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Discussion Topic: Audio Books vs. The Printed Word

I’m in the process of reading (actually listening) to Armageddon’s Children (The Genesis of Shannara Book 1) by Terry Brooks. I’ve been listening to it on my commute to work. It’s not a great book by any means. Actually, I plan to return it before finishing, which is not something I usually do. For some reason, I have a difficult time getting into a book where children are the main characters in a post-apocalyptic America brought about by nuclear war, plagues, and environmental degradation. It’s a world where demons and monsters and giant lizards now roam the earth. Just not my thing.

As I was listening to the book — I probably listen to a handful of audio books each year — I was thinking about whether audio books should be counted as actually having read the book. Is listening to an audio book considered reading? Does it count that you’ve read the novel, if in fact you’ve listened to it? What are your thoughts?

6 thoughts on “Discussion Topic: Audio Books vs. The Printed Word”

  1. It reading actually about the book or the story? I listen to novels on my iPod all the time. When they were younger my nephews insisted that I was cheating because they considered reading to be work. So are you ‘reading’ a physical book because you need practice reading or because you want to entertained by the story? (My nephews do know full well that I read more than they can imagine is necessary.)

    Do kids with reading or vision disabilities get literature credit for listening to unabridged books on tape/iPods? Is the study of literature tied to a physical book or is it about the story?

  2. For the sake of simplicity, I would say that if you listened to the book, and paid attention, you can say that you “read it”.

    If you only paid mild attention to it, you can say you “skimmed it”.

    I only say this because the book was originally meant to be just “words on a page”. The author wrote it, therefore you have “read” it.

    Of course, if you have the opportunity to clarify that you listened to an audio version of it, do so, but if you’re making a list of books you’ve read, then of course you can include it.

    My thoughts.

  3. I think it definitely counts if you listen to it rather than read it. For me, the point is the content, not the means by which it is obtained. People who drive a lot, like truckers, could be entertained through audio books.

    Personally, I subscribe to a number of podcasts and listen to them when I run or drive on road trips. Most recently, I’ve been enjoying an excellent podcast series on academic interpretation of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings.

  4. Personally, I do count audio books as having “read” them. I can still learn a lot from listening to the language, the dialogue, the characters, and the organization of the story. From a writer’s perspective, you can learn about these elements of a story whether you listen to the novel or read it. Also from a writer’s perspective, however, I find I can study the author’s style (e.g., sentence structure, balance between dialogue and exposition) much better if I physically read the book. In the end though, I always prefer to read a book rather than listen to it. What about you?

  5. Yes, I definitely agree that reading is preferable. I don’t retain as much when I listen. Also, sometimes the voices are really, really bad..

  6. Agreed on the narration. Sometimes, I can’t listen to a book simply because of the voice of the narrator. Like you, I retain much more when I read.

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