But is it really reading?

Last year, I discovered that I quite enjoyed audiobooks. Since July, I have listened to 17.

I started with memoirs, read by the author. Hearing the author pronounce names, put accents on family and friends, sing bits, brings the memoir to life.

Jimmy Barnes’ Working Class Boy and Magda Suzbanski’s Reckoning hooked me. Listening to comedians Kitty Flanagan and John Cleese read their memoirs was like being in a stand-up gig. I moved onto non-fiction and fiction.

I spend a large part of my morning in traffic. A trip that takes 12 minutes without traffic, normally takes 35 minutes and can regularly take 40 minutes. I was sick of trying to avoid ads and find songs I liked on the radio. Listening to dumb comments by commercial radio presenters and talk-back made me angry and tense.

With the audiobook on not only do I not care about the traffic, I actually want the lights to go red and the highway to be crowded. I get to hear more of my audiobook.

But there’s the rub! Audiobook. Is it really a book? Can I really count it as reading?

Mr Sans says no, it is not reading. And I haven’t read the books.

I feel like a fraud adding these to my Goodreads account.

What do you think?

17 thoughts on “But is it really reading?

  1. read or listen the book. it doesn’t matter. as long as you can apprehend the story well and appreciate it. what’s reading anyway if we don’t have more time for it? although i never tried to listen to any audiobook, i believe it’s also nice to listen what you are eager to understand other than by reading it. i’m also looking forward into listening audiobooks if i don’t have time to finish my TBR. to your question, again, it doesn’t matter. you can add those books on your goodreads as much as you want.

  2. Milton wrote lots of his poetry by dictating to his daughters after he lost his sight. If that’s writing, then an audio book is reading. The paper bit is just the medium, neither the artistry nor the message.

  3. Hearing every written word read from a book still constitutes knowledge gained. What more would be learned by getting the physical book and ‘reading’ it all over again? Count audiobooks in your goodreads.

    For more than 25 years, I drove 100 miles RT to work–roughly 3 or more hours behind the wheel each day (retired last year…thank heavens). I would never have survived the commute (nor would some of the others on the road with me…) if it had not been for audiobooks. I’ve listened to hundreds of books over the years in various genres—non-fiction, fiction, memoirs, biographies– and I count them as much ‘read’ as the thousands of ‘books’ I’ve read in a paper or even e-book format. While I am no longer commuting, listening to an audiobook while doing other mundane tasks can still be a great source of pleasure. Just finished Sally Fields’ memoir, “In Pieces”. Her reading illuminated the work.

    On a side note, I am as critical of narrators as I am of authors. The choice of narrator can make or break an audiobook.

    • That’s a big daily commute! I imagine you feel you have even more time – not just the hours given to work but the hours given to getting to work?

      I totally agree. The choice of narrator can bring the book to life or kill the words. One I couldn’t listen to as the narrator grated on me, made it unbearable to listen to.

  4. Well of course it’s reading and they are books; otherwise they would just be called “audios” 🙂 You are hearing word for word what the author intended. Even if your mind were to wander, surely the same can happen when reading the printed page. I currently listen to podcasts on my commute and at the gym. I listen to audiobooks when I simply must hear it in the author’s voice, like Patti Smith’s book Just Kids.

    • I value your opinion in these matters.

      I can’t help but think if I am not using my eyes to decipher the words it is not reading. And I say “listen to audiobook” not read. I wonder what different parts of the brain that is being used?

      I don’t know why I’m hung up on this. Not sure if I can use the term reading but I will definitely not feel fraudulent adding to GRs and won’t qualify to friends who ask how many books I have read recently, “Four but one was an audiobook.”

  5. I think that we’ve had the industrial revolution and now we’re in the tech revolution and ‘books’ as a concept can’t be limited to old technologies. New literacies have to incorporate audio and visual media (apart from anything else, to limit books only to printed text makes us out of touch with young, savvy and often very influential users of media in all forms. Admittedly though, it feels weird saying ‘read’ instead of ‘listened!’

    I didn’t know there was an audio copy of Working Class Boy. That would be the best possible way to experience that book!

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