Do Audio Books count as Reading?

PCGuyIV from Thoughts & Theories poses a weekly word prompt Truthful Tuesdays. This week his question is

Aside from those with physical limitations that would impair their ability to actually read, does listening to audio books count as actually reading in your mind? Why or why not?

I think reading is reading regardless of the form of the book. Appreciation of the written word comes whether it’s a physical book, an e-book or audio book. The range of sensory appreciation differs though.

Some people like the feel and smell of physical books. They like the heft of paper and the texture of the page. They like the subtle interaction between reader and book, as they turn the page and the book gently resists.

By the same token, audio books appeal to a different range of sensory reactions. If you’re like me, I process more visually than aurally. While I can read once and understand, the same words spoken once, often need repetition. In my old job, I used to do a lot of client presentations. Early on, I learned to have visual prompts with minimal words and to always repeat important points. Why? Because the audience always read the text and no one remembered everything I said two screens ago.

By the same token, when I listen to an audio book, my eyes seek out other things to focus on. Other commuters in the train. Birds flying outside the window. Cars driving by. Unless it’s an exceptionally good book and a very good narrator, I inevitably drift off.

The issue is that books are not written to be spoken. There’s a reason why book writing is not screenwriting. That narrative is not dialog. That stand-up comedy is funnier than its transcript. On the rare occasion that I’ll listen to an audio book, it’s because of travel. Like when I’m sitting in economy class and the seats are so narrow that I can barely exhale much less hold a book.

But I do like e-books. They were my salvation when I was living abroad in China and I couldn’t find enough English material to read. While I could have toted books back and forth, the size and weight of them quickly racked-up. Electronic books are more portable and with the integration of e-libraries and purchased books plus auto-synchronization across my e-reader, phone and tablet … I always have my latest book on-hand.

Lately, I’ve been happy for the changeable font sizes and back-lighting. Something to do with age and the limiting conditions that affect my ability to read comfortably. Who knows, maybe that will evolve into me loving audio-books too. Time will tell.


  1. SandyL, you nailed it by stating “Appreciation of the written word comes whether it’s a physical book, an e-book or audio book.” I personally enjoy audio books. – Stacy

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You make an important point, Sandy, one which I can totally relate to as a visual learner. “..why book writing is not screenwriting. That narrative is not dialog. That stand-up comedy is funnier than its transcript.”
    The delivery and receiving of spoken messages is more important for comedy, whereas the processing of the written word which is executed in a completely different part of our brain vital in reading. I don’t think you will change, Sandy. Our pattern of learning and preferences is set very early on in one’s development. With practice, we may be able to influence it somewhat. This also is why my language skills are great when reading written words, but pretty crappy when it comes to spoken languages other than English.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know what you mean. How many times have I thought I understood something , then had to write it down and realise that I didn’t πŸ™‚

      However, I can see myself adapting to audio books eventually. My eyesight is not getting better with age and I hear that those hearing aids are pretty good πŸ˜‰

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I was told that it may take up to twelve months to hear properly and adjust to hearing aids. We have to learn to hear and discriminate sound all over again. Some people can’t tolerate that and give up, keeping the Government supplied hearing aids in the drawer at home.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Oh boy, I didn’t know that. Maybe that’s why my 89 year old Dad always turns off his hearing aid. Let’s hope technology gets better before we reach there.


  3. Hm… To me it’s quite clear. If somebody else is reading a book, then what you are doing is listening, not reading. That said, I’ve only gone through one audio book so far, and it was by a fellow blogger. I liked the deadpan reading (not by the author), it made it even funnier. If I were doing the (silent) reading myself, I’d be doing it completely differently (and certainly not in the same accent).

    I’m not a good person to ask though. Even if I watch a film in English, I like having the subtitles (in English) on as well. Not that my hearing is bad (even though all those metal concerts must have had an effect), I just don’t understand everything that is said unless I have a transcript. I “blame” growing up in Yugoslavia, where we had subtitles for everything. It helped with our reading and language-learning habit, especially compared to Italians who dub everything and do not read as much and learn languages less.

    I agree that e-readers are quite a marvel, even though I like – as you say – holding a book, feeling its weight, “and the book gently resists.” How lovely put is that!


    1. Let me ask you this Manja … would you say the same for poetry? Do you think poetry should be read or heard?

      … and while you’re thinking about that … I watch films in English with subtitles on too. And I don’t even have the excuse of English not being my first language!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well, I’m not saying what should or should not be done, I’m only speaking for myself. Poets reading their own work – that can lift it to a whole new level. I have a married poet couple for friends and when they read… shivers. But generally, a poem is a poem just like a novel is a novel, even if it’s read out loud. Just when you are listening, you are not reading. Different receptors are at work. But you don’t have to read a poem for it to continue being a poem.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I don’t read a lot of poetry but I find that the pieces I like the most, are the ones that are spoken rather than read. Even the ones that I don’t like, I like better after saying them out loud. I’ve seen the phrase ‘spoken word’ used for poetry & I think that’s one way of describing it. Bur again, I’m not a poet and it is not a form that spend a lot of time with.

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