Why Audiobooks? – Audiobook Week Discussion

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Okay, so why audiobooks? Why have I been spending so much time since I returned from BEA putting together and promoting this audiobook week?

I love audiobooks primarily because they help maximize my reading time. Before, time spent driving, knitting, washing dishes, folding clothes, straightening my hair, walking places, it was all wasted reading time. Now, though, I just stick my earbuds in my ears, and I can consume more books as I’m doing a whole variety of activities that don’t allow me to hold a book in front of my face. I actually wrote a guest post last week for Recorded Books about how it was exactly that I learned to love audiobooks. It did take some time when I started listening to train my brain to take in books that way, instead of visually.

Now, for the other question: why did I spend so much time putting this together and coaxing people into participation?

Well, sadly, there are still some audiobook haters out there (link goes to a discussion on LibraryThing). Honestly, when I listened to my first audiobook I wasn’t too sure about the whole experience either. I wondered whether it really counted as something I’d read (my husband didn’t think so), but as I’ve spent more time with audiobooks, I know that they count. Are they exactly the same as reading a book? No, but that doesn’t mean they are any more or less. They are an equally valid way of absorbing a story or learning something new. They may not work for everyone, but I think most people who have a hard time with them could probably retrain their brains fairly easily if they so desired.

If you don’t want to try audiobooks, that’s fine, whatever works for you. But I do want readers to know that audiobooks are fabulous, and are totally acceptable forms of reading. Plus, I want to celebrate all the fabulous audiobooks, narrators, publishers, and listener/readers out there who make audiobooks awesome!

51 comments to Why Audiobooks? – Audiobook Week Discussion

  • Audiobooks work for me when I have extended uninterrupted time, but I also love music (which you’ve said you don’t care about) and usually choose to listen to it during the times you describe listening to audiobooks. :)

    • Yes, I totally get that’s hard to balance. Before I listened to audiobooks my car was ALWAYS on NPR, and sometimes I really miss it. My Ipod was filled with Sunday Puzzle, This American Life, and Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, and now I hardly ever listen to any of those things, and I miss them too. I’ve been trying to make a little more time for select podcasts between audiobooks, but I definitely miss a lot of them, and I never actually hear the stuff on the radio anymore. It is just priorities, and one really isn’t any better or worse than the other. My priority was NPR, now it is audiobooks, yours is music, other people’s will be something else, and that’s cool. =)

  • Well put! I’ll never understand the idea that audiobooks don’t count. You’re just using a different pathway to get the words into your brain, but they’re getting there nonetheless. I feel like audiobooks have enriched my reading, and I’m glad you’re celebrating them this week!

  • You put it perfectly. It is bliss to be able to do those boring chores or exercising or communting and engage with a wonderful story at the same time. And yes the enjoyment grows as one becomes more accustomed to the listening format. If anything audiobooks have increased rather than diminished by enthusiasm for “reading” books. Thanks for your post.

  • Interesting discussion. Something I come across a lot are people who DO listen to audiobooks, but they mention that it doesn’t count or they feel embarrassed by listening to the story (rather than reading it). They, too, feel it’s “lesser.” I disagree, and I tell them this: it’s completely legitimate, and in fact, listening to an audiobook works your audio literacy skills, something that as a culture we’re weak on. What used to be tradition — listening to stories — is less practiced now, and our listening skills aren’t always the strongest. Audiobooks, though, help that.

    • That is so interesting that there are people who like audiobooks but feel it is shameful! And by interesting, I mean sad. I’m glad you’re there to set them straight!

  • Agree with everything you said! I absorb audios completely differently than the printed word, and I find that fascinating. I remember them better I think (which is why I can write a review without a single note taken).

  • I’m in awe of those of you who can write an in-depth review of an audiobook – mine usually end up with not much more than “I liked it for these reasons” or “I didn’t like it for these reasons.” There have been a few times I wish I had a print edition to refer back to for a quote (and there have been a few times that I’ve purchased and read the print edition after listening to the audio.)

    Like you, Jen, I listen to audios when my hands are busy but my mind is not (folding laundry, on the treadmill, pushing the non-motarized lawn mower, etc.).

    Audiobooks are the author’s words, just in a non-print format. Would those who say audios “don’t count as reading” feel the same if the person listening was unable to read print, and not choosing audio only for the convenience?

    • I’ve traditionally had a hard time writing my audio reviews too, Dawn. I’m trying out a new format which, so far, seems to be helping, but mostly I’m hoping that lots of people will answer the prompt tomorrow about that very subject and I can get some hints!

  • Audiobooks absolutely count! I don’t get much time these days to do much hard copy book reading with a little one underfoot, audiobooks have been awesome!

  • I definitely used to be a non-audiobook person, though not necessarily because I felt they were “lesser” – I just didn’t think that they would work for me! Then I started listening to them in podcast form, and it turned out that they really did. Now I have so much less “wasted” time! I’m about to head out for work right now, and I’ll get some more reading in while I bike over.

  • I think having audiobook week is fantastic. Everyone should give audiobooks a chance. Unfortunately, audiobooks just didn’t jive with me. I can’t really say why, although I guess I prefer to listen to music. I am actually kind of jealous of those who do listen to audiobooks though because, like you said, there is a lot of stuff that takes up precious reading time, so it would be nice to incorporate reading into it.

    • I totally understand if, in your limited listening time, you’d like to change things up and listen to music instead of getting to more books, I know that Amy feels the same way. If it is just that you’ve had trouble with audios in the past, though, I’d recommend continuing to try them every so often – perhaps particularly with rereads of favorite books – because for many people it takes several tries before their brain realizes that it is supposed to be processing the information into a similar format as when you read. I used to almost totally miss about the first hour of every audio I listened to, because it would take me that long to get into the story, but my brain has figured out how to stop doing that.

  • I want to reiterate what Dawn mentioned. Are people who have vision problems any less readers because they read in braille or listen to audios? It’s simply experiencing the story with a different sense: sight, touch, sound.

    I started listening to audios a little when I used them as a teaching tool in my high school English class. They helped enhance the reading experience for many of my students who struggled with reading the printed word. They inproved their “reading” skills and absorbed the story, the symbols, the themes. That’s really what it all comes down to.

    Then when I had a job that involved almost an hour of driving each way, I started listening to audiobooks for pleasure. And they have never ceased being a pleasure. Now I listen when I’m mowing the lawn – even with my power mower, crafting, gardening, exercising, etc. I’ve found narrators who make the stories come alive…much like actors on a stage do. Again, another form of experiencing the story.

    Audiobooks will continue to be an important part of my reading experience. I feel richer for the experience and don’t believe in any way that it “doesn’t count”!

    • That person on LibraryThing said that audiobooks were ok for people with vision issues, but not for people without them. People on that thread rightly told him that was stupid – it is either valid or it isn’t.

  • That is quite the conversation over on LT.I don’t understand how people can say audiobooks don’t count as reading, it is the exact same words just a diffeent delivery method.I listen to audiobooks when I am driving, cleaning house, in the shower and I am lucky eough to be able to listen to them at work.I definatly count my audiobooks as books read.

  • If anyone doesn’t think audiobooks don’t “count” they should ask the authors of said audiobooks! I’m sure THEY would agree that their words being read aloud counts!

    I am documenting my audiobook experience – and look forward to sharing it with you. (You’ve already heard about my first mistake!)

    Have a great week, I’ll be in touch!

  • I recently began my first audiobook. I was never really opposed to them; rather I was afraid how successful I would be at listening and absorbing the details of the book. Coincidentally, my first selection includes some tricky French names as well as some accents that occasionally throw me off. I am definitely going to finish and keep trying, though, because it has made me aware of how easily distracted I am. It’s something I need to improve!

    • Those names and accents are a mixed blessing, I think. They can be tough, especially when you’re jsut starting out with audiobooks, but they can also really enhance the experience because you think, “so THAT is what this is supposed to sound like!”

  • Zee

    I agree with Kelly… stories were initially ‘told’ not written down. If anything, ‘listening’ to a story should actually make it more valid than reading.

    It might jolt you out of your accustomed comfort zone of listening to your own brain, but you must keep at it. I for one am going to give it a go till the end of this month.

  • How did you train yourself to take an audiobook in? I have noticed that certain genres I cannot listen to-complex thillers, chicklit, and history books work the best for me. Do you have certain genres you focus on?

    • Hmm, that’s a good question. I think I just trained myself with blunt force, I just kept listening and listening. I can listen in almost any genre (I think), but I DO know that I am completely incapable of following and enjoying audiobooks in which the plot jumps around in time a lot. If there is a main time period and some instances of a character remembering and telling a story, that’s fine (The 13th Tale), but if the book just jumps around a lot and I don’t feel like there’s one main time period (Cutting for Stone) it just frustrates me. I think the key is figuring out what works for you and starting there. In some cases you can slowly push outside your comfort zone a little at a time. If not, though, if you have even just one or two genres you like to listen to, think how many thousands of great books that encompasses!

  • Shaeyd

    People have scoffed at me when I’ve said I’m reading an audiobook. It used to really tick me off but then I realized it was their loss. While they are fighting to keep their eyes opened while holding a book or even one of the newfangled reading gadgets, I am getting a steady stream of information. My imagination is allowed to run free. I can delight in the dialects that many of the authors employ in their reading and I can feel the joy of completing an unabridged novel that I would otherwise not even start if it were not for it being in audible form. People listen to music and enjoy the lyrics — why can’t people listen to words and enjoy the story? I love this sharing — thank you all.

  • Ugh – the whole “audiobooks don’t count as reading” thing drives me cra-a-a-a-zy! Like others have said – do we say blind people can’t read? Of course they count – and like you said, they maximize our time. The more reading time – both print and audio- the better, right?

  • Jen

    I love audiobooks! I agree that it is so much easier to get reading done because you can listen and get other things done at the same time! It’s brilliant. It completely counts as reading to me. As a teacher, I use audiobooks with books for kids who are learning English as a second language or who are really struggling at decoding the information. It helps them to see the words and hear them at the same time. I’ve seen research that says that kids are able to listen at a higher level than they can read at so it gives kids access to books they might not be able to read independently. It’s perfect for older readers who are struggling and who don’t want to read a book that is too babyish. Great post!!!!

    • Exactly! And if we can’t keep kids loving reading while they figure out their decoding, then we’ve still lost them long-term when they get the mechanics of reading down.

  • Amy

    Great post! I, too, think that audiobooks are important. I just posted my thoughts on my experiences with them and on how I count them. I count them, but I do count them separately. I’m weird like that 😉

  • It is a great post! Thank you so much for hosting an AudioBook week since I wish more readers would fall in love with them.

    AudioBooks totally count for reading – it’s all about the story.

  • I just posted my own Why Audio Books Post and linked it back to you.

    Thanks for hosting this it’s nice to know there are other audiobook fans out there!

  • I like to listen to audiobooks while I’m cleaning the house. I like music too, but a book is fun once in awhile.

  • I love audiobooks as long as they are read well. I recently got my husband hooked on them too – he commutes by car where as I take public trans, so this way he can at least try to keep up with all the books I recommend to him!

    (BTW, love the site you have here! I think I’ve run into you over on LibraryThing – I’m elbakerone over there – but I was at the Glen Ellyn Bookfest this weekend and author Mike Clifford pointed me in your direction as a fellow book blogger to connect with, but I missed you as my party overruled my shopping inclinations in favor of lunch. So, yeah, not stalking you, but did want to say hello!)

  • Oops I put my link on the wrong post. Please delete it from this Mr Linky.

  • I love my audiobooks and it really upsets me when someone says that isn’t reading. I recommend them to teens who are reluctant readers, and adults who are visually impaired all the time. To them, audiobooks are a blessing because it helps them read and they are most certainly reading. If you were to give me a test on the book I would do as well as someone who “read” the book. I love audio because it helps me make the most of my time, so what if it isn’t with a physical book! Thank you for hosting this! It is a great way to celebrate audiobooks!

  • dogearedcopy

    I’m cross-posting my comment from LT onto this thread because I think it may be relevant:

    I’ve come in late to this conversation as I’ve been in the studio all day (Disclosure: I work in the audiobook industry) and I’ve found this thread very interesting. My favorite comment so far has come from NarratorLady who said “the book’s the thing.” And really, that’s what it comes down to. Some people will insist on a physical relationship with the hard copy print; others also happen to be able to process text without.

    So far there hasn’t been a term coined that encompasses the aural and/or visual consumption of a text and “reading” has been used as a semantic default. If we’re arguing over semantics, than print readers “win;” but in the absence of a better term, “reading” will suffice.

    Audiobooks aren’t for the lazy, stupid or illiterate. Most audiobook listeners also happen to be avid print readers and have found a way to process information and decode abstractions *in an additional way.* But there are people who cannot process the information aurally. They just aren’t formatted that way. That’s okay too. If in fact, a print reader and an audiobook listener can get together and discuss the same work without knowing how the other consumed the text, it only proves that it’s not in the method but in the comprehension that the importance lies. After all, “the book’s the thing!”

  • Mitzi H.

    I think audio books are the greatest gift I’ve received in years!!! I’m listening to Outlander narrated by Davina Porter today and it’s incredible. There is so much of the story I didn’t see when I originally read the book….and the voices and accents are wonderful!!! Audio books rock and they are so much fun to listen to when driving, cleaning house or just laying in bed…..They definitely count!!!!

  • This is a great week of events. I love listening to audiobooks!

  • Jen, I am late in signing up, but think this is a wonderful idea. Thank you

    I love audio books as well and have been listening to them for about (10) years. I think my first audio books were ones by Anne Tyler or Barbara Kingsolver, and James Patterson. It’s easy to multi-task and enjoy a book, so what a reader’s dream :)

  • I know that there are audiobook haters out there, but I don’t understand the hate. It’s perfectly okay to not like, get, understand the appeal, etc… but why hate them? I say to each his/her own when it comes to reading. My opinion about audiobooks has changed over time. Anyone’s can.

    Thanks again for hosting this event. It’s going to be wonderful!!!

  • I’m late to today’s discussion, I’m not sure I will post tomorrow since I don’t review like most book bloggers. I might post Tues/Weds topics on Weds (tomorrow’s post would be too short).

    Thanks for hosting this – I have a few good recommendations already and can’t wait to get a few more.

  • so glad you are celebrating audiobooks this week! I am looking forward to getting some audiobook and/or narrator recommendations this week!

  • I got so caught in Mr. Linky yesterday, I forgot to read *your* post! LOL. I don’t have anything to add, but audios are not lesser, just different. Blind people are reading the book if they are use braille or audios.

  • Emma

    I’ve only be reading audiobooks for the past year or so and have found I enjoy them quite nicely. I use public transportation and couldn’t seem to tune out the sounds around me to concentrate on reading a print book and audio has worked wonders. And sometimes an audio verison works much better when you hear characterizations. If I had read the print version of The Help instead of listening to the audio version, I don’t know if my experience would have been the same.

  • I’m still pretty picky about the audio books I read. I tried listening to a romance but the sexy bits were weird to listen to. Felt all pervy.

    Gave them another go with the Harry Potter books which were AMAZING.

    Recently listened to (and posted my review on my blog) of Kristen Cashore’s Graceling. It was a full-cast production which was really cool.

    Currently listening to Focus on the Family dramatization of C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters. The one narrator was the voice for Gollum in the Lord of the Rings movies and can do some really creepy stuff with his voice!

    This site is offering free downloads all summer of YA and classic titles:


    This is a really great idea. Hopefully I can get the Screwtape letters finished and reviewed so I can participate!

  • ds

    I am a recent convert to the appreciation of audiobooks. No doubt because over the past couple of years I’ve spent a lot of time doing long-distance travel in my car, and radio stations static-out after a time. Captive audience, you might say. The quality of the narration is crucial & I’ve been lucky to have had some excellent company in Sarah Vowell and Simon Vance. So I’ll never be a “print snob” again.

    Reviewing, however, is harder for me. I don’t have the characters’ names in front of me to keep track & I can’t take notes so can’t quote. Still, audio is great when physical reading is impossible (e.g., Books for the Blind, which is a marvelous institution). So. Thanks for focusing more attention on an increasingly important reading method.

  • I got into audiobooks about a year ago and have not listened to radio or CDs in my car since then! It gets my brain churning on the way to work in the morning and definitely makes long drives more enjoyable. I’ve actually found that I like certain books a lot more on audio than I did in print.

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