Let’s Talk About Audiobooks

It’s no secret that I am a huge fan of audiobooks. But that wasn’t always the case. My first full-time job out of college had an hour+ long commute. It was giving me terrible anxiety, because I felt like I was wasting so much time just to get to a job I didn’t really like. I needed another solution that wasn’t listening to the same albums on repeat and being angry. So I decided to give audiobooks a shot.

Before I did, I’m ashamed to admit that I was in the “audiobooks don’t really count” camp. They’re not really reading, right? I was wrong, and I am so glad I learned why.

Here’s the thing: we all have different tastes and opinions. It’s completely okay if you don’t like listening to audiobooks. It’s totally up to you if you prefer reading paperbacks or ebooks or hardcovers with the dust jackets still on them (though I might judge you just a little for that last one). Just like you don’t have to like science fiction or romance novels or memoirs. You don’t have to listen to audiobooks, but you should appreciate the value in them.

Personally, I listen to audiobooks just as a way of reading more books (mainly while driving). But I’ve talked to people who use them as tools for rereading favorites in a different format, and others who listen to them only after having first read the book. There is no right or wrong way to listen to an audiobook. So long as, you know, you actually listen to it. How you do use audiobooks?

Regardless of how or where or why you listen to audiobooks vs. reading a physical format, I think they should count as reading. You are still ingesting a book, right? And aren’t you still using your imagination in the process? Is an ebook less of a book than a paperback? Does the format make or break a book? Personally, I don’t think so. Sure, they all provide different experiences, but that doesn’t make any one of them superior to the others.

But the thought that really made me decide that audiobooks should not be precluded from making my Goodreads Challenge – counting as “having read” – was the realization that thinking they don’t is kind of ableist. I think it’s amazing that people who have any variety of difficulties with their eyesight or coordination can still benefit from the millions of beautiful stories out there. I think it’s really important that we make books as accessible as possible, and audiobooks are a great way to do that.

What’s your take on audiobooks? Do you listen to them as a way of fitting more books into your busy life? Do you only use them for rereading or in conjunction with another format? Do you enjoy audiobooks?

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34 thoughts on “Let’s Talk About Audiobooks

  1. I completely agree with you. Claiming that audiobooks don’t count as reading is an extremely privileged way of thinking because it’s ableist. I wasn’t always a fan of listening to audiobooks, but I’ve started to make use of them more in recent years. They allow me to read while cleaning, cooking, commuting and more. It’s just so useful! Sometimes, the narrator can also add an extra dimension to the story and I’ll end up enjoying it even more (like with Illuminae which has a full cast narration).

    Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I agree. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of audiobooks with more than one narrator (not sure why), but I appreciate them because they’re helping more people get into the format. And audiobooks don’t have to be for everyone, but I think we need to stop dismissing them so much.

      Like

    1. Good for you! I think people have been becoming more open to audiobooks in general, but I have seen a few instances in which a comment from someone who isn’t a fan of audiobooks could be construed as hurtful to someone for whom audiobooks are the easiest way of reading. Personally, I don’t care what people think of me, either, but I wanted to start a discussion that might help people be more open minded about audiobooks. Thanks!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I just now started getting into audiobooks. And I love them! When I have a busy schedule they give me a chance to still get some reading time in. A lot of people may not have the luxury of free time to read so audiobooks may be the best way for them to get a book in! It all counts to me. As long as you’re “reading” the format doesn’t matter. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love audiobooks. I got into them for the same reason you did. I have an hour long commute each way. Most books I listen to are 10 hours or so long so I get to listen to a book a week. I think it’s a great way to read more books. I think everyone should get them a shot.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I completely agree! I’m actually kind of sad my new commute is only 30 minutes, because I used to listen to a 10hr book a week, too. It completely eliminated communitng stress, because I was actually being productive.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. They are still books. It’s like when you are in grammar school and the teacher used to read to you. That’s the way I take it. There is someone reading the book to you and therefore you are still experiencing the book. You’re just ingesting it through a different medium — in this case, your ears. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m so glad to read this post as I’ve been recently thinking about audio books … you know, those moments when your mind wanders and thinks about random things – for me it was audio books 🙂 And I realized a couple of things.

    On one hand, I realized that they are really useful for people who are commuting and driving – if you have to drive for 1 hour every day, you might listen to an audiobook instead of listening to the news. And I consider they’re also very useful for visually impaired people.

    On the other hand, I think that audiobooks have an added layer of interpretation that might alter our perception of the book. It might be in a positive or negative way, depending on the context. But I personally feel that reading a book is a more personal experience than listening to an audiobook.

    In conclusion, it’s for sure a matter of preference. As long as the reader enjoys the process of reading the book or listening to it, that’s all that counts!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree! And I do think that narration is really important in an audiobook. I always listen to the sample beforehand, because there are some voices I know I couldn’t listen to for ten hours. But there are also some that really make the book better. I’ve had at least a couple instances of not being able to get into a book, and then ended up loving the audiobook. For me, it just depends on the book. There are definitely a few I know I’d prefer to read a physical copy of, but I do listen to a lot of audiobooks.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. It’s worked for me. Last year, I actually put down a book because I wasn’t really enjoying it, and then picked up the audiobook months later and loved it! Sometimes, a little change can make a big difference.

          Liked by 1 person

  6. I don’t listen to audiobooks, but I think it is a really good way of “reading” more books! And of course, it does the thing where your listening skills improve or something like that. I would like to try out audiobooks, and I’m really glad you enjoy audiobooks because it just seems much more convincing that I should try out this medium of telling stories!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! It did take me a while to get into audiobooks, but now I love them as a way of fitting in more books. I listen to them while I’m driving (can’t really read then) or cleaning. It’s also nice when I have a headache to sit there with my eyes closed and have a story told to me. If you’re looking to try them out, I’d suggest finding time to listen when your hands are busy, but your mind isn’t completely occupied – it seems to work best for me.

      Liked by 2 people

  7. I definitely think that they count as reading, and I would love to start reading audiobooks. But I just don’t know what to start with, and I feel like I might do best with non-fiction or academic books. Like not heavily academic, but still education.

    Do you have a favourite reader?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I listen to both fiction and nonfiction, but I’m starting to like listening to nonfiction more than reading it. I tend to like celebrity narrators of nonfiction (I am obsessed with the Leonardo da Vinci biography read by Alfred Molina). I like when authors read their own books, too (Neil Gaiman has the BEST voice). Stephen Fry and Jim Dale are always great, too. Narrators can make or break an audiobook for me, so I always listen to the sample on Audible first. I have a link on the right sidebar of my blog for an Audible trial with two free audiobooks if you want to give it a shot.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. If we view written language as a means to an end (e.g. as a means to transmit or access stories, information, etc.) then audiobooks are just an alternative way to access that written form of communication (accessing the written word via the ear versus the eye). In that regard, the print versus audiobook question comes down to which medium most effectively communicates the message, which in turn depends on the individual reader.

    And for those of us who are not speed readers, being able to crank an audiobook up to 1.75x playback speed can really help with getting through a text when you have a time crunch. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I definitely agree! I read pretty fast, so I usually have audiobooks up to 2x speed. But some genres, especially contemporary, I know I can read it faster in physical form, so I tend to go for that. Interesting to see that you’re the opposite. I love that we all have different reading experiences and preferences!

      Liked by 2 people

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