When I really like a book that I started reading but have chores to complete, I occasionally switch to the audiobook. Yet at the back of my mind, I always have this nagging thought if I can truly say that I read that book when I’m done listening to the audiobook.
Of course the first step in deciding that for myself was to refer to Merriam-Webster and look up the definition of read. Definition #1 was the most relevant, so I pulled the sub-definitions:
a (1) : to receive or take in the sense of (as letters or symbols) especially by sight or touch (2) : to study the movements of (as lips) with mental formulation of the communication expressed (3) : to utter aloud the printed or written words of <read them a story>
b : to learn from what one has seen or found in writing or printing
c : to deliver aloud by or as if by reading; specifically : to utter interpretively
d (1) : to become acquainted with or look over the contents of (as a book) (2) : to make a study of <read law> (3) : to read the works of
e : to check (as copy or proof) for errors
f (1) : to receive and understand (a voice message) by radio (2) : understand, comprehend
Looking at a(1) and c, I’d have to say the narrator did the reading which was recorded. Basically one would have to pick up the printed book and look the words themselves, going by b, d and (unrelatedly) e. But wait! We can’t yet dismiss listening as not reading, for there still is f. This last one does give an indication that listening should be counted as reading.
An important aspect of reading is comprehension. One has to make sense of the words and interpret the meaning. When it comes to listening to audiobooks, I find that in fact, greater mental capacity is required to understand what is going on. Perhaps that is because I’m not all that well practiced anymore in listening to audiobooks. I used to listen a lot to stories on cassette tapes when I was still a kid but somehow I didn’t sustain that practice anymore in my teens. It’s only over the past year that I have actively looked to audiobooks again.
The only audiobooks I did listen to when I was in my (very late) teens was the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer because I wanted to know what all the hype was about. During that time I was in the midst of revamping my room, so that gave me something to distract me from the boring task. It’s a good thing too because that way I didn’t need to read the printed books. I definitely would’ve detested them even more because I would’ve felt that I could’ve used my time better. I did not like Twilight much, you see. But I had friends who did, so there.
In any case, back then I didn’t really consider these audiobooks as read per se. I listened to the books because I didn’t want to be seen with the hardcopies in hand. I could listen to the rest while on the bus, plugged in with my iPod. Plus, I got them from the library, so that was a huge plus. I was not about to shell out extra money for books that I didn’t want to read.
Since then my outlook has shifted. I still listen to books I don’t prioritise for reading but I also listen to books I just refuse to put down. When it comes to the latter, I tend to switch between the aural and visual mediums. At the end, I am satisfied that I have read whichever book. I suppose I could extend that to the former but then I’d compare my listening level more to skimming a book, so I’m still uncertain about whether to count that as reading.
Asti (A Bookish Heart) says
Oh yes! I definitely consider audiobooks as reading. I mean, sure, you’re not actually looking at the print. But you’re still getting to know about the story, characters, plot, etc. There are just other factors that affect your satisfaction with a story versus if you were to read it yourself.
I especially agree with your point about audiobooks requiring greater mental capacity. I think one has to be trained to listen to audiobooks, in a way. I tried to listening to one for the first time a month or so ago and eventually had to give up. No matter how hard I tried, I would realize while reading that I wasn’t comprehending or following along. I would have no clue how I got to the point where I was, and how far back I should go. I’d end up listening to the same chapter more than once just because I couldn’t figure it out. My mind isn’t trained to effectively listen like it should. I really feel like it’s a skill!
But I think it’s great that you’re able to do so and have gotten better with it. It gives me hope that maybe someday if I try it again it’ll all work out. But for now… I’ll stick with reading books myself ><
Asti (A Bookish Heart) recently posted Bookish Thoughts: My Bookish Confessions (Part One)
Joséphine @ Dudette Reads says
You’re right. There are so many other factors that contribute to reading but they’re not brought up as much as the expectation that our very own eyes saw every word.
Maybe you could try what I do sometimes with the alternating between the printed book and the audiobook. As long as the audiobooks you acquire are properly split into chapters, finding the places where you left off shouldn’t be too difficult. I think that’s one way of easing into it all, rather than going cold into an audiobook.
Joséphine @ Dudette Reads recently posted Book Beginnings: “The Originals” by Cat Patrick