Do Audio Books Count as Books?

The Untold Story of the Talking Book by Matthew Rubery

I love audio books. I think they are a great way to experience literature during a long drive. This is time that might otherwise be wasted by listening to songs on the radio. Instead, I can immerse myself in a story, learn something new through a work of non-fiction, and help keep my mind active in what otherwise might be boring and tedious trip. So when I saw this book, I knew I had to read it. Truth be told, I listened to it, but I think that was rather fitting for this title.

The author takes us on a bit of a trip from the very first recording technologies to tapes to CDs to digital media. The very first books recorded were solely available to the blind. It was a tricky process to record and release books. The technology meant that several records had to be used to hold one single book. Also, very few books could be released this way.

One of the solutions was to shorten the story. These abridged books did little to help the reputation of the audio book. Many people thought that it was lazy to listen to a book as opposed to reading it. Listening meant that you were somehow cheating or not putting in the work necessary to read a book.

Audio books have come along way since their humble beginnings. There wasn’t even a term for the medium at the start. Audio books in the preferred term now and it covers a wide range of material from books that have been recorded to the new format to full cast narrated works to original audio-born material. Now that recording technology is not limited by its size, an entire book can fit on one MP3 CD and unabridged recordings are pretty much standard.

Even though, this medium is well-established, there isn’t any vocabulary that goes along with it. If you listen to the recording of a book can you say that you have read it. People will often apologize for listening as opposed to reading. But does it make a difference?

Listening to stories is something that has traditionally been done. It was the way stories were transmitted prior to the written word. And who of us did not love story time at the library or the bedtime stories our parents used to read aloud to us?

Audio books should count as books and we should proudly say we have read a book that we have only listened to. We can use our time to take in great literature, have an escape with some pop fiction, or learn something new with a non-fiction title. We can listen while we commute or are otherwise engaged. We can listen in low-light and other environments that would prevent us from reading.

Listening still requires our attention. We need to focus on the story, make predictions, visualize the setting and characters for ourselves, and all of the other things we do when we read.

In fact, seven of the books on my reading log for the year were audio books. The stories and words stuck with me just as much as if I had read them. I could talk to you about minute details. I can make connections between them and any other work.

This was an interesting read. It gets a bit dry and can be repetitive at times. And it never really answers the questions of whether or not this is reading. It doesn’t provide us with new vocabulary to use. Maybe we don’t need any. Reading is reading whether it is done with your eyes or with your ears.

My List of 2017 Reads – a detailed reading log