Audiobooks: Reading or Not?

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This is somewhat controversial – do audiobooks count as ‘reading’ when you’re actually listening to a book rather than reading?

My opinion: yes.

HELL YES.

I’ll shout it from the rooftops if I could do that without getting arrested for disturbing the peace or whatever.

There’s been so much controversy over this on Twitter recently (it’s probably always been there but it became more apparent to me recently), and it’s absolutely absurd just how enraged some people are getting over this. Not only is it elitist to claim audiobooks don’t count, but it’s also ableist, and because of that, I can’t sit around and say nothing about it.

WHY IS IT ABLEIST?

Imagine you’re blind. Imagine you were born blind. Imagine your sight got progressively worse throughout the years…

It’s not a nice thought, is it?

To tell people who are visually impaired that they’re not ‘really reading‘ because they’re unable to is very ableist. If the only way they’re going to be able to enjoy books is through an audiobook, who are you to tell them that it’s not a valid form of reading?

And it’s not only those who are visually impaired either. What about those who have dyslexia? ADHD? Irlen’s Syndrome? The list goes on and on. For some people with those conditions, reading is not always easy – or possible.

Audiobooks are a saving grace. It allows them to access content that some of us may take for granted.

WHY LISTEN TO AUDIOBOOKS

A few weeks ago, I asked on Twitter what everyone’s opinion was on this controversial subject.

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81% of the 398 people who voted in my poll believe that audiobooks count as reading. I had 83 comments in total. The majority of those comments were from people who do listen to audiobooks explaining why they listen to them.

The most common answer I came across was people listening to audiobooks on their daily commutes.

Another common reason for listening to audiobooks was to make doing household chores less of a drag.

You know how I mentioned above that to deny audiobooks as reading was ableist? Here are a few responses from some who benefit firsthand from listening to audiobooks.

And even those who don’t listen to audiobooks still consider it reading.

Of all the comments I received on the poll, there were around five comments from people who didn’t think audiobooks counted as reading. One I found interesting was this:

Do you think that having your own perception of a character makes listening to an audiobook a vastly different experience? It’s certainly another side of the argument to consider. However, could we argue that this only applies to those who do not feel a need to listen to audiobooks i.e. full sighted individuals since our experience is one that can include reading a physical book without any problems? Does the experience of listening to an audiobook for visually impaired individuals, for example, count as reading simply because it is the only format in which they can ‘read’ a book?

The general consensus from the poll I ran, whether someone listens to an audiobook or not, is that audiobooks do count as reading. And that’s what I’m sticking with. So, if you want to listen to an audiobook and are afraid of letting the world know due to the controversy, maybe this post can help you with that. After all, 81% is a high majority that should not be ignored. Listen to your heart’s content. A book is a book regardless of format.

Where do you stand on the subject? Do you agree or disagree with any part of this? I’d love to know in the comments (please be respectful of all opinions when commenting).

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19 Comments

  1. I surely count listening to audio-books as reading. Heck, even there are cynics who sneer when I say that Kindle is my primary medium of reading any book. For puritans, even e-books don’t come off as “real” books. This is such a thoughtful post and I really appreciate the “ableist” part. I was not familiar with the term “ableism” before. I learned something new. Thanks for the post. <3

    1. I remember watching an interview with an author (can’t remember which but I think it might have been J.K. Rowling) about five+ years ago who was asked about whether ebooks counted as reading. They said that it didn’t matter which format people were using – whether that was an ebook, paperback, hardback, or audiobook – as long as people were enjoying the story and absorbing the content, it didn’t matter what format they used. And that’s stuck with me to this day. And I’ll use the same arguments for defending reading on a Kindle or Nook.

      Thank you so much for your comment – I’m glad to have introduced you to the term ❤️

  2. Of course it counts! I’m autistic, and audiobooks actually present problems for me – if I get distracted and forget to press pause, and then can’t remember where I left off, for example – but I wouldn’t ever say audiobooks aren’t “real” reading. For everything from physical issues to processing concerns to simply wanting to make those chores or that commute more fun, audiobooks are a great idea!

    1. I love seeing people who don’t use audiobooks praise them – thank you for your comment!
      They really are a great idea and I hope more people who are able to use them do.

    1. I’m noticing it more and more on Twitter. Some of my favourite bloggers have been posting about it and receiving a lot of hate as a result.

      Thank you – I’m glad you found it interesting!

  3. This is such an interesting post Kelly! I enjoyed reading everyone’s opinions on this subject and agree, audiobooks do count as reading. Whether you use your ears or your eyes, the story is still the same. I’m trying to read more books this year but hadn’t considered audiobooks. This post has inspired me to give them a try, they sound like a really convenient way to read whilst doing other things, like walking, travelling or housework. Fab post, thanks for sharing! <3 xx

    Bexa | http://www.hellobexa.com

    1. ‘Whether you use your ears or your eyes, the story is still the same.’ YES! This is what I hope people take away from this post. Ahh, I’m super happy to know my post has inspired you to give them a try – hope you enjoy! ❤️

  4. Wonderful post as always, Kelly! I think that audiobooks absolutely count as reading! The purpose of reading a novel, is to enjoy the “story”. Stories have historically been passed down by generations through both oral and written means. I don’t think either format is superior to the other, and can see so many wonderful advantages to both! <3

    (Also, I'm LOVING the new logo and layout of your blog! Super cute! 🙂 )

    1. Ahh thank you so much, Kelly! (do you find this as weird as me? feels like I’m talking to myself haha)
      I couldn’t have put it any better – the story is the same and as long as people are getting to experience that, it shouldn’t matter which format they use ❤️

  5. I’m right there on your rooftop, shouting with you. I don’ t understand why this is “controversial” at all – to me, saying audiobooks aren’t “really” reading is like saying ebooks aren’t “really” reading. It’s a different format, and that’s it. My grandmother has macular degeneration, and there are so many books that she’s only been able to access and enjoy because they are available in audio format – I’d dare anyone to tell her that her reading “didn’t count”, she’s a feisty lady and she’d fight them for sure 😉👍🏼

    1. Yes, exactly! Although, there are people who say ebooks shouldn’t count as ‘real’ reading. It’s so elitist. Ah, your grandmother sounds amazing. It’s great that we have a resource like audiobooks for individuals like your grandmother, who may be otherwise denied the opportunity to experience a book.

  6. “Another common reason for listening to audiobooks was to make doing household chores less of a drag.” – THIS IS SO TOTALLY ME. I hate washing dishes with a passion, but once I plug in to an audiobook, the horror that is dirty dishes is lessened and I can make it through without incident. This is really such a great article, Kelly! Thanks for such a lovely read 🙂

    1. That’s a great idea – I HATE the dishes as well so I’ll definitely be trying this out! We might have to do chores but no one ever said they had to be boring, haha! Thank you so much for your comment 😊

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