I was on Instagram this morning, as I usually do to catch up on what happened overnight, and I came across an account that had a whole post on how “audiobooks aren’t books”. I kindly replied but that statement just rattled around in my brain all morning and the more I thought about it, the angrier I got so I figured why not rant about it to the book community.
We all have very strong preferences on the way that we read. Some people prefer reading on their e-readers, some love physical books, some love audiobooks, and many of us appreciate reading in any form. Books make us passionate, so much so that we even get get passionate about the method that we read and let me tell you, I am VERY passionate about audiobooks.
This isn’t just a rant in defense of “audiobooks ARE books”. It’s an exaggeration, but to me that’s like saying the Earth is flat. Audiobooks are literally published and sold by publishing houses. They’re sent out for review to readers and bloggers. They are absolutely categorized and described as a book. They’re not movies or shows, they’re not plays. They’re books. Just because someone is reading it out loud and you’re not using your eyes to read the words on the page doesn’t mean what you just took in wasn’t reading a book. Every single word the author wrote is contained in an audiobook and they’re not cut down or edited (note: expect in special cases like some full cast audiobooks that read more like plays BUT I would say almost always a full, unabridged version is published first. Those are often more like special editions. MOST full cast audiobooks I’ve listened to still contain all of the text).
Traditionally, reading is done with your eyes (duh). I agree, that’s absolutely different than listening to something. You don’t have to know how to read or spell to listen to something, that’s an obvious fact. But there are many, many books I’ve only read/listened to as an audiobook. Does that mean I never made a connection to any of the books I’ve listened to? I know as well as someone who read the words on the pages with their eyes how that story goes, what happened, and can provide an accurate summary and review. Sometimes I remember even better after listening than I do with reading. Listening to an audiobook provides a new way to retain information and the timbre and cadence of the narrator’s voices often help me remember actual quotes and passages better than they would if I was reading a hardcover/paperback/ARC.
Isn’t that also saying that a parent reading out loud to their child, for example, isn’t reading? What if someone is blind and can only listen to audiobooks? Does that mean they never read a book? Sure, we’re putting limitations on things here, but if it counts, it counts and it COUNTS.
I’ve only ever listened to THE SCORPIO RACES by Maggie Stiefvater on audiobook and I’ve listened to it at least seven times. I know the story backwards and forwards and even better because I can hear the narrators reciting the text. I can’t imagine anyone, including the author, saying I didn’t read that book because I never read the words on physical pages. I would imagine authors want people to read their books, no matter the form, and audiobooks are absolutely one of those forms.
The argument this poster was making was that people who are just listening to audiobooks while they’re driving or cleaning the house aren’t reading and I’m still gonna argue that one hard. See all the points above etc etc but also… don’t you WANT people to read? For people who are that busy that they only have time to listen to audiobooks in the car or while they’re cleaning, isn’t that great that they still have the time and want to read at SOME point in time? They’re choosing books they really want to read but otherwise don’t have time to. Reading is not defined by a quantity. It’s not “you have to read ten books a year minimum for any of your reading to count”. Maybe those people aren’t avid readers but they’re not claiming to be.
I am an avid reader. I work quite literally almost all day. I go to the shop to work from 7:30 – 5 and then come home, make dinner, eat, and go back to working on the computer until I’m too tired to work anymore. My ONLY designated sit-down-and-read time is a couple of hours on the weekends so I listen to TONS of audiobooks while I’m working. I still know what happened, with a good audiobook I’m probably even more focused than when read paper pages, and I still review them for my blog. If I didn’t post that they were audiobooks, you’d have no idea that was how I read them because I can review a book accurately and entirely through that method. I just don’t see how it’s “not reading”.
I’m also super defensive and in promotion of audiobooks because of how many reads they make up for me each year. I read 133 books in 2018. 102 of them were audiobooks. That means I only had time to sit down and read 31 books that were physical copies and wouldn’t that be a travesty if I limited myself to only 31 books instead of 133 if “audiobooks weren’t books”?
I think almost all of us are in acknowledgement that audiobooks ARE books, even if we don’t all like or use them. Listening to an audiobook makes the story no less absorbed and especially depending on the best method of learning for a person, it can even make a story better absorbed. It’s like arguing a fact so I’ll stop arguing, but man, I was consumed with rage by that thought and you got a good rant out of it!