opportunity to read more books this way. I can still remember what happens in the book, which means I retained all the information, the character traits and I found myself, when I had to put my iPod away (as the shop opened) that I still thought about the book afterwards, thought about the themes and what bits I really liked.

But there are still people out there who think that listening to an audiobook is almost cheating. I’m not saying they are wrong – everyone is entitled to their own opinion – but is this not a little snobby? If you can still fall in love and enjoy an author’s work, surely that is the point? People read books as entertainment, no matter what genre that is. If you can still enjoy the book, it doesn’t really matter how you do it?

One argument I’ve found is that the appreciation of the author’s language choice and voice is lost. The actual specific words are lost and forgotten when listening to an audiobook. What utter rubbish! I know people who speed read. They breeze through books – are they contemplating the author’s sentence structure there? And yet they are still reading a book.

Audiobooks are sometimes the only way in which people can read. A disabled person who cannot physically read a book or turn a page can still take part in the activity by listening to an audiobook. This is also the same for someone with a mental impairment such as a learning difficulty which prevents them from reading, or at the very least makes it difficult.

itunes logoAudible-Logo

With companies such as iTunes and Audible growing in popularity in terms of audiobooks, it seems that the world is embracing the audiobook market. With the digital market growing, lugging cds around just isn’t practical.

What are your thoughts? Is listening to an audiobook still reading?

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6 thoughts on “Are Audiobooks Still ‘Reading?’

  1. When you read a story to a child, should they claim, they did not ‘read’ it? The literal definition of the word ‘read’ may not fit, but the cultural meaning certainly does. Stories all began as spoken word, and some authors claim the definitive edition of a story is the audiobook version. I certainly think it’s still reading, unless eye readers are willing to change to a new term alongside listeners.

  2. yes i think so, as you get all the words, but said correctly. there are some books that are too hard for me to read. i would use all my energy just trying to figure out what the word is and lose the pleaser of a flow of a good book. for example i would have struggled reading ‘The Cuckoo’s Calling’ Author: Robert Galbraith (J K Rowling) Narrator: however Robert Glenister magical narration was inspiring. and Baba Yaga’s Daughter and Other Stories of the Old Races
    Written by: C. E. Murphy Narrated by: Anna Parker-Naple was a masterpiece, and a book i would never of attempted to read.
    I am so glad i live in this time period were there are audio books.
    thank you Dan for writing such a wonderful blog piece. jane

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