Tuesday, 8 March 2016

In defence of audiobooks

I have heard some people criticise listening to audiobooks as not really reading. I’ve heard people (myself included) who automatically add disclaimers and defence to the revelation that the book they have just read was actually listened to.

“I know it’s cheating but I actually had the audiobook.”

“I’ve just finished reading this book. Well listened to really. I know it’s not the same.”

“It’s not reading really is it? It’s like listening to the radio. You may as well be watching the telly.”

“That’s not how books are supposed to work.”

Well, to those people who are defensive of their own audiobook habit (this includes me):

Relax! You don’t have to defend yourself. Audiobooks are real books. It’s just as valid to hear them as to read the pages and you can call it reading if you want.

And to those of you who criticise, mock and deride audiobooks and their listeners:

SHUT UP AND STOP IT! it is a perfectly valid way to enjoy a book. It is still the same book, still the same words. The person is still engaging with the story and enjoying it. It is still a book and it is still reading even when it’s listening.


Now, here is a list of reasons that somebody may use audio books rather than printed or ebooks:

They are blind or partially sighted and don’t read Braille or the book they want is not available in Braille.
People with disabilities are still “allowed” to enjoy books. Audiobooks are accessible and valid.

They have dexterity issues, chronic pain, shaking hands, paralysis or other motor issues which prevent them from holding a book and/or turning pages.
People with disabilities are still “allowed” to enjoy books. Audiobooks are accessible and valid.

They have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, sleep disorders, Fibromyalgia, depression, medication side effects, chronic fatigue (the symptom) and similar that makes sustained concentration and/or holding up a book, and/or sitting to read, difficult or impossible.
People with disabilities are still “allowed” to enjoy books. Audiobooks are accessible and valid.

They have dyslexia, ADD/ADHD, ASD, medication side effects, dementia or another specific learning disability, acquired intellectual disability intellectual disability that can impair cognitive processing, comprehension and concentration.
People with disabilities are still “allowed” to enjoy books. Audiobooks are accessible and valid.

They are very short on free time to themselves due to work, family or home commitments and can’t freely sit with a book, where as audiobooks are easier to enjoy “on the go”.
People with little personal time are still “allowed” to enjoy books. Audiobooks are accessible and valid.*

They may be in a situation in which they will experience abuse or bullying for reading or taking time to sit with a book. An audiobook can be more flexible and “private”.
People in difficult situations are still “allowed” to enjoy books. Audiobooks are accessible and valid.*

They may dislike talk or music radio and would prefer to be reading a book than driving. Audiobooks allow them to drive and read simultaneously.
People with different preferences are still “allowed” to enjoy books. Audiobooks are accessible and valid.

They may simply enjoy having a story read to them and enjoy the format as an alternative to traditional books.
People with different preferences are still “allowed” to enjoy books. Audiobooks are accessible and valid.

They may want to read a book that is not in their first language and find the spoken word easier to follow than written word.
People with different preferences are still “allowed” to enjoy books. Audiobooks are accessible and valid.

No matter what the reason, even if the reason is simply “I like audiobooks”, there is no good reason for mocking or dismissing a persons choice too use an audiobook. If you truly like books and truly want people to enjoy reading and literature then you should be celebrating any format that allows people to do just that.

* These reasons disproportionally affect women, minorities and poor people who are often working long hours, expected to do more around the house and who are often negatively judged for enjoying the “luxury” of sitting and reading or who don’t live in a society that encourages reading.
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