I cannot believe we’re still having this discussion, but here we are. I have seen a ton of comments (not on this blog) that audiobooks don’t count as reading. And, honestly, it makes me pretty damn angry. Usually I’m okay with letting people believe whatever they want unless it’s hurting someone else. Here’s the thing: this is hurting people. Because some people seem to think their opinion about this is important enough to comment on someone’s post about audiobooks. To you, I say: shut the f*ck up.
Now, I realize that 99% of my readers are not in this group. I actually ran a poll on Twitter and those were the results. But, to the single person who voted “no”, here’s why you’re wrong:
Saying Audiobooks Don’t Count is Abelist
When you say audiobooks don’t count as reading, you’re discriminating against disabled people. I am a disabled person and I listen to a ton of audiobooks. Sometimes, I listen to them simply because I enjoy it. But other times, it’s because my eyes are not quite working right and reading makes me dizzy or gives me a killer headache. Or I have a migraine that is making me sensitive to light and it’s nice to listen to a book with my eyes closed. Other times, it’s because my hands hurt so bad I genuinely don’t feel like holding up a book or my iPad or it’s a little harder to turn the pages. (For those who don’t know, I have multiple sclerosis, and it’s a bitch that can affect pretty much any part of my body at any given time. It’s usually not too bad, but it does affect me fairly often.)
There are a lot of people who are blind that I’m sure would love to read a book. Sadly, books in braille can be expensive or hard to come by. And the selection isn’t all that great. I did a quick search on Amazon, and it came up with just fourteen books, almost all of which were for children. And then I went to the website for a braille bookstore, and everything was ridiculously expensive. The braille version of one of my favorites, All the Light We Cannot See, was selling for $120. The paperback is currently $10 on Amazon, and the digital audiobook is about $16.
By saying that audiobooks don’t count, you are completely invalidating the reading experiences of thousands of people. Because they are disabled. I think that means you suck.
You want to tell me that I never read some of my all-time favorite books, just because I listened to the audiobook to distract me from my pain? Go ahead. Just know it’s not going to stop me from enjoying and talking about audiobooks. Oh, and I probably have a bigger platform on the internet than you do. So this will literally affect me… not at all. Except maybe to piss me off a little. Which will only make me write posts like this one talking about how you’re wrong and audiobooks are awesome. Disabled readers: 1, you: 0.
Audiobooks Make Reading More Accessible
So many people nowadays just don’t have the time or energy to sit down and read a book. It’s just the reality of our fast-paced world. I discovered audiobooks when I was working a job that had me sitting in traffic for at least two hours every single day. It gave me really bad anxiety to sit there and not really be doing anything. Audiobooks made me feel like I was being productive while I was sitting in traffic. They prevented a ton of panic attacks, and just made me feel better about what I was doing with me time.
You can listen to audiobooks even when you wouldn’t be able to read. Cleaning your house? Put on an audiobook. Driving to work? Audiobook. Walking your dog? Audiobook. Some people might only have time for working and chores. But audiobooks enable to read while they are doing some of those things. It helped me a lot with my anxiety, and I am so very happy that I discovered audiobooks. And this was even before I became disabled.
Also, one major bonus of audiobooks and ebooks in this age of technology: you can get them literally instantly on multiple devices. Can’t make it to the library? Check out an audiobook. Can’t afford a $30 hardcover? Maybe the ebook is a little cheaper. Or, if you’re like me, at risk of being buried under piles of books in an earthquake zone, safer. We all know books aren’t cheap. And not everyone can go out and buy new books constantly, whether this is for financial or transportation reasons. Audiobooks (and ebooks) are a pretty good solution to those problems.
So, not only do audiobooks (and ebooks) make reading a lot easier and more accessible to people with a various disabilities, they also make reading more accessible for people who really don’t have time to sit down and read a book as much as they’d like. Or people who maybe can’t afford to buy books, or aren’t able to get to the library on a regular basis.
We Need to Stop Policing Books
So, you don’t like audiobooks. Cool. No one is holding a gun to your head and forcing you to listen to audiobooks. Or read a book. Or be a nice person, really. But why does it make you so angry that I count the audiobooks I listen to as reading? I am still experiencing the exact same information. Just in a different form. There is literally no possible scenario in which that affects you. At all.
Unless you’re insecure that I read so many more books than you do, a lot of which are audiobooks. In which case, I say again: why does it matter? I am not sharing my reading habits online to make other people feel bad about theirs. I am absolutely upfront about the fact that I have no life and just read a ton of books instead of having friends. Please explain why that bothers you.
Personally, I feel like people who are so overly concerned about what other people do are just really insecure. And it blows my mind that people can be this way about literal entertainment. It’s not like me listening to audiobooks makes me a better person or richer or more famous or whatever you could possibly not like about it. So why does it matter that it’s something I like? Guess what? We don’t have to like the same things. I like to count audiobooks as reading, you don’t. Can we agree to disagree without spreading nasty comments that are hurtful to disabled people? Cool, thanks.
All Formats of Books Are… Books
I think we can all agree that a book is something you read, right? So why does a prefix negate that? They are called audiobooks, not anti-books. Say it with me: Still. A. Freaking. Book. Books = reading, audiobooks = books, therefore (by the transitive property) audiobooks = reading. Hey, look at that, I am good at math!
Why does it matter if I listen to my book or read it on paper or on my iPad? I’m still imagining the same story. True, sometimes audiobooks can add a little bit more context in the form of an accent or more dramatic reading. But books can do that will illustrations, which audiobooks can’t have. Why is one of those better than the other? Oh yeah, it’s not.
I think some people are so concerned with being right, they don’t stop to think that maybe there is no right. Books are books are books are books. End of story. And if it upsets you so much that someone disagrees with you, maybe it’s time to think about why that is. They’re not hurting you. They’re not shoving their opinion down your throat – okay, maybe I am doing that a little bit here, but you can just stop reading right now and go and do whatever it else it is you do online and it will have zero consequences. Shocking, I know.
Saying audiobooks don’t count as reading is actually hurtful and discriminatory. So keep your opinion to yourself. In the wise words of Thumper, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” It won’t kill you, I promise.
Let’s Make the Book Community More Accepting
If you don’t agree with this post, you can absolutely unfollow me and go read another blog. But I feel like you all know me and my love for audiobooks, which I appreciate. But, it’s hard enough for disabled people not to see representation in books. I think I own a single novel that features a character who has MS (it is mentioned in a few memoirs I have read, but never by the person with MS). So we shouldn’t be making reading in general harder for them or putting down the formats that make reading accessible.
And even when you take disability of the table, audiobooks are freaking awesome! I started listening to them when I had a two-hour daily commute for my job and was struggling with anxiety from sitting in traffic for so long. Audiobooks made me feel like I wasn’t wasting that time. Which cut down on my anxiety a massive amount and improved my mental health a lot. I think that goes to show that audiobooks can work for anyone. Especially people like me who need to be constantly doing something productive to avoid panic attacks.
So, this blogger is saying: it’s time to accept all book formats and all readers. It’s a beautiful thing that we are all so unique. We’re allowed to like different things, and that includes the way we read. If you like reading outside, good for you. I kind of hate it. But that doesn’t mean I think you’re wrong. I think, as a society, we need to get better about realizing that different doesn’t equal wrong.
If you want to try out audiobooks and see how awesome they are, click this link to get two free audiobooks from Audible! (If you use my link I will get a small commission to help me buy more books and publish more bookish rants.)
Also check out: Self-Care You Can Do While Listening to Audiobooks