Audiobooks, Schmaudiobooks!

The LIstener

I had originally planned to publish this post in early June, but then I discovered it was Audiobook Week. Yikes! So I decided to wait about a week and a half, but then I learned it was Audiobook Month! Double Yikes. Thus, I graciously waited until now to bash those vile things…

I have a confession. I despise audiobooks. I always have. Well, except for when I was six and I had a vinyl LP I played on my little suitcase record player that read me Cinderella as I read along in the book that was attached to the album cover. I didn’t mind it then. But that was the last time I found enjoyment in such a thing. The thing is, I think audiobooks carry the very real risk of ruining books for the “reader” – excuse me, the listener. Example: I have read a certain series over the last 20 years, that I enjoy immensely. My mother, in recent years, has begun following the series via audiobook. Whenever I am trapped in a speeding death carriage driving in a car with her, she attempts to force me to listen to these audiobooks. Oh. My. God. The narrator’s voice is nothing like I have imagined the lead character’s voice to be! He doesn’t read the book with the same tempo and urgency that it obviously requires, and I have to scream at the top of my lungs ask her kindly to turn it off before my mind’s version of the book’s world is forever ruined. So. Awful.

And here’s where the sore spot lies for me – I’m sorry, I really am, but I truly do question whether or not listening to an audiobook should count as actually reading the book, as so many people tend to believe it does. Maybe I’m naïve – it’s been a good five years or so since I’ve attempted to listen to one, but it just kind of irks me when I see that someone has counted an audiobook on their list of books they have read. Because they didn’t actually READ the book! It is a Totally. Different. Experience. Totally!

Since I was a very young girl, books were magic for me – as I’m sure many fellow readers (and listeners of audiobooks) would agree. But part of that magic was being able to disappear into the world of the book I was reading. Not driving or doing the laundry at the same time. Part of the magic was seeing each character’s face in my mind’s eye and hearing their voices as I created them. Not as one particular narrator created them. The way I read and inflect and pronounce each word and sentence can differ so much from a narrator’s, and that can change the story irrevocably. This is why, when I read a review in which the writer did not like the book they had read – and then I see it was an audiobook – I inwardly groan. Because maybe they would have adored that book if they had given it their full attention by actually reading it and thereby allowed their own creative imagination to create the world in which the story played out. See? Totally different experiences!

I couldn’t find much research on the topic, but the results of a study published in 2004 suggests that in adolescents and adults the difference in comprehension between reading and listening decreases with age. Another somewhat dated study, published in 1990, found there to be no significant differences in comprehension in those who read as opposed to those who listened. Yes. Logically, intellectually, this makes sense to me. I must, however, refer to my comments in the above paragraph. Simple comprehension in no way compares to the magic of bringing a story to life in your mind, such as you do when you read a book.

This is not to say that I intend to stay completely closed-minded on this topic. I am willing to give the experience another chance. I’d like to see if I can gain an understanding of why everybody and their brother’s mother seems to love these things. Perhaps my experiences in the past were due to terrible audiobooks. Perhaps my “ooh, shiny!” mindset made it too difficult for me. I’m not sure if there was a specific issue, or if I really did just hate the experience for the reasons I believe I did.  Hence, I recently purchased two audiobooks to listen to with The Boy {The Hunger Games and Code Name: Verity}. We shall listen. We shall ponder. We shall see what happens… I will keep you updated.

Are you an audiobook fan? Should listening to audiobooks count toward your “Read” books list – yay or nay?

2 thoughts on “Audiobooks, Schmaudiobooks!

  1. Whitney says:

    I agree with you completely. I rarely can process or absorb what people are saying. I am a horrible listener and I have ADD, so audio books are out of the question for me. Note: This does not apply to ‘watching and listening’. But, no visual (written or pictorial) = no comprehension. That’s why I think the President should use a power point when he does the State of the Union Speech.

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