Audio books are not cheating

Some bibliophiles are purists. They are not fans of all the new-fangled technology like Kindles and Nooks. They wouldn’t be caught dead watching a movie adaptation of a favorite novel. These folks prefer good, old-fashioned, printed books and consider any other method of consumption to be “cheating.”

The trouble is, how many of us have free time that we can spend curled up with a good book? More than her reading chair, I envy Wendy’s reading time. I suppose that if I made reading my absolute top priority, I could make the time to sit down, book in hand, and lose myself in a story. However, it would mean I’d have to give up billable hours, exercise, grocery shopping, or sleeping. I’m not saying it wouldn’t be a worthwhile sacrifice, but I do have my daughter to consider. She likes having a roof over her head, chicken nuggets in the freezer, and a mom who isn’t cranky from sleep deprivation.

I suppose I could opt to give up the few times a week I treat myself to a 42-minute episode of Bones or Castle or Once Upon a Time, but – without trying to sound like I’m making lame excuses – I’ve learned through experience that once I’ve hit nine or ten o’clock, I’m not really much good for anything other than zoning out in front of the TV (or, my iPhone’s Netflix app). I’ve tried reading at night, but I usually wind up reading the same three pages over and over because my over-tired mind just can’t comprehend what I’m reading. What’s a writer to do? As Wendy said, writers read. But what if life doesn’t seem willing to give you time to read?

No worries. Just listen.

Audio books are not cheating. In fact, I think that in some cases hearing a story spoken aloud can bring a new depth to the experience. I no longer stumble over the phrase “I’ve read that book” if, in fact, I have listened to it instead of reading the print version. The end result – hearing the tale – is the same whether you’re reading or, in essence, being read to. There are thousands of audio books available – most of them unabridged, some of them read by their authors. I recently listened to Neil Gaiman read his classic American Gods and was genuinely impressed with his ability and finesse as a narrator and character reader. Since the summer, I have listened to seven novels: the entire Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins, American Gods and Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman, The Magician King by Lev Grossman, and I’m almost done with The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. Over the same time period, I have read (in the traditional sense, though on my new-fangled Kindle) two novels: The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente and I’m almost finished with The Witch of Portobello by Paulo Coelho. If not for the audio book option, I would have missed out on a lot.

I listen to my audio books with the Audible Books app for the iPhone. The convenience of having my audio library with me wherever I am means that I listen to my books all the time – while I’m out for my morning walk, driving, running the vaccum, taking a quick lunch break, or making dinner. Any few spare moments can be magically transformed into a personal storytime just by popping in my headphones and hitting “Play.”

Although I sometimes miss the ability to dog ear pages, underline favorite phrases or make notes in the margin (something a print book or Kindle edition allow me to do), there is something about hearing a story read aloud that brings it to life in a more intense way. Hearing the author’s words spoken out loud gives them a greater weight. The audio experience demands a different kind of focus and attention than the printed page. There is magic in the storyteller’s voice. After all, our oldest story traditions are all oral.

So, if you’re feeling a little short-changed on your reading time these days, consider plugging into an audio book. You may be surprised at just how much “reading” you can fit into your life when you expand your options to include this medium. I know I was!

What do you think? Is listening to a book as good as reading it? What differences have you experienced between the two formats?

Jamie Lee Wallace is a writer who also happens to be a marketer. She helps her Suddenly Marketing clients discover their voice, connect with their audience, and find their marketing groove. She is also a mom, a prolific blogger, and a student of voice and trapeze (not at the same time). Introduce yourself on facebook or twitter. She doesn’t bite … usually.

Image Credit: Michael Casey

333 thoughts on “Audio books are not cheating

  1. I agree – there is nothing like hearing a story read aloud! This is the first way I was turned onto language as a child, before I learned the skill of reading and writing. As writers, we have to give up the control in order to listen. Reading and listening are diverse experiences, both enriching in their own way. I got a Kindle last Christmas, excited I would be able to purchase books more cheaply. I love it but there are times when I don’t like a digital book – for example, when I want to technically study an author’s style, or for instructional books because I find it arduous to make bookmarks and write notes with the Kindle. I prefer jotting down notes in margins.
    But for a good story, there is nothing like a good storyteller. My favorite time to access audio books is during long car trips. When my kids were young, I always had audio books in the car because my daughter with special needs could enjoy them as well.
    We need both. No doubt.

  2. Post Script: By listening carefully, we can learn how to become better writers too. You hear the tension, the suspense, etc. Listening creates a feeling for personality of the characters that you can’t always pull off a page, especially when an author reads her own work. I need to hear the characters speak. Great way to learn about listening for effective dialogue which equals more effective dialogue in your own work.

    • More great points, Laura! 🙂

      I never (NEVER!) publish anything until I’ve read it aloud. There is something about reading your work aloud that exposes all its strengths and flaws. What looked good on the paper is suddenly and obviously not quite right.

  3. I don’t listen to books — I read them: I read when I take the bus. I read on airplanes. I take workshops where we are required to read books (we have to pick out parts to read aloud in class). I don’t watch much T.V. anymore and I get more reading and writing done when I don’t. If I buy an audio book I won’t listen to it. Case in point: I heard part of Keith Richard’s autobiography read by Johnny Depp, liked it, bought the book at an airport, read the book, bought the audio book and have never listened to it.

    • Everyone has his or her own preferences when it comes to consuming content. Some people are flexible – enjoying multiple formats (text, audio, video, experiential, etc) – while others have very definite preferences about how they engage with content. You obviously fall into the second category. 😉 Nothing wrong with either approach – as long as you get your story fix, it’s all good, right?

      For me, audio books are a saving grace because, otherwise, I would miss out on a lot of stories because my current schedule doesn’t leave space that I can dedicate to reading.

    • Are you saying that never having listened to the audio book you are dismissing it? Is that a literal statement or embellishment? Just wondering…

  4. I am in the listen or read camp myself. Somethings listening just won’t work, but others are a real benefit.

    An audiobook read by a good quality reader can pull you in just as well as sitting book in hand.

    One thing I really enjoy is some of the newer independent authors who may do a serialized reading of their books (Scott Sigler, Mur Lafferty, Nathan Lowell) is a good resource for these. There is something about the author doing the reading, it can add nuances that might be missing otherwise since the author has a deeper understanding of what a character sounds like or was feeling at that point in the story. It can really show through.

    • TKS for the tip on podiobooks, Laith. I’ll have to check that out.

      I agree about having the reading done by the author. As I said, I was very impressed by Neil Gaiman’s reading – the accents, voices, and so forth. That’s a real skill unto itself … amazing to me that a writer can also have such great voice talent!

  5. I agree-listening to a story is a different experience entirely that reading one! It’s more of a social gathering, while reading a book boils down to spending quality time with yourself. For the record- I enjoy both.

    I remember back in the days when I was little (and wasn’t able to really write full sentences yet) I used to tell my stories to my mom, little brother, neighbor (anyone who wanted to take the time and listen really) and till this day my brother always says that those were my best stories. Can’t imagine that they were more interesting or a better read/listen but because of the way I told them and I guess just the feeling and the way we bonded through the story.

    nice sharing!

    • Coco,
      I wish I could recapture more of the stories I made up as a child. My daughter is now seven, and is starting to make up her own. I’m collecting them as best I can – such a treasure.

      Thanks for coming by and good luck with your escape into the life of a writer. I’ve come a long way from my corporate days and I highly recommend the journey. You’re making the leap at a much younger age than I did – kudos to you for that! Smart!

    • Happy to create another audio book addict, Deborah! 😉 Hope it’s easy to manage the downloads and you’re listening soon!

    • When I had a 45-60-minute commute several years ago, I need an alternative to talk radio and commercial-infused music stations. For me, that alternative was audio books. I still read books when at home, but I could then be “reading” two books at once without confusing the story lines. While I don’t use audiobooks anymore, I totally endorse then as a supplement to other reading and would pick them up again if my commute time increases again.

  6. “Cheating” in reading? The people of whom you write appear to think this is the I’m-more-intellectual-than-you contest. So much for blind people; I guess they’re stuck with Braille.

    I have a bunch of Audible credits and would buy more audiobooks if I had a decent way to play them. I have a Sony MP3 player and have not been happy with the available technology for listening to it via my car radio. (Must EVERYTHING be designed for the iPhone???!!!)

    But I also often find my mind wandering if I listen to a book rather than focus my eyes on a page.

    As for e-readers, I find it pretentious and hollow to resist them because “I like the feel of a book in my hand.” If you are truly a lover of books and reading, it’s the words that matter, not how you read them.

    • My, we have a lot of judgments about other people’s habits. Books do have feels and smells and typefaces that don’t get reproduced on electronic media. I don’t mind if other people read e-books or listen to books: I like to listen to music and hear humans read aloud. I like stories, told and written. But I prefer to read books.

  7. I find that sometimes, audio books can even enhance the reading experience. Hearing Nora Ephron read her own book gave me insights into the nuances of her writing that I may have missed otherwise!

    So nope: Definitely not cheating. I’m a fan…


  8. What a great post. I was thinking of this last week after I subbed for 3-5 grade children, and how they sat mesmerized during reading time. If being read a book can calm down rambunctious little boys and girls, then what makes us adults above listening to words read to us? 🙂

    PS. Love Once Upon a Time!

  9. I LOVE this. I am presently a student, and I have recently discovered the convenience of audio books, too! Since I’m minoring in creative writing, there are tons of books to be read, and I just don’t have the time to sit down and read them all. So far, I’ve listened to The History of Love by Nicole Krauss, and The End of the Affair by Graham Greene. I listen while I’m cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, etc. It saves me so much time, and I agree with what you said about having a different experience listening to a book vs. reading.

    Awesome post, and it’s so funny, because I was actually thinking just today that I would write a post on this exact subject, but I think you covered everything!!

  10. I love listening to books, but I have a really hard time listening to fiction. I use my Audible account mostly for popular social science books, like works by Malcolm Gladwell, or for biographies and memoirs. I save my fiction reading for my vacation time – I’m an English teacher, and during the term, I can’t bring myself to read much I don’t have to.

    That said, my favourite listening material is podcasts. In fact, a few months ago I wrote a blog post about my favourite podcasts: you’ll find it here.

    Congrats on the FP!

  11. Of course there is a difference between a written book, an audio book, a Kindle version, movie adaptation…. but surely the point is not what format it is in but the fact that a story is being told and received? Whatever the vehicle, a story is a story!!

    I am a big fan of stories and I don’t really mind how they are delivered to me. Sometimes I like reading, sometimes I like listening, or watching. I’m not a purist and I find pleasure in whatever way I choose to receive a story at any particular time. Like precisely this minute…I’m watching the Muppet Christmas Carol (for the first time this year) and my son is learning the story by watching it (as I did by watching Alastair Sim many moons ago) and no doubt he will read the book in his own good time, as I did.

    I can’t be doing with purists – they are missing out on a whole treasure trove by eschewing a particular method of imparting stories!

    Congrats on being freshly pressed. Best wishes, Pam 🙂

  12. I used to listen to audio books during my 1-hour commute to and from work. It’s a great way to use the time that would otherwise be wasted, and it makes the drive seem faster. The one hazard is missing your exit if you get too engrossed in the book (or missing part of the book if you get too engrossed in driving).

    Someone at work inferred that listening to the book was “cheating,” but I know better!

  13. My wife is a big reader, and she was reluctant to get a Kindle. She finally caved last year and got one, and she loves it. However, she has an extensive bookmark collection which is quickly becoming obsolete. It’s the little things that we miss when technology moves us forward.

  14. As a deaf person, this doesn’t fare over too well with me. I prefer to read.
    But a little suggestion, I’m an avid bible reader and find that waking up an hour earlier helps with my reading time.
    It can give some daily inspiration as you toil through your thoughts during the day. If listening help, then by all means, go for it. But use your time wisely when you read. Take your book everywhere and read. It’s bad enough that our education system is failing because no one reads anymore.
    Set a good example for your daughter…

  15. Is it cheating to listen to an audiobook? No way. I say any way you get the story into your brain is legitimate. I listen to at least one audiobook a month as well as read at least two print books a month (mostly on my Kindle). I’ve found non-fiction books that may be dry to read go down more easily with a great narrator reading them. And novels that are read by a good actor who can bring life to the characters make the experience even more enjoyable. Right now I’m listening to the actor Craig Wasson read Stephen King’s new novel 11/22/63 and I believe that his characterizations are making the story much more engaging than I’d experience if I were simply reading it on my own. I listen to my audiobooks when I’m out walking, shopping, cooking, knitting – every opportunity I can.

  16. Books on audio bring me back to childhood, having someone read to you, listening to their expressions etc. If I really like the book, I usually end up reading it because I find myself distracted ( like listening in the car for example) or I find it’s more difficult to “rewind” to repeat just a paragraph.

  17. I agree! I always thought that I’d zone out if I ever tried listening to an audiobook, but I just recently got hooked. In the last month, I’ve listened to 5 books. I would never have been able to read 5 books with my schedule right now. Great post!

  18. Audio books – absolutely! I use them all the time, often in place of music. Years ago I upset the midwife by listening to an audio book instead of calming, relaxing music when in early labour.

    If it’s something I ‘have to’ read to the point of knowing the text, I find it so much easier to listen more than once than to read more than once. It has to be a good alternative way of studying a text.

  19. I’ve run out of spaces for bookshelves and books are spilling out of boxes, so digitizing my new book purchases seems smart but I don’t always feel like I got “something” tangible for my money. I enjoy audio books and often ‘reread’ books this way. It was interesting to hear Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book only days after reading it. The author’s pauses and emphasis was interesting and created different associations for me. I do a lot of ya novels on audio. I can listen to it while I’m falling asleep, working, etc. Tim Curry reading Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events books is an ecstatic pleasure but I own the books and will eye-read them again and again.

  20. I love to listen to audio books, though they have to be the right type in the way that they are not too long – an hour or two. If they are any longer I prefer to read the written word.

  21. I think I needed to read this post – it’s almost like it gave me permission to try out audio books and have them count towards my reading targets. I’ve been struggling to find time to read lately (I moan about it at !), so maybe listening to books is one alternative. I think I’m going to download Audible…

  22. It’s not fair that only kids get storytime. I personally like to be read to especially while I’m commuting. For one, I’ve never gotten motion sickness from an audiobook. You should listen to Tina Fey’s Bossypants on Audible. She reads it herself so it’s extra funny.

    Here’s my shameless plug for my blog post about the audiobook:

    There is a difference with audiobooks – but if you get the right narrator, it can be even better than reading the book.

  23. I used to be a “book purist” and refused to put down my favourites…no matter how heavy and bulky they were. Then, I got my Kobo and life changed. I’m all about taking part in reading, whatever way you can do it…and that even includes audio books now! My, how I’ve changed… 😉

    Great post and congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

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  26. Audio books have saved my life. If it weren’t for my MP3 player and books on CD, i would have fallen asleep and driven off the road long ago. I commute two hours a day. Why waste that time? I LOVE books more than most, but as I’ve gotten older and have more responsibility, those days of hiding away in a book are fewer and further between. Now instead of listening to talk radio hack, or the same twenty songs being played on every station, I am in control of what I feed my brain. Thank you audio books for keeping my brain and attention happy.

  27. Audio books are definitely not cheating. Actually, the thought of “cheating” makes me lol, because reading is not some sort of contest. It’s not “oh lets see who can read more books.” It’s done for your own personal pleasure. So if you don’t have the time but you would like to read…listen to audio books!

    This is not to say that reading a book=listening to an audio book. Imo, there is a difference between reading a book yourself and listening to someone read a book…the interpretation and experience will be different. ^_^

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  29. I recently entered the world of audio books and there is no turning back. It took me a while to accept them, but now that I’ve seen their ease, versitality, and enjoyment factor I can deny them no more. I like to listen to them in the car. I travel for work so I’m constantly driving a few hours at a time. They also saved me this summer on the drive from NC home to PA with my cousin’s 2 year old son in the car. He watched his portable DVD player and I listened to my audio book.

  30. It is definitely a different experience. Sometimes when I’m reading (especially when I’m tired!) I find myself skipping over the descriptions and jumping straight to the dialogue.
    You can’t do that when you’re listening, and I love that, because the descriptive words are usually where the beauty is. I completely agree – they are not cheating! Great post 🙂

  31. I don’t think audiobooks are cheating either. As I get older my eyes start to hurt when I read. I get to the point where I just don’t feel like reading anymore. Audiobooks make it much more enjoyable.

  32. There is no way I would ever have read The Lord Of The Rings books. I tried when I was a teenager (it was practically de riguer – especially as I was in the Dungeons and Dragons crowd) but gave up on it. From what I remember I felt like it just didn’t want to get on with it.

    But a couple of years ago I got the audio book and listened to it to and from work, or when doing some gardening. So, I have finally ‘read’ it. I have completed my duty (even though I finally quit playing D&D about 10 years ago).

    This would never have been possible without audio books. I don’t consider it makes me a “cheat”. Audiobooks are a good thing.

    As for The Lord Of The Rings…I still think it just didn’t want to get on with it. I prefer the movies (apart from Gimli The Clown).

  33. Love your post – and your name! It’s interesting to compare audio and print books. My life has been saved by audio books on long commutes. They’ve kept me from dozing off at the wheel. I also love the various accents on audio books and especially when authors read the books themselves. Hearing their voice while listening to their writing voice is a powerful combination.

  34. I have found that audiobooks are much safer than “regular” books. I tend to not have car accidents nor run my fingers through the sewing machine while I am listening to the books. My “me” time is much more limited now that I have children, and I feel much better about sneaking an hour of time for myself and enjoying two things at once.
    We live out in the sticks, so commute time was pretty much a waste before I started using audiobooks. I managed to get in an hour of “reading” just running the kids to school!
    I use the library as my main source for audiobooks to help stretch the budget. They have a great selection of both audio and paper books to choose from. I still enjoy the paper books and I usually have one in my bag for waiting rooms or other situations where my eyes are not needed for another purpose.
    Read however you want, just do it!

  35. Personally i still prefer the old kind of reading, but i think i enjoy the normal printed version of novels, all other books, i can listen to them, makes everything easier.. :-D.. great post

  36. I’ve considered this too – I’ve in fact downloaded a book on my “free month’s trial” with Audible (which turned out to be a free few days’ trial, grrr) because Janel Moloney, who is my favourite actress narrates it. But I’ve not started it yet – partly because I don’t know if I can be real-reading a novel at the same time as listening-reading to a different novel. Partly because I’d feel like I have to give my novel undivided attention, and when I’m listening, I’m usually doing other stuff – like travelling or cleaning. Partly because I have a rubbish smart phone so I’d have to listen on my iPad, which makes it tricky. Partly, too, because I want to try and read as many books as I can (last year I made 50, this year it’s more likely to be about 30) and yes… I do feel listening is cheating. I don’t know why. I really don’t…

  37. My first audio book was by V.C. Andrews, called Web of Dreams when I was in middle school (or maybe early high school). I loved how the story was read and the voice of the reader. I’ve tried other audio books later but they just didn’t compare for some reason. It’s been a long time but I don’t mind audio books. I think it’s great that we have all these choices.

  38. I have a confession. I once broke up with a guy partly because he preferred listening to audiobooks over reading. A few years later, I interviewed at a startup company called Audible and professed my love for audiobooks. I worked there for five years and became an evangelist for audiobooks. I learned that most people who listen to audiobooks are in fact avid readers. There are many excellent audiobook narrators who truly bring stories to life. Great post! I hope you have convinced a few people to start listening.

  39. This is why I love the “text to speech” feature on my Kindle. If I’m reading on the couch and then have to go wash dishes, clean, or anything, really, I can on keep “reading” and turn what used to be down-time into productivity!

  40. My mom loves to read and almost 15 years ago she lost sight in one eye and is slowly losing sight in the other eye. For her audio books have been such a blessing in her life. I find audio books enjoyable on long road trips. I still have not converted from real books from the library to a handheld device – maybe one of these days. Congrats on being FP & Thanks for sharing!

  41. Congratulations, I loved it. I will change this. Listening is really other good way to “read”, and for me as a brazilian it’s better because I can practise my English listening too.

  42. I am not a native english speaker, and I’ve got an enormous interest on Audio books, I would be endlessly grateful if anybody could suggest me a trustful free audio book website where I could freely use it anytime.

  43. I have nothing against audio books. They can be quite enjoyable actually, bringing a whole new dimension to a story. What gives me pause is the time commitment involved. I read REALLY fast and power through good novel in two or three sit down sessions, so when I see the time commitment of an audio book – 8 hours or more, gulp – I tend to pass them over. I’d definitely go this route if I was traveling and I’d feel no guilt whatsoever!

  44. I can totally identify with this for the very simple reason that I get motion sickness. I simply do not understand how anyone can sit in a car or a bus and read a novel while being driven along without fearing for their lunch – as a result, much of my childhood was spent listening to Stephen Fry read the Harry Potter series over the cassette tape player in my dad’s car. I absolutely loved it and it truly did add a depth to the books which I didn’t get from reading them alone.

    As for the Kindle, I dream of having a big old library (or even bookshelves all over the house like my mum does!) but for now I’ve got two semesters abroad back-to-back and I just can’t afford to carry all the books I need/want: so this Christmas I’ll be Kindling up like so many other people are these days. I don’t think I could ever give up having physical books in the house – I’m the same with my iTunes library, I hate not having physical albums – but I’m not one to turn my nose up at a useful concept when I see one, for the sake of being a ‘purist’. Thanks for an interesting post!

  45. I am new to Kindle and enjoying the experience. My daughter loved audio books rented from the Library. Here in the UK the BBC have a Radio station, BBC 4 Extra, which plays audio stories late at night. I just love some of the fiction that they play, so much so that sometimes I have had to stay up until midnight to make sure that I hear the next installment. When my girls were young, we all use to listen to the afternoon play on the radio. I believe that it is not only just educational but teaches us to listen. Something that we sometimes forget to do.

  46. Never tried listening to an audiobook, but I don’t see anything wrong with it. Like you said, there are plenty of times you can be a captive audience but can’t physically hold a book and read it. Maybe I’ll check one out on a walk sometime!

  47. I have only recently started to try other ways of getting my book reading in. I am an avid reader and I read fairly quickly. I got through all four twilight books in about four days. That being said…I just don’t have the time to sit down and read the way that I would like to. There is always something else that needs to be done. Also, I don’t feel like carrying a big ole book around with me all the time when I have other stuff to carry. The solution to my problem was reading on my phone. I started to just download ebooks for my phone and read them that way. My issue with that was falling asleep while reading, or being too tired to understand what I’m reading, or not having the time to read, or whatever. So I downloaded an audiobook from Audible. The next day I was downloading another book from Audible. Then I found myself downloading more and more books. I think that audio books are wonderful. I can listen to my books in the car, on break at work, while in the bathroom, while taking a walk or a jog, I can listen almost anytime I want to.

    I will say this…there are certain books I would just rather read. If it’s by Stephen King, Harlan Coben, James Patterson or Dean Koontz, for some reason I would just rather read it myself. But everything else is fair game! I have always been able to get lost in the story of the moment and really get into a book, but as we get older our time gets shorter and shorter. Audio books have become a very convenient way for me to do one of my favorite pastimes. I appreciate them very much.

    By the way…Bones and Castle are two of my FAVORITE shows! lol. Just thought I would throw that our there!

  48. i drive about 2 1/2 hours total to work and back. that’s a lot of time lost, but it’s a great time to “read.” i have enjoyed many audio books, especially those “performed” by a notable voice. whether flipping pages or changing CD’s, it’s all about the individual experience. it’s all about the enjoyment. there have been occasions when my eyes were distracted and my mind wandered away, and then i had to track back to where i last remembered i had been listening. regardless, it’s a good thing.

  49. i love reading and prefer printed books over ebooks. but I have nothing against audio books. i’m very auditory and listening for me has the same effect as reading to other people. 🙂

    love your post!

  50. I totally agree! I got into Audiobooks thanks to Leo Laporte and the TWiT podcasts.

    I still love to read text, but thanks to Audiobooks I can read during my daily 2 hours of driving time, at the gym, while doing chores and housework, etc.

  51. Thank you for your post! I just started listening to my first audio book (Anne of Green Gables) a few days ago and I’m loving it! Even though I’m not an auditory learner, I found that listening to it made me understand the book in a much different light than when I read in print a long time ago.

  52. I love books and I love to read, just the feeling of one in my hand relaxes me. Getting the time to read properly (tucked up in a comfy chair, no distractions!) when you have kids is a tricky one. I do a very physical job that I don’t really have to think about and the thing I love about it is that I can listen to podcasts or books all day long. I would rather the story made its way into my brain via my ears than not at all!

    Listening to Bill Brysons ‘A Short History of Nearly Everything’ at the moment. I have a heavily bookmarked and dog-eared copy, but having someone read it to me is nice as well. Sometimes listening to another voice saying the words instead of my ‘reading in my head voice’ makes me see parts of the story or the information in a different light.

    PS: If life was fair Nathan Fillion would be narrating the Nikki Heat audiobooks. Congrats on being Freshly Pressed 🙂

  53. Sorry if I missed this in the comments but I’ve just finished listening to my 100th book on Librivox, and I’d like to recommend it for free, legal audiobooks. They are all classics : I get my modern ones from the library, but, still a fantastic community of volunteers who even take requests.

  54. Those of us who grew up on radio drama (pre-TV times) find audio books very natural. It was the form of story-telling we had before we could read. Audio is great. See if your city has a group that is doing radio readings on stage from old radio show scrips. It’s fine entertainment.

  55. Great point. I recently discovered Audible, and listened to The Color Purple (unabridged), narrated by the author. While some reviewers didn’t like Alice Walker’s reading (they felt that she sounded too educated to narrate convincingly in the voice of an uneducated protagonist, Celie), I really, really loved hearing her voice, and how the characters sounded according to her vision. Another unexpected advantage: I didn’t have to struggle with the phonetical spelling and deliberately bad grammar intended to convey the character’s voice. That always slows me down as a reader. (For this reason, it makes me want to try Faulkner on Audible; might be easier to get through page-long sentences.) My other favorite discovery was listening to Eudory Welty reading her own work, which I downloaded and played in my car while driving to Jackson, Mississippi. What a lovely, inimitable voice! Writing is storytelling. If you’re listening to a story told out loud, how could that be cheating?

  56. I listen to audio books in my car instead of the radio. I read twice as much this way: the printed book at home and the audio in the car. Especially wonderful are the books with accents, such as Vergase’s Cutting for Stone. I was the only member of our book club who could pronounce all the names after hearing the actor read it aloud.

    I love the Alexander McCall Smith’s books, and they’re much better on audio.


  57. Great post. I truly can relate. As a lover of books there is something to be said when trying to analyze a piece of prose. How one learned to absorb material when learning to read makes a difference what medium is needed. However, if one’s sole desire is to get lost in the story, then audio books are just as effective. The only caveat that I would say this opinion could not hold true is if the piece being read deviates from the original text without any notification to the reader. Otherwise, LISTEN ON busy people. Always better than watching TV in my opinion. is one great place for all public domain books.

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  59. My husband has been listening to Audiobooks for years. I though it was cheating and refused to listen to one. I thought there was no way listening to someone else’s voice drone on could be as good as reading the book yourself, going at your own pace and absorbing the words in your own way.
    I do data entry for my day job and am allowed to listen to my Ipod. After several months of listening to music, I needed something else to listen to, so I decided to give Audiobooks a try. I love them. It’s true, you can’t knock something until you try it.
    The characters do come alive in a different way. The tone of the story comes across in a different way. There’s definitely something to get out of each device of reading. I find I can get lost in the story listening to it just as much as reading.
    Thanks for this post. Very interesting.

  60. I totally agree! There are so many good books I want to read but sadly I don’t have that much free time 😦 That’s why I’ve come to love audio books, I can “read” anytime and anywhere I want 🙂 And with audio books, multitasking can be pretty convenient 😀

    Anyway, congrats on being on Freshly Pressed!:)

  61. Hi,I still prefer holding a book or an ereader as compared to listening to a story but the few times I’ve listened to an audiobook were great experiences.A good narrator adds a layer of emotion to the story that triggers my overactive imagination.

  62. I’m between the two forms. I love listening to a solid performance in an audio book, but in spite of my technological tolerance, I’m still just purist enough to be annoyed by eBooks. I still think nothing beats the feeling of actually holding the book and turning the pages.

  63. There is nothing wrong with a book.There is nothing wrong with an audio book either. It is just like having someone read to you. Is it reading? No. Are you still consuming the information? Yes. Reading and listening are similar cognitive processes. Just different ways of obtaining information. So, do audio books work for you? Yes? That’s great.

    I do not dislike audio books. I can take them or leave them. I prefer a book. to read the printed word.

    I prefer a real book to an e book.

    I cannot read on a nook color or an ipad for an extended period of time. I can read on a kindle or a nook, the ones that use the e-ink.

    It’s all about preferences and using what is available to consume information.

    Great post!

  64. I absolutely agree, though my first choice is to hold an actual book and focus on reading, on a long commute or when doing something around the house I enjoy an audio book, I don’t think it’s cheating at all.

  65. I love reading books but with the morning traffic in Los Angeles turning a 20 minute commute into a hour drive, audio books are perfect from all the morning talk radio craziness. Sometimes opinions, club music, and jokes are not what you need to start your day. Or even unwind at the end of the day. Audio books are the best for escaping traffic when you have to do it.

  66. I’ve tried it once but audio books aren’t really for me. I still prefer “reading” books. Oh well, to each his own. But still, I thoroughly enjoyed this post! 🙂

  67. I am totally one of those people who wouldn’t be caught dead with a kindle or any fandangled technology device that’s trying to replace books. But lately, I’ve found myself wondering about audio books. I’ve been reading Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis, but I can’t finish the last 100 pages!! I’ve wondered if I should just go ahead and listen to them instead because it could somehow save me time. Oh dear, what a dilemma, huh? But great post! I really enjoyed reading it. You should have an audio recording of it ;D

  68. It’s really just a preference, I guess. Some people are more auditory than visual. I tried listening to an audio book but it can’t sustain my interest because mind wanders off. I’m not like others who can listen to a story and do something else, even if that something else is jogging (with which you would think listening to audiobooks could work well, but, alas not for me). This is why I prefer reading books. I make sure to spend time on reading because it’s something I love to do. This leaves me hardly any time for watching movies or TV shows, but I’ve never really enjoyed doing that regularly.

  69. Great post! I always loved audio books as a child and have recently found them again through the joys of modern technology. I’m currently travelling and the long bus journeys when I am rattling around and my book is more often on the floor than on my lap really lends itself to listening to audio books! I still prefer a good book as there is something about the feeling of turning the pages but audio books have their place too! Keep reading or listening!! angie

  70. I agree — and for me it’s just about deciding what books I can listen to and which ones I really need to read (namely, the sort of books that are complicated enough that I need to re-read a sentence a couple twenty times).

  71. I don’t prefer kindle-type books.. They are really convenient but I like the touch and smell of actual paper. Audio books are a big “Yes” for me though.. The strange thing about audio books is that by the time I finish listening to the whole book ,I remember most of the lines by heart. Great post ! Congrats on being freshly pressed !

  72. I have that witch of portobello book but have to keep picking it up and putting it back down because reading doesnt always fit into daily life.Listening however you can get it on your ipod and have it on whilst doing activities and you can still get the same effect as if you were reading the text. Sometimes it gives an extra voice to the characters, your mind may have not given you, by listening to the writer you get more chance to imagine what is happening in the book. I also agree that adaptations are a good way of briging to life a book, it can open up other dimensions black and white text does not always give you.

  73. I was just having a conversation with my brother about audio books. I was confused about whether I would be happy being read to, as I have never been read to after I was like 8 – 9 years old. And I do enjoy curling up with a book, but as you say, where is the time! I really do not have any 😦

    All in all, I think I should try the audio books option, might be able to get some books back into my life.

  74. I have the same dilemma, I’d like to read more, but feel that I should be writing rather than reading; and then in my spare time TV usually wins my leisure time because it seems different and easier.

    Nice post and very well written, Marc.

  75. I was also blogging about audiobooks, they are perfect for a multitasking person!!! I also must confess that sometimes I prefer the audio version to the print version. Especially when it comes to the classics or the modernists, The Iliad and The Gilgamesh are so much fun to listen to, and I could have never gotten through Virginia Woolf or James Joyce without a little bit of books-on-tape help. But sometimes I just need to sit down and read, there are some books I’m just too distracted to listen too. I think I just like good narratives, whether it’s a hardcopy, and e-copy, an audiobook, a movie or, a tv series.

  76. Although I would love to make Pure Textuality my day job, I still work full time. That makes reading difficult at times. I have fallen in love with audiobooks and have a HUGE library of them. Not only do they allow me to keep up on my reading, they also make my day fly by!

  77. I will try it first.
    but for auditory person (listening more dominate in daily activities), will says ” it is easy to listen than reading. for Visual person, it is easy reading than listening.

    and I is a Auditory person.

    Great Post and Happy “Freshly Pressed ” Day

  78. i am addicted to reading, i own a kindle and about 500 paper books but audio books have never eally done it for me. i hate listening to a voice other than the one in myhead

  79. I am SO into audio books. I retired to the western province of Chiriqui in Panama near the Costa Rican border. You know how easy it is to find English-language books here? Okay, there is a used book store crammed with them in the small town of Dolega about an hour’s bus ride away but I don’t want to take a two-hour bus ride just to buy a book. I also recently broke down and bought a Kindle which, after my initial aversion to buying one is one of the best things I’ve gotten in recent years.

    I don’t have a television set here…it’s all in Spanish, anyway, and while I’m speaking the language better it’s mostly telenovelas which I’m not interested in. However, I download audio books to my iPod from and in the evenings I plug the thing into my stereo and listen to someone read to me. It takes me back to the years, and I remember them well, before everyone had a t.v. We used to finish dinner and then sit in the living room and listen to Jack Benny, Amos & Andy, The Lone Ranger, Sgt. Preston and all that. I don’t even miss television here.

    I’ve “read” some fabulous books through my iPod. I’ve “read” everything by Bryce Courtenay and the narrator, Humphrey Bower is absolutely the BEST. He has different accents for each of the characters which makes listening an adventure. On the other hand, I’m a HUGE fan of Jame Lee Burke’s Dave Robicheax series but the narrator uses some horrid faux-southern accent that doesn’t even come close to what the Cajuns, where the series plays out, sound like. I KNOW because I worked around that area for five years and while I love the stories I can’t listen to that guy mutilate the language.

    Viva audiobooks!

  80. Where I can, I always read a book in it’s original form – as a book.

    About 2 years ago, I began listening to audiobooks for one very important reason – I went blind and it became impossible to read the written word in any format. My eyesight is now virtually completely restored (hurrah!) but I still listen to audiobooks for another reason – people notice you reading “real” books at work!

    The one downside of audiobooks for me, especially when they are longer, is trying to remember character names and who exactly said what to whom. With a paper copy book it’s really easy to nip back a few chapters to check a point, and then go back to where you were.

    I currently have no interest in ebooks. 1) because I already have loads of real books ta. 2) I’m still undecided about what technology to use. 3) the price of current ebooks are too high – why should I buy a reader, and spend £8 on an ebook, when I can walk into a shop and spend the same amount on a paper-book (w/o buying the reader)? If I knew for certain that the pricing structure of ebooks was different to print books, and that the authors got a better rate out of it, I wouldnt mind, but suspect that most of the money still goes to “distributers”, publishers etc.

  81. I’m not going to lie, I am a big fan of reading actual books and not of e-books. There’s just something about reading a novel, flipping actual pages and, this may sound crazy, but actually holding one. I’ve been conditioned to associate reading with books, not with a Kindle or other such methods. However, I never really thought about using audio books instead.

    I completely agree with you. In today’s world, there is just not enough hours in the day to pack in everything. I know that ever since I graduated, it has been go go go everyday! I’ve managed to squeeze some reading in, but it is a far cry from how many books I used to read. Maybe I shall give it a try!

    Great post!

    PS: I wrote a little blurb about books vs. tablets. Maybe you might be interested in reading it.

  82. Great post, and very thought-provoking. I’ve never listened to audio books, but I’m definitely not against it. My dad has done that during commute hours in the car and found it was a great way to ‘read’ a book when you don’t have a chance to actually sit down with one, and it makes the time fly in a pleasant manner. I’m not a fan of e-books though…that just seems to take away so much from reading, but that’s about the extent of my ‘purist’ attitude 😉 This is really a fantastic post, well-deserving of freshly pressed! 🙂

  83. Personally, i’m a book reader and always will be. (although i REALLY want a kindle but think the books should be cheaper. 😦 )

    That said, i have nothing against audio books and think that it’s a great way to bring the novel to those that aren’t into reading. How can anyone knock that.

    Great post and congratulations on being freshly pressed.

  84. Great post, I totally agree with the reasons why audibooks can be a great option, since I suffer exactly the same lack of time/moment/mental awareness needed to get into a couple of chapters in a row (not to mention that my eyesight is suffering some of those smaller fonts… adding to the tiredness-effect).

    “Treasure Island” is the one book I have “read” on audiobook. I found it to be very enjoyable, great to read while working (yeah, but only when doning mechanicla stuff, of course), great british accent (which I can not replicate so well). I have taken good note of the APP you are talking about… might install it soon.

    Nevertheless I have to say that – nor Kindle, nor iPad, nor Audibooks – can add so much fondness to a day than receiving a package from Amazon with 6 freshly-printed, beautifully binded, perfectly packaged and great smelling new books (my last order). It really made mi day.

    Not to mention the satisfaction I get from putting a recently just-finished book on the shelf of “books I´ve read”. I like that so much that living without it just doesn´t make the reading experience the same. Call me weird.

  85. While I fully support those who listen to audiobooks (they are a blessing to those among the overworked masses who crave cerebral satisfaction), I will argue to my very last breath that by doing so you have not read the book. I’ve read lots of books to toddlers before they could read on their own, and never did I insist that said children were reading. Listening intently and appreciating a tale well told, sure, but not reading. How is that any different for an audiobook listener.

  86. Pro audio book:
    No mispronounced names.
    Better understanding of story arc because you hear the story at a constant pace and you don’t skip ahead.
    Readers voice and accent varies, and a cast of readers can enhance the story.
    Can do other tasks while listening – perfect for when walking the dog.
    Easier to concentrate on a spoken story when you’re tired.

    Con audio book:
    If you read anything else while listening, like a street sign, or instructions how to make the parking meter work… reading trumps listening every time.
    If you’re horizontal – audio books can put you to sleep, or mind can wander into alternate story lines.
    If you lose your place – good luck finding where you left off.
    Licensed for the buyer only.
    You have no idea how proper nouns are spelled.
    No used market.
    You can miss stuff in noisy environments.
    Harder to keep track of secondary characters unless you keep notes!

    Pro paper book:
    You can read a page much faster than an audio book reader reads a page.
    You can mark where you left off.
    Low tech – can leave a book in the bathroom without worrying too much about dropping it in the toilet.
    Can look good on a shelf
    100% transferable to another reader
    Impervious to electro-magnetic pulse (EMP).
    Not likely to be stolen
    Good used market.

    Con paper book:
    Is bulky – transportation and disposal can be a problem.
    Requires 100% attention – can block out dangerous situations around you.
    Susceptible to damage.
    Kills trees.
    Story can be misread and disjointed if only read occasionally.
    What you’re doing is too obvious if you want to read at a ball game, in a concert, at meetings, etc… earphones are more subtle.


    I am so thrilled to have been Freshly Pressed (woo-hoo!) and to share all this great conversation and comments about audio books. I wish I had time to respond to each comment individually, but I’m up against writing deadlines and preparing (shhhhh!!!) for a surprise vacation with my daughter. SO … bit short on time, but have read every, single comment on the post and am filled – appropriately on this Thanksgiving Day – with humble gratitude for so many kind words.

    Thank you, thank you , thank you for taking time out of your day to read this post and share your thoughts. You have made this writer (and reader!) an extra happy girl today.

    Many hugs & happy reading!!!!

  88. It would only be cheating if reading were some sort of competition, which, the last time I checked, it isn’t. Besides, I think the audiobooks can, in some ways, enhance the written word. My teenage son loves to do both, listen to the audiobooks and read the book. For myself, I agree with a number of the commenters–audiobooks make long commutes or trips more palatable, especially for those of us who can’t read in moving vehicles.

  89. I still make time to read a book, even if it’s 15 to 30 minutes a day.

    And I also count everything I read on the net which by itself is a significant chunk, probably anywhere from 5,000 to 10,000 words a day.

    So that comes out to 7,500 on average times 7 days = 52,500 a week, 2,730,000 words a year. And that’s just reading on the net. If you add the books in, I tend to read the heavier texts at 500 pages and to about 10 of those a year. Word count per page is what, 500, so anther 2,500,000 words.

  90. I know of this from experience …… I was in a Personal Development and we were covering the Harvard Referencing System but when we were she hardly mentioned e-books and audio books but stuck to old fashioned text books which I dont have the time amongst having a job and doing university work :L

  91. I just cant relax into a book if its someone else’s voice reading it out loud! I’d rather read less in a sitting, or take longer over a book for sure.

    As for kindles and the like… not cheating, but not quite good enough yet, and definitely not as satisfying as turning real pages!

  92. I agree-listening to a story is a different experience than just reading alone. Reading a book is spending time with yourself. I think reading a book along with the recording would be the best of both worlds. Do you ever do that?I have a reluctant reader at home – school age- Do you think recording books is a bad idea? Will this make the child want to read less? I wonder if you have some insight on that? Thanks for the post and in advance for the reply too.

  93. The Amber Series written and read by Roger Zelazny and The World Peace Diet written and read by Will Tuttle are two of my favorites. I also found Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind to be great to listen to. In some cases the readers aren’t great, but opening up to audio books has been greatly beneficial to me, but I also love my written books and love to go back to pages I’ve read before. Personally, as a writer, I really like the idea of recording myself reading my works and having that available.

  94. I’ve never seriously considered listening to an audio book. I do think they have there place. For example, commuting in heavy traffic. To me, the magic of a book–a really good book–is in the imagery that my mind creates to fill in the spaces which the author left specifically for the reader. For me, that comes with reading a book, not listening to it or watching the adapted screenplay.

  95. I don’t think audio books are cheating, but it is a different type of experience. And in fact, I imagine some books are probably better listened to than read. It’s just another way of attaining information.

  96. This may be a little off the subject but I will nevertheless post this here.:-)
    In the past I have offered my book and writings (see my WP blogs) free of charge to creators of audio books so as to make this material available to more people. I have had no response.
    Perhaps someone reading this may wish to take up the matter.
    With bext wishes to all,

  97. I feel that it depends on the genre and the quality of the reader.sometimes the emotions that they portray with their voices are stronger than what you sometimes tend to do with your imagination.

  98. I’ve got to say that I’ve never thought to purchase an audio book – namely because an hour and a half commuting every day affords me plenty of time for the ‘real thing’. Still, it’s definitely something I’d consider giving a go.
    As far as finding time to read goes, if you don’t have a commute, I really do think you’d be surprised how much time mindless telly takes out of each day. And what are the chances that the amount of time we spend watching it makes it increasingly difficult for us to concentrate on reading when we’re a little tired? Just a thought…
    Thanks for the interesting post 🙂

  99. Hi,

    I am getting just into the whole blog movement. I tried writing a blog and my mind was blank. So I just started typing;

    I don’ t know what to say, I don’ t know what to say, I don’ t know what to say, I don’ t know what to say, I don’ t know what to say, I don’ t know what to say,

    and then I just started typing and words started coming out and I wrote my first blog.

    Has that worked for any one else?


  100. Of course you’re right. Every way of consuming is a right way of consuming. In the end it’s about the emotions you have. On the other side: If you want to read there’s the time for it. I don’t get why people think they don’t have time for anything they seem to want to do. If it’s really that bad there seems to be something wrong, at least from my perspective I think that my personal luxury is finding time for things I love to do: whether it’s reading or sleeping. (btw, sorry for my English, I’m not a native speaker.)

  101. I worked for years at an audio book store. I definitely believe it is not cheating as long as the book is unabridged (word for word from the book), I would listen to specific readers from certain companies (Recorded Books) because I enjoyed their narrations of the books. My all time favorite narrator is Jim Dale. He read the Harry Potter books for Listening Library. He has won numerous awards for his narration!

  102. I discovered audiobooks about 2 years ago and I’m so glad that I have! After having my first son I really felt the loss of being able to curl up with a book. i just didn’t have time. You’ll quite often find me cooking dinner, doing the dishes or folding up my washing with my iPod in my ears listening to an audiobook. I love Stephen Fry’s narration of Harry Potter and discovered things I hadn’t previously noticed when I had ‘read’ them previously, just from his narration. I love Jonathan Davis, who narrated The Earth Abides, and Blindness and just finished Rebecca which was fantastic also. In our time poor society, I don’t think that audiobooks are cheating, just that we are making the most of opportunities where our hands are tied up though our brain might not be 😉

  103. I occasionally listen to audio books, especially in situations where I cannot read a book. However, given the fact that I am a “close-proximity decibel-hater”; I dislike using headphones and therefore like to stay away from audio books.

    I have always enjoyed reading an actual book. I love to smell, feel and treasure it. Nevertheless, I completely agree and understand where you are coming from.

    Great Read!

  104. I’ve listened to one audio book in my lifetime and that was a John Saul book that was broken up into 6 mini novels…I love John Saul but I could not for the life of me find that book or even one part of it anywhere but when I saw it at the library, I couldn’t resist.

    I felt dirty for listening to it. I was cheating myself of the experience of cradling a book in my hands and being curled up on the couch with it, but it freed my hands up to do other things..granted there was a few sound effects added into the story, which helped enhance the experience but I don’t think I can really say I’ve “read” that book because I didn’t physically hold it in my hands. I listened to it.

    I guess I’m a purist in that sense.. I’m still fighting the whole e-reader thing…yes you’re reading it.. but I like to have the book in my grubby little fingers rather than have a cold piece of technology next to me on the couch.. a book is paper and I can flip through pages rather than scroll.. it’s my time to escape from technology.. not sit with it on the couch.

    A book is hard work, something to let someone borrow or read to your kids, a digital download isn’t.

  105. First let me say that I really enjoyed reading this post about audio book vs reading text well done.I also like your blogging structure.I agree with the fact that audio books make it a lot easier to take your book reading on the go as you move through-out your day.Before all I did was read just before bedtime which sometimes has me zone in and out like you stated in your blog,this was making it really hard to store the information that I was reading.Ever since I heard my first audio book I have never looked back,the only time I do read now is when I study for note taking,but I found that hearing the story out-loud helped me to remember more of the plots which was great.Thank you for this well written blog about this subject looking forward to reading more for you site.Take care have a good day.

  106. I listen to audio books on my mp3 player. I love them. I don’t have a kindle and I don’t want to be rushed by getting a book at the library. Plus it is hard to find the time to read a book, but you can listen to it while cooking and cleaning or walking.

  107. Too funny. I completely forgot about the time I listened to an audio book. This was back in the early nineties and a friend pushed her CASETTES on me. The best place was to listen while I would commute between clients. I remember clearly moments at the end of the day, parked to go home – but riveted to my seat not being able to tear myself away from the story. Just parked. Of course, I can’t even remember what the book was now.
    How lovely it is to be read to.

    Great post!

  108. I don’t think listening to audio books means cheating. Just like you, I’m a busy college student with a part-time job, and I don’t even get time for myself most of the days, let alone reading, especially with my term finals coming up. It’s actually kind of insane.
    I love audiobooks. I guess I’m a 50/50 kind of person. I own a Kindle, and I read on that too. And on long drives, audio books are fantastic.

  109. I love audio books but I love real books more 🙂 I have found myself listening to audio when I’m not able to read. My only complaint is that I can’t make notes and study the material as much. At least I am getting to experience the book though. Without the audio book, sometimes it’s just not possible to read. Busy world= new ways of doing things to accommodate the fast pace. Sometimes that means making sacrifices.

  110. I prefer print books and always make time to read my favorite author’s latest book. But I would love to try an audio book. There are times when I’m really busy with other things and it would be nice to hear a book being read while I do those things. Beyond that, audio books are great for the visually impaired as well. Technology can be good because it gives people options and makes sure nobody is left out. I have never experienced an audio book myself, but I would love to do it at least once to see how I like it.

  111. My favorite time to read is at night before going to sleep. I tried an Audio Book -a classic Steven King that I’d long wanted to get to, but I fell asleep and missed half the story then didn’t know where to pick up again! So I decided to go back to paper-back because with page & chapter numbers you can’t go wrong. Otherwise I love listening to AudioBooks while driving, walking/running, or other activities/work that doesn’t require verbal thought.

  112. I’m reading more on real books. I don’t listen much on audio books. If I do then I’m doing some homework. Clean my apartment or something. I prefer pages and not a voice to tell me I fast or slow I read. Good narrators doing it slowly and not too fast.

  113. I often find it much hard to concentrate for the same period of time on an audio book as on a paper one.

    That being said, the idea of underlining phrases in a book made my skin crawl.

  114. I agree with you! Listening to a book gives us more time to do two things at the same time. Read and cook dinner e.g. but it is also important that we take our breakes and do things that make us live in the present time. If stress all time, that can not be good to our health. I absolutley love reading a book, holding it in my hand, smelling the pages and use the oppurtunity to underline sentences I like or that can help me in my writing, but audiobook are good while I am out running, going to work or just passing time on teh buss. So it is not sheating, it is using two good things to make my day better. Beacause reading is food to the soul….at least for me! Thank you for writing something stimulating.

  115. I think listening to an audiobook is more passive than reading a book and therefore it probably doesn’t focus your mind in the same way but I’m definitely not picky about it.

    Reading is wonderful, however you do it. If it’s easier for you to do it on headphones, do it! Plus stories started off in the oral tradition so, if anything, YOU’RE the traditional one! 🙂

  116. I’m so glad you wrote this. I am visually impaired, and most of my reading is done via audiobook. Without audiobooks, I wouldn’t be able to get a PhD in Victorian Literature. One of the things that frustrates me is the attitude, especially in the blind community about this topic. I believe in braille literacy, but for reasons I don’t have space to go into now (mainly fighting with the school board) I didn’t learn how to read braille until I was in my teens, and by then I’d learned how to function without it. I’ve been called illiterate by blind people when I reveal that I read audiobooks or e-books electronically with the screen-reading software on my computer, and I find that so offensive because it fails to acknowledge my ability to process and comprehend, to think critically, and to expand my vocabulary. I’m sharing this post with my friends and acquaintances in the blind community.

  117. I agree, mostly because at work I wouldn’t be able to read a book, but I can listen to one. I have an account at Audible so I can pick two books monthly. Sometimes I will splurge and buy another or browse eBay for some bargains. I have my favorite novels on audio to listen to again and again if I need some inspiration. I still have them in book form, but for busy mom’s with equally busy kids and spouses, audiobooks are a wonderful blessing.

  118. Great blog! I love both. There is nothing like curling up with a good book and on the flip side, it is great to unwind with an audio-book. 🙂 Whatever boils your veges! I must add though that reading the actual words does give your brain some exercise and is important for spelling and broadening your vocabulary.

  119. I personally like to read, the old fashion way. I do think that listening to audio tapes is great for when you are in the car and really interested in a book. The only difference with reading and audio tapes is that when you read you develop better spelling, grammar, and punctuation skills.

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  121. Living alone for the first time, audio books keep me company and allow me the luxury of being read to aloud, as I was as a child. It also leaves me free to cook, clean, knit or doodle as I sit and listen.

  122. Audio books make my mind-numbing, soul-sucking commute bearable. Otherwise, I might be tempted to drive off the bridge!!! I order them on-line from the library, keep a list of what I’ve “read” and what I want to order next, and the library calls when they are ready for pick up. I have usually 4-5 checked out any one time. A bad book, read aloud, is unbearable. Robert Parker’s are great – the dialogue much crisper when spoken and much of his books were dialogue.

    I most recently listened to “The Wife’s Tale” and “The Girls” by Lori Lansens. Both were great.

  123. I love “Once Upon a Time”! Such a surprisingly good find on TV.

    As to audiobooks, yes and yes–I do prefer good old-fasioned print books, but I drive A LOT and sometimes would just love to get lost in a story while I’m wandering through whatever state happens to be on the way at that time. The biggest thing that I have against audiobooks is that sometimes the narrator really messes it up; if I don’t like the timbre of someone’s voice or if I can’t differentiate the characters enough, I end up not liking the book itself, which may or may not be a fair judgment.

    And I freely admit to being unable to get on board with Kindles. I appreciate what they are and how useful they can be, but I have computer screens and technology enough in my life–if I’m going to be able to sit down with a book, I want it to be as uncomplicated as possible.

  124. Great blog – I also think that one day I am going to find the time to sit down read all those books in the rack (or all those piles of magazines). When I first discovered audio books it was so exciting. I just press play and it starts off where I left it. I can stop and start them whenever I want – they are great when I am out walking, on the train, walking up the road at lunchtime and sometimes even when doing housework.

  125. I agree wholeheartedly! When I was younger, my favorite thing to do was get lost in the pages of a good book. As I have gotten older, added more responsibilities, a live-in boyfriend and a career, I have found it very difficult to continue along reading in the same traditional manner. Thankfully my job as a graphic designer affords me plenty of time to plug into a great book. I find myself, once again engrossed in the words of others while I create graphics. I listen in the car to and from work, while I am cleaning my house and walking my dog. My boyfriend and I listen together on road trips, which has opened up completely new conversations which we would have otherwise never had. Reading is an amazing past time, and I am so fortunate to be able to incorporate it into my daily routine! After all, isn’t listening to an audiobook better than not reading at all?

  126. You can’t beat a good audio book. It does annoy me when I buy an abridged version by accident, but I still love them. When I’m feeling a bit glum, I still listen to the fabulous Harry Potter audio books read by Stephen Fry – and I’m 21 now!

  127. I love books. I have thousands of them in my Library. There is always a book within easy reach… and occasionally I pick one up and read a few pages. But by far the most consumed literature for me are audio books while I’m walking the dog. And they’re always long books. I feel cheated if I buy an audiobook and it’s only 5 hours long. I never listen to audio books in the house. There’s too many distractions.

  128. Great post, Laura! I also used to think that audio books were cheating and while I still prefer a book I can hold in my hand, I do read books on my iPod.

    I started using audio books a few months ago and as you said, you can enjoy a book no matter what activity you’re participating in. Also, my son loves to listen to stories in bed, so I’m going to start letting him listen, too.

  129. Great post! I was once a very avid reader, but raising three kids has left book-reading very low on my list of priorities. I just might try the audio approach! 🙂

  130. I still insist that books are meant to be read. However, I do not consider audio-books or kindle versions to be cheating, with one condition: That the book is intact. That is all summaries, short versions and most obviously movie adaptations are cheating. Mostly because they give everything in bite size, easily digested pieces. The point about a book is to let your imagination go wild and enjoy the imagery the author so carefully created. Fortunately for me I get to make 2 half an hour long journey in the city underground train so I have 1 hour guaranteed for reading =), real books.

  131. I thought the same thing for so long. But then I had no more space for the books I read and hoard in my house and bought a Nook. Now I’m reading so much more than I did before. And with audio books, I tend to listen to them on my commute to school. It used to seem like cheating, but I’ve learned to deal. It’s quite relaxing, really. It feels like story time in a classroom. 🙂

  132. There are definitely situations where Audio books would come in handy, but I’ve never been overly attracted to listening to narrators (with the exception of Morgan Freeman, of course). I usually prefer to have that fresh book smell of a real paperback or hardcover edition. If my eyes ever went bad on me, though, I reckon I’d turn to audio books!

  133. I think it’s brilliant to be able to lean back, close your eyes and listen to a voice read a story to you. I love the expressions and tones of the voice, and I love the ease that you can access audio books. They also are eco friendly!

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  135. Excellent!, one of the best post I´ve ever read, I agree with you, too, I consider it a experience similar to watching the original version of a movie, the difference is your mind provides the images and pictures. Technology is amazing and we are fortunate to be able to get the best from both worlds.

    Kind regards!

  136. I listened to “The Hunger Games” and was really impressed by the presentation. My only regret is that I own the books for “Catching Fire” and “Mockingjay”, and my collection seems a little lopsided as a result.

    But I’ve always been a fan of audiobooks. I’m in the car a lot, battling rush hour traffic to and from work, to and from grad school. I’d say on any given weekday, I average 2 – 3 hours in the car. Audiobooks are a saving grace. Even with XM Radio, there’s only so much music you can listen to before you are dying for something else. Sometimes that something else is NPR. Sometimes it’s a comedy station. But more often than not, I have an audiobook going.

    I suggest listening to “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien. The actor has a perfect voice for the story.

  137. I love your concept of being able to listen when waiting, or cleaning, or walking. That might work for me…the ONLY problem that I have with audio books is they put me right to sleep. I don’t care if it is Jules Verne reading 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, it might as well be Alistair Cooke reading “Goldilocks and the Three Bears.” I end up in an audio book coma, unable to move until the batteries die, and the reading stops. I’m pretty sure the same thing used to happen to me when I had the Disney readalong books…you know, the ones with the little bell that would go “ding” or “tinkletinkletinkle” when it was time to turn the page? The record would end, and I would wake up in a puddle of drool, still on the first page.

    Instead, my solution is to always keep a book with me. I never know where I will get five minutes, or if it’s a really good book, even just 60 seconds, to read a page, a paragraph, or just a line. Until today, I meant a real, honest-to-goodness, paperback…something that would fit in my purse. Today, I bought a tablet, so I’ll do all my reading on there…except, i’ll get sucked into a game instead…or a blog post…it may be the end of reading books for me, altogether. I’m really glad I already finished the Twilight series, and Harry Potter, or I’d never know how they end. I’d feel really well rested, though!

  138. I tripped up the escalator and busted my toe open whilst listen to an audio book on my way to work. Fact. Just goes to show we’re using a lot of brain cells when we’re listening to an audio book.

  139. Some people in my family like to listen to books or have the kindle. I can’t stand it. I have to hold the book. But I guess it depends on what you like. I will even read a book while walking down the street.

  140. I hate when you come back the next day and you know you read it three times already while you were falling asleep and you still have to read it a fourth time because you don’t remember it!

  141. Amen! I bought an iPod simply so that I could listen to audio books. I can download them free from the public library & I have a subscription to

    I still make time to read the old fashioned way, but listening as you say allows one to do other things while enjoying the book.

    I just finished “Bird by Bird” & “Knowing Your Value” while doing regular chores. It’s a lot better than watching a movies I’ve seen 50 times before.

    Nice post! ~Paula

  142. I agree with you. There are tons of people out there who are “Auditory Learner” (like me) who benefits a lot on this Audio Books. Auditory learners absorbs and understands more information by listening rather than reading.

  143. I love audio books, especially for travel, commuting, and sometimes for exercise. Interestingly, of your seven titles, I’ve listened to two – “American Gods” way back on cassette, before iPods and Audible, and this year, “The Magician King” with the latest technology. Action-adventure stories lend themselves very well to audio books, but I’ve listened to many genres.

    Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed too!

  144. We here at the twenties project are split down the middle when it comes to reading, some prefer to read the books but others see the draw of audiobooks.

    I think it depends on the situation but I – being S, here – love sitting down to a good book and find it really distracting when someone else is reading it into my ears, I need to hear my own voice.

    Though, I have done some vacuuming while listening to one of the Harry Potter books, I think the third. It wasn’t the same but I appreciated the distraction.

    Love this post.

  145. I am a good listener when it comes to people’s problems, but listening to a book being read? I don’t think so! My attention would lag instantly. ON the other hand, give me a book-any book-and I will not put it down. I admit, I’m in the anti-Kindle/nook camp, but I simply can’t justify looking at a computer screen anymore than I already do!

  146. Hi! I just love your post. Though I’m not yet at this stage that I have to listen to books- by choice, and probably because I still find time to sit down and read books. I would love the opportunity of being able to “read” a book while doing something else.

  147. Once upon a time I was an avid reader and then I grew up and went off to college, got a job, had children, got married (not necessarily in this order, but you get my point), and the list goes on and on. During my college years, the only thing I had time to read was text books, journals, research papers and revised researched papers. It was two years before I realized that I could read for pleasure again. Finding time to really just enjoy and curl up with a good book was….a never ending quest, as you stated I too found myself reading and re-reading the same pages over and over again with little comprehension.

    When I learned about I was instantly hooked. My first audible book was “Things I Want My Daughters to Know” a book that my daughter was reading and suggested I read as well. My three favorite books thus far have been “The Help” The Shack and “The Necklace”.” My least favorite audible purchase has been I so enjoy having someone read to me and when I am truly taken with a book I purchase it for my own library.

    I am a jewerly designer and I have found that I get more accomplished listening to a book, than music sometimes. I listen while I drive (I never listen to my car radio), while I grocery shop, workout and before going to bed (kudo’s to audible for adding the sleep timer).

    I recall having a conversation with my daughter about audible vs.reading she is very much opposed to listening (although she does a daily commute of 100 miles between home and work). Imagine the books that she could devour if she used audible. She is also a knitter another time in which she could listen and craft.

    I guess the end result is this to each his own. I still enjoy holding a book, but I just cannot make the time for it often or regularly, but with I can enjoy a book, creating and or other duties as needed.


  148. Nice ode to audio! Yes, what you describe is familiar to me. In my case it were long trans-siberian trainrides with some public domain lectures. I couldn´t have read through them in the crowded compartment.

    And I, too, fell in love with a kindle. Again, as traveler every form of digitalization makes stories so much more portable. Perhaps you know that kindle has an experimental and controversial function of speech automation?

    It´s terrible because it completely misses the timbre and tone of a narrator, it makes the magical lines in print into dead sounds – where normally we consider the letter to be “dead” and the voice that narrates it over and over again to liven it up.

    This aspect could be interesting to look into: Does a story “come to life” when you read it aloud (or having it read to you) or is it the written down version that is teeming with potential meaning along her lines, patiently waiting to become actual in the mind of the reader.

    At what point is the text most “alive”?

    • A book comes to life for me whether I’m reading it silently in my head, listening to it via audible or having it read to me. Now understand not just any voice will do it has to be the right voice telling the story.

  149. ahhh im glad to see that people agree with me when it comes to audio books… I remember once summer when I stumble upon the audio book section in the library and read “listened” to like like 5 books… more than i could read in a summer.. I told a friend and they said that i was abusing something that was meant for the blind or old people… But i couldn’t believe that… Because to me hearing the author’s voice with their rise in emotions brought the story alive. I just sat there closed my eyes and imagine the story in my head as the author read…. thumbs up on your post!

  150. just like the helpful info you supply in your articles. I will bookmark your blog and test again here regularly. I am relatively certain I will be informed many new stuff right right here! Good luck for the next!

  151. I think hearing the story is much better than reading at times because as you said, you begin to zone out. I’m 14 years old, its true that I have the attention span of a goldfish but that doesn’t mean I’ll miss out on reading. Plus when you read an audio book read by the author, you might get the true meaning of the book better since the author himself is conveying his ideas in the tone he was writing them as…great post!

  152. Librivox FTW (!!! They have an ever-growing catalogue of out-of-copyright books in audio format. And I love falling asleep while being read to. Makes my inner child all snuggly and warm.

  153. I’m not gonna lie…I don’t like the idea of a Kindle or Nook…there’s something special about the pages and font and just reading, you know? Not to say that there’s anything wrong with them, I’ve tried them, just not my thing. And I don’t want to see libraries and books replaced, the former of which is already happening. However, I do like a good audio book for the car or the treadmill, but it has to be pretty light reading or I won’t follow it as I’m not at all an audio learner.

  154. I agree with you about the idea that it is not ‘cheating’ however, if you are ‘reading’ the chances are that it is the only thing you’re doing at that time other maybe sipping a glass of wine or drinking a cup of coffee. BUT if you’re listening whilst doing something else there is a much greater likelihood that you could be distracted and miss the subtleties of the language used whilst still staying with the story line. … a bit like chatting your partner whilst watching a film . . Reading is a different experience.

  155. You must hold the record for the most comments received in response to a post! Well done you. By the time I got to the end I’d forgotten what it was that I was about to comment.
    Seriously, I love posts like this that get people thinking and then you get all these viewpoints that sometimes make you think twice about your own. Often points are raised that you hadn’t even thought of.
    So, I’m keeping an open mind, though I can’t imagine early mornings without a book in my hand and a coffee by my side.

  156. Great post!
    I was an early adopter of the Kindle, but haven’t ever listened to an audio book. With that said I have been considering getting one as I have a 30 minute commute to work!

  157. Thanks for sharing your interesting post. It is a shame to think that technology brings about new questions, like “do audiobooks make spelling more difficult?” I think this is on huge area of concern for people, particularly young people who are growing up with technology!

    There is nothing better than a physical book. You improve your reading skills, you learn how to spell new words, recognise alternatives, and learn grammar. Then again, listening to a word or a few pages (via an audiobook) could allow people to improve their communication skills.


  158. A very good post, I couldn’t agree with you more.
    I have always loved to read, but now that I’ve started High School, I hardly have the time anymore. When I was younger, I didn’t like Audio books, but now they are my only way to keep on ‘reading’. My Swedish teacher hates that fact that reading and writing have gotten onto such a modernized level, and actually threatens us to give us bad grades if we use an audio-book instead of reading it ‘normally’. I simply don’t understand why people are being such control-freaks about it – it is still teh same story and gives almost the same feeling as when you’re curled up in your bed with a cup of tea on a snowy or rainy evening with a book in your hand… Yes, sometimes it’s even more magical to have someone else read the story out loud to you, just like your parents did when you couldn’t read yet. I hope your post will open some people’s minds. 🙂

    Best wishes,

    Ps.: I am sorry about my bad English, I am trying to get better 🙂

    • Oh, and I forgot to add something – Physical books are still the best and will always be the champions of storytelling, but when you don’t have time do read them, we can only thank technology for being there and making it easier to hear stories.

  159. Jamie, I have never personally listened to an audio book. The closest I can come to it is the weekly family reading hour during which my father would have us sitting around him as he read through C.S. Lewis “The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe.” and to be honest, throughout adulthood, I’ve tended to view audiobooks as “cheating.” This post has given me a new perspective. I wonder what I am missing out on – not just in terms of the experience, but also in terms of time- how much MORE could I ‘read’ if I take up audio books? But the point you made that struck me most is that all of our storytelling traditions have their origins in oral form. Thank you for the excellent perspective!

  160. I love hearing a book, though I forget about audio books. I am reminded to find some for my smart phone. I especially love having someone read to me aloud in person. And I love to read to someone. I read the entire Lord of the Rings Harry Potter series aloud. I loved it – though it took a lot longer to get through the books that way.

  161. Long before the written word (or mass printing, or the idea that the “common people” should be literate), stories were told to the next generation. Whether it was sitting down to listen, or through re-enactments and rituals, the fact remains that sharing the story was (and is) the important part… not the method.

  162. The Audio Book verses Page?
    I am fighting the Kindle I’ll admit. There is nothing like turning the page, I love it. On the other hand, for years I have listened to audio books primarily in the car on long trips. In particularly those trips where you just have to get there as opposed to tootling along those back country roads. Long flights trapped in a cabin with not a lot to do an audio book offers the practical side of not a lot of added weight, I always take too much to read with me. There was a time when you could turn on NPR Radio 10pm on Sunday night and listen to a story teller read their tail with great production quality and intensity of presentation. Falling to sleep to the voice brings me back to my child hood when at bedtime Grandma would put my brother and I own her lap and she would lean back in the big leather rocker to tell us a good night story.
    What I find is the big difference between a story being read to me and a story I am reading is how my mind deals with the images. Reading allows me to be part of the process of the authors words. Creating my own images and combining my personality with the authors. My imagination becomes part of the story filing out the characters details and adding color to the surroundings. There is nothing between me and the author. An audio books reader, unless it is the author, is interpreting the words and the story and giving emphasis and inserting their personality. Adding themselves in before me and after the author. Another influence to add to the tail. I’m not saying I don’t enjoy the spoken word, I do, but the best for me is holding the book, turning the page, loosing an afternoon, a morning or a whole lot of sleep. Because I just can’t wait.

  163. I hear enough people talk daily, so the last thing I want is another voice when I want to relax and read. I just purchase a Kindle touch but I won’t be using the text to audio feature. I like my quiet reading time. Great post.

  164. I listen to books when I have a long drive to make. It’s a great way to pass time and I don’t have to worry about searching for radio stations. Plus, I can learn something along the way. I do not think it’s cheating, however, depending upon a person’s learning style, listening may not be affective. I’m a kinesthetic learner and I’m not very good at listening, so for me, I have to physically read/see words to get the most out of a book.

  165. Listening to a story is a pleasurable experience in it self. Takes you back to the good ol’ days when your parents used to read a story out to you and it would be one of the only times you would keep quiet.I read lots of books to my cousins and I just know how much they love it! Fact is, reading is a lot more effort than listening and no one likes effort. At least, I don’t 😛

  166. I agree that listening to words could paint a much different and more dramatic picture of a story, rather than just reading it like normal. Personally, I’m more of a traditional book type of guy. I’m not too savvy with Nooks and Kindles, but I do understand that these inventions have greatly changed the writing/publishing industries. I guess it’s all a sign of the times. With bookstores closing left and right, it may only be a matter of time before all we have are e-books. In that case, I wouldn’t mind listening instead of reading.

  167. Audiobooks can come in handy, especially in car and bicycle commutes! I think as long as people are learning more about the world around them, it doesn’t matter in what way they go about it. Different paths to the same destination!

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  169. I think that it really depends on what kind of listening that you are doing. When you listen to a monotone voice, it may not be very appealing. However, when you have the speaker adding hints of excitement, or sorrow in their voice the audio books are very enjoyable. In my opinion, people enjoy books more when they read the books themselves. There should be no limits to how anyone reads so, both ways are fine to me.

  170. I used to be a book purist, even after I started *writing* books for kindle. And then my roommate and my boyfriend both gifted me a kindle for my birthday, and I was completely blown away.

    If you hate the idea of an e-reader but have never tried one, try one first – then hate it, if you still can. As a book reviewer, it’s absolutely amazing; I email the file to my kindle’s email address, and then bam! There it is! And just like that, I’m taking notes, highlighting passages, making bookmarks to flip back and forth and check plot inconsistencies, even looking words I don’t know up in the dictionary. (Hopefully, there aren’t too many of those.) In this last month alone, I read between 10 and 15 books for review; can you imagine how much space that would take up in a year?

    Anyways, this post isn’t really about e-readers, but I will say this. The audio function on the kindle is a godsend. How many times do you find yourself immersed in an awesome book, and then you have to drive to so and so’s, or fold laundry, or wash the dishes? As a reviewer, once I promise someone a timeline, I feel a real obligation to get it done within that timeline. Whenever I have to “put it down”, I just switch over to audio and get on with cleaning my house or whatever.

    Maria Violante
    Author and Book Reviewer

  171. Just another thought- re audio books- I wonder how much influence the reader’s voice has on the listener. The emphasis, the drama at important parts that ‘wakes’ us from the listening torpor, and the accents they adopt for the dialogue! I live in Italy and the people who dub the big names is usually the same person (for each one that is) and when I heard their ‘version of Woody Allen’s voice’ it meant less than nothing to me- but to the Italians that is the voice of Allen . . . . so if the narrator of an audio book picks a certain voice for a character that may proscribe certain ways in which you might have seen them if you’d read the book . . it limits your imagination in the way that a book doesn’t… Again I’m not saying that audio books are a bad idea- I”m just trying to understand the difference between the two media

  172. I think the important part of stories is the experience of knowing them–of contemplating what the author is saying, rather than whether or not you pick up a stack of papers or a chunk of silicon to do so.

  173. As a high schooler with learning disabilities that often make reading novels assigned in-class prohibitive (I can’t stay focused on print much of the time after a long school day, even if it’s about something I’m passionate about or that I choose to read for pleasure), I completely agree that audiobooks are often a worthy alternative to traditional print books. I don’t say this as a person who isn’t a bibliophile–I am and always have been more or less obsessed with books, stories, and the written word in general. I just feel that, just like with anything else, variety and flexibility in peoples’ approaches to taking in information is something to be encouraged.
    Also, as a small child, we would listen to “grow-up” books like the James Herriot novels on roadtrips, and I hold that hearing the correct pronunciation of advanced vocabulary in context so early on has been nothing but helpful for me since.

  174. I just recently “gave in” to getting audio books. I have a lot of free time (like driving) where I shouldn’t be reading and — through suggestion of my sister — got into audiobooks. And I’ve been thinking about a kindle…. I just have to spend so much time reading for school that reading for pleasure makes me sleepy. Great post!

  175. Thank you for this post. I recently went to see Breaking Dawn with some friends who had already read the entire Twilight series. While I wanted to discuss the details of the movie with them, they were a bit hesitant, because they did not want to reveal details from the last book. With all I have going on, I could not justify or find the energy or remaining time in the day to also read for pleasure. I had remarked to someone about books on tape as a great way to “read” while making the most of drive time. However, I thought I had to go to the store and purchase the pack of 8 disks per book. Thank you for the reminder of Audible. What a great program and app. Also, I recently learned that Cracker Barrel restaurants have an audio book loan program. These restaurants are usually located right off the interstate. So you can get the audio book from one restaurant and drop it off at another restaurant along your route. What a great way to start a story in Georgia and then drop it off in Texas when you’ve finished!

  176. This seems viable but my problem with audio books is that being a visual learner my rain wanders when my eyes aren’t engaged in actually reading along with the story! I could not concentrate upon the storyline. I hope you are safe when listening & driving!

  177. I can’t somehow focus on listening to a book. When I’m on the go around the city with an iPod in my pocket, music is the only thing I can pay attention to. Audio becomes a background to everything going on around me, a known filler from a list of songs I like humming along to. I have tried and failed to get into audio books and often caught myself in wondering how what’s being read right now applies to what I thought I heard a moment ago, or did I already forget it?

    One thing I do wonder about is what do people tell friends after an audio book. Do they still say that they’ve read the book to seem smarter…or do they admit to an audio book? You mention that here, but I’m curious what this looks like between people out there: “Hey, I’ve listened to a great book lately…”

  178. I don’t know. I have been meaning to get into audio books recently as my reading has fallen behind almost offensively. The problem I have when listening to music is I tend to focus on whatever song is playing and often get side tracked (this is why I never listen to music whilst writing – or at least only have it on a very low volume in the background). So I think listening to an audio book would come with similar pitfalls.

    If listening to someone read a book causes me to sit / lie still and ingest every word then part of me thinks that I may as well just read a book instead. And there is something vaguely romantic about holding a piece of literature in your hands…

  179. Just wanted to share one thing on the experience which I had to deal with while listening to an audio book. Personally what i feel is that audio books are difficult to listen to, because unlike a song, it usually drifts you out to sleep. While listening to an audio book, you keep your eyes shut and try to concentrate on the voice, but consider yourself in a classroom, how long can you pay attention to the teacher. At least while you are reading a book, your eyes are constantly moving which makes your body aware that you are doing something. This is what i personally felt on the idea of audio books.

    PS: Audio books are really really helpful for the blind…:)
    Please follow my blog too at

  180. I am no fan of e-books, simply because I find it uncomfortable to read from a screen. I love the weight, feel, smell of a paper book. However, it’s a matter of personal preference. I think the important issue here, is that as long as a device encourages people to read, then it’s got my vote… As long as it does not do so at the detriment of the printed book! I would hate to see technology wipe out the traditional book, but as long as it goes alongside it – personal freedom of choice reigns supreme!

    On the subject of audiobooks, I personally am a very auditory person who finds it easier to remember information by hearing it, than reading it. I love reading books (I always carry a book in my bag and read on the Tube, queuing in a shop – even walking down a quiet street) but I also love the sound of a good human voice – an actor with beautiful diction and tone – reading a text, especially in the evening. For example, the BBC broadcast an abridged version of Annie Proulx’s BIRD CLOUD and, I must admit, I enjoyed listening to it more than reading it.

  181. I think you’re absolutely right about this, especially the idea that listening to a spoken word is so much brighter and fulfilling than acting it out in your head. I just “read” my first audiobook, The Help, and I absolutely adored listening to the readers tell me the story. I plan to listen to more of these now, while running or on my long work commute from Derry, NH to Boston, MA every day. Although I will admit, because I am such a bibliophile, I have trouble telling people I only “listened” to The Help. eBooks, fine. My excuse is that I like to read at night with a backlit iPad, and that I prefer buying my books cheaply and instantly, rather than driving to a store. Congratulations on being freshly pressed, and I love the idea of several New Hampshire writers, such as myself, putting together a blog.

  182. Great post!

    I like reading, but for some reason I don’t do it much. Although sometimes, when I start nobody can stop me for a month, and then I don’t touch a book for another two or three. Sad, I know.

    Having a book in my hands is wonderful, but yeh, sometimes we don’t have time. We have to go to class or work, or we have to clean the house, or go buy groceries, etc. So audio books sound wonderful, however I gotta admit that I haven’t really tried them (I have some in my computer), and I have never read a book in one of those kindle machines.

    Another good thing about audio books (and kindle ones) is the fact that we don’t kill trees to enjoy a story, because after all, that’s what we want them for =)

    I am gonna start listening to books =)

    Again: great post.

    Greetings from Spain.

  183. I personally have experienced both and i agree with you to the in-depth experience audio books could bring … yet i still read books … i guess both are a different experience ….
    reading a book is an experience of silence all in all where nothing happens except in the noise of your own imagination …
    each experience has its own time … try listening to a book at 9 or 10 pm when your energy is over and you also won’t get anything out of what you listened ! ( i guess )

  184. I feel that the word “book” should be reserved for the real physical thing. The audio book doesn’t allow you to digest and enjoy at your own pace, unless you are comfortable with the pause-play buttons.

  185. I’m not the world’s biggest fan of audiobooks, at least right now. I find it much to easy to drift off when listening to an audiobook in a way I usually can’t with a printed book. I can certainly see the attraction though. I imagine that if I was doing something that took little concentration but which kept my hands and/or eyes busy an audiobook would be ideal. The main problem probably is that if my mind did drift then it would be much more difficult to find the place where I got lost than it would be with a book.

    When I was a child though we used to listen to audiobooks while eating dinner, and on long car journeys and I still remember them well. I never could read a Famous Five story without picturing rabbits because the children’s voices sounded so much like how I thought rabbits would talk when I was a child. My younger sister and I even made our own audiobooks from our favourite books a few times.

  186. Jaime, I totally agree with acknowledging our new found technology because it’s not going anywhere. The audio books are great, especially for people that are either blind, hard of seeing or don’t have the time to read a book in its entirety. The nooks and kindles are the wave of the future so I think it’s high time people start accepting the technological advances that are being made. Great Post:))

  187. Different forms of absorbing a book appeal to different senses and processing systems in the brain, so you do get a different experience. But I find that they’re all pretty good; and sometimes the use of a different method helps me “get” new facets of a story or of information. (Or even to get past a wall of frustration.)

    That said, there’s nothing worse than hitting a boring or embarrassing patch in an audiobook. Things you can skim past easily in a paper book loom much larger when you have to keep listening to it for ten minutes, or attempt to skim by fast forwarding. Ebooks are also a lot slower to process, so you end up stuck with the cruddy bits longer.

    Of course, ebooks which are not protected by DRM allow you to edit out the bits you don’t like, which is a beautiful thing. (Don’t tell authors this. It makes them paranoid. But there’s no satisfaction like the satisfaction of changing an a-historical ebook name, in your own copy, to a name that makes sense in period. Heh heh heh.)

  188. I never have any time to read for pleasure anymore! I’m always on the go and taking the time to sit down and curl up with my favorite Sarah Dessen novel just isn’t my number one priority. I have a Kindle and when I can I ALWAYS purchase a book with an audible version, too. Listening instead of reading is NOT cheating in my book! (No pun intended,)

  189. It’s so refreshing to finally hear someone say that technology is not the enemy when it comes to being a bibliophile. I get kind of annoyed when I hear people say over and over that Kindles, IPads, and audio books destroy the experience of reading. It’s fine to prefer to have a book in your hands, but there’s no reason to be biased against technology for purely sentimental reasons.

    • I hadn’t seen it yet – SO much more elegant and eloquent than my post. Thanks for sharing. Wavering opinion, but an enjoyable ready. 🙂

  190. When I pulled up this blog I knew immediately that I wanted to be apart of this group. I did not have to read a thing. I do not live in New Hampshire. I live in Athens, Ga. I am a writer (somewhat a newbie) but the passion for writing all sorts of things is definitely present. I look forward to your emails.

    • Why thank you. Don’t tell anyone, but I don’t live in NH either … I’m in northern MA and am an honorary New Hampshirian. 😉 Thanks for subscribing!

  191. I must say this article made me think of audio books. I also belong to those people who more prefer paper in their hands than “only” audio. My big problem about this art of the book is also – can a reader read that good? I am complicated, I admit.
    Yet I also understand this kind of time-lack we all have and especially this tiredness in the evening. But I gave up the TV (more or less – on stressful days I really need a television) and so I make a tea, relax a moment and go to bed clean, with tea and a good book (and also enough light). Still, reading makes me keep my eyes fit. 😀
    The only texts I listened before were poems, recited by schooled actors and with background music. That really can make miracles.

  192. Laura, Great story. I don’t think there is anything wrong with listening to a book. For some people, it’s the best way to digest the content. I can honestly say that I’ve never listened to a book. I simply enjoy the intrigue of chewing over each word for myself.

    Thank you for the article.

  193. The important thing is getting the information. Whether by audiobook, reading a book. Watching a movie of the book is not quite the same thing, but if it’s the only way you’ll get the information then…it does the job too!

    Thanks for sharing!

  194. Great article! Thanks for posting this! My library has moved from books on cassette tapes to books on cd. They also have a large number of new books that I can download to an mp3 or iPod. Aren’t we so lucky to have so many choices?

  195. Over the last couple of years I have really fallen in love with audiobooks. It’s a great way to multitask. Sitting in front of a computer working and listening to music has been replaced with catching up on my reading. My iphone and audible app are my constant companions while I’m working out, cooking, cleaning, or driving. The only downside is when I’m writing reviews for the books I have no idea how spell any of the odd names and audio version doesn’t always come out at the same time as a hard copy. I have also found that a book I have a hard time getting through or stop reading is usually more enjoyable as an audiobook.

    Sometimes I come across a bad recording, or a horrible narrator (those naughty scenes just don’t work with a lisp), or someone who doesn’t fit the character, but I find most audio versions are well produced and performed. And I think audio sales are on the rise so more publishing companies are making an effort to supply a better product. I find there’s a real magic made with the right narrator is paired with great words. Anyone thinking of trying out an audiobook I recommend The Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne read by Luke Daniels or anything read by Lorelei King it doesn’t get any better than these two really.

    I think my reading and listening habits are about 50/50 by now, so much so that I’m hoping to do some contest and giveaways for audiobooks. I have lots of reviews up on my book blog

  196. I am one of those old-school readers who definitely prefers a physical book to a Kindle. BUT I have truly embraced the audio book. I grew up listening to “Harry Potter” and “The Famous Five” on tape during family car trips and have re-discovered audiobooks in the last year. It’s such a “producive” alternative to listening to music while doing mindless tasks such as cleaning and running. I’ve listened to the Hunger Games triology, Rick Riordan’s young adult novels, a really good new young adult fantasy called “The Emerald Atlas” and just started “The Fellowship of the Ring.” Thanks for writing this post…it really reminded me of why I love listening to audiobooks so much!

  197. I can relate to this blog entry a lot because I have been a fan of ebooks and audio books for as long as I can remember–that means as soon as I have figured out that I don’t have enough space for books at home and carrying them all day is a burden.

    I treasure audiobooks because as you’ve mentioned, the voice of the narrator gives the text a new life. Aside from this, being a non-native speaker (and writer) of English, I have felt that it is somehow my responsibility to listen to these audiobooks and improve my listening and speaking skills through them.

  198. Although I’m fine with technological advancements when it comes to reading texts, I still prefer the traditional book. Simply because I walk around in dingy places. So out of practicality it is best I stick to the usual book rather than let anyone notice I have a gadget somewhere in my bag. 🙂

  199. I completely agree with you here and I was literally just having this debate with myself two days ago. I run a landscaping company, am in school and write as much as I can in my free time. Audio books are essential to me. As long as you are able, in your own way, to grasp whatever you set your mind to there should be no objections to how you acquire that information. 😉 I don’t have children but i’m sure if I spent all of my time cuddled up with my favorite novel or design magazines for hours my dog would speak clearly his dislike of not getting fed.

  200. I totally agree with what you said about your blog. Nowadays there are still purist and narrowed themselves to the old fashioned way. Technology and innovation made this life easier and convenient. Audiobooks are an easy method in multitasking. Personally I used it when I jog, walk or eat. I just stick my headphone to my ear and chada!!! and my whole day turns out right…thanks for sharing

  201. I don’t walk around with a gadget in my bag, but I drive a lot for work and the best way to pass the time and get some extra “reading” in is to listen to an audio book while driving. This has greatly expanded my reading repitoir and now I look forward to driving to work in the morning!

  202. I got on to Audio books when my local library offered MP3 Books for lending through iPhone app. I find they are a fantastic way to keep a mind busy during tedious work (writing testing scripts, hanging out clothes, folding clothes, catching the train, walking etc). This is also how I was introduced to the books of Haruki Murakami…his books are read by Rupert Degas and so engrossing. It really depends on who is reading the book i find, sometimes if the reader isnt that great the book is less enjoyable

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  204. Great post. Nothing compares to an actual book, especially if I’m consuming fiction, but I will use whatever medium the situation calls for. The Kindle app on my phone is fantastic for the random moments of solitude during a given day and I keep several books on CD in my truck. Thanks for the thoughts!

  205. Amen. For years I’ve maintained a book-a-week pace, and I can only do it because I supplement with audiobooks. (I’m a six year member of Audible.) There are so many great books, and so little time – I don’t want to short myself the experience because of a technicality.

    And I agree – there are some books (ie. Water for Elephants, The Book Thief) that (while great on their own merits) are further enhanced by the narrator’s performance.

  206. Very nice post. I agree that audio books are good. But it’s with the narrators execution to make a listener feel like a kid listening to stories from Mom / Grand ma.:)

    Also reading a book word by word gives you a great feel and imagination when you delve in to it.

    Great post !!

  207. any version of a story is great for me. This reminds me of when I was small, listening to Francesca Simon reading the Horrid Henry Series! This is a very interesting post, and hey guess what, I love Neil Gaiman too!

  208. I have been a fanatical reader since about the third grade (thank you Little House on the Prairie). But once I finally finished graduate school,. got a proper job, and then took up running marathons, I found sitting and reading to be no less pleasurable, but nearly impossible to actually do!

    I listen to audiobooks while I run. It has made running even more enjoyable, as well as kept my mind happy!

  209. I came home from work, was too mentally tired to focus on anything so opened up Freshly Pressed, came across blog, put on the headphones, converted the text to speech using the utility on my MacBook and actually ‘heard’ this article. That’s a testament to the notion of listening to stories and books!

    I could relate to this article so well. I’ve always found it easier to listen to books while driving to & from work and while doing daily chores. It helps keeps focus and is slightly energizing too. The fact that you can close your eyes and yet follow the contents of a quality book by listening to it is so enticing when you’ve had a long day and want to lie down on the bed silently. As mentioned in the article, listening to stories seems intuitive and natural, maybe because that’s how we were introduced to information from early childhood. Some people have said that it even improves word pronunciation.

    The mismatch between the number of books I’ve covered in a given time by listening and those by reading is huge, and this statement comes from a voracious reader. Actual physical book reading has its benefits (especially for studying purposes), where you want to make notes or want to re-visit some part at a later date, something that is tough if not impossible through audiobooks. Physical reading aids concentration, plus reading stuff has a captivating feel to it, but I would have missed out on a lot of that stuff if it hadn’t been for audiobooks.

  210. your argument is VERY compelling but i still feel like i’m cheating! 😀 i know its better to “read” by any means necessary but my all-or-nothing neurosis won’t allow me to accept the audio book. i think i’m slightly less hostile toward the nook/kindle because my eyes are involved. its all very dysfunctional. Great post!!

  211. I think that to call listening to an audiobook “cheating” is an attempt to pigeonhole the author and the listener into a place where we shouldn’t. Have we forgotten the purpose of writing in the first place? It is to take the thoughts of the author and share them with an audience so that that the AUDIENCE have become richer for it.

    To change the medium of thought from the written word to spoken word – so long as the main ideas and concepts remain intact, alters nothing from the audience’s take away. If you as a “purist” like the turning of a page, so be it. If you who enjoy a mobile lifestyle want to be fed “on the go”, I see no problem with that either.

    Bottom line is this: If we in the literary community focus on the sharpening of of our craft, rather than the delivery system, the change that we are looking for will occur much sooner than later.

  212. I haven’t listened to any books yet, so I cannot say. I’ll have to listen to one and then I’ll be able to compare the experience. 🙂

  213. Listening and reading aren’t actually the same, but both have their virtues. I love being read to, but it also means I’m accepting someone else’s interpretation. One of the pleasures of reading is having my own imagination of how voices sound, how fast or slowly it goes, etc. But being read to can be so comforting, and of course you’re right that it saves time.

  214. My 40 minute commute is the reason I actually get through as many books as I do. As a full-time working mom, I have way too much to do when I get home and rarely get more than 30 minutes to just sit and read at night. I had to train myself to not “drift away” from the story, but my listening comprehension has definitely gone way up. People sometimes say I am “cheating,” but I remind them that it’s the same as a parent reading to a child. Well, maybe better — because not all parents are good at doing voices, and a full-cast audiobook would be hard to beat in person!

    There’s just one thing you forgot to mention [or didn’t yet know]. You don’t have to buy audiobooks. You can borrow them from your public library! At my library, we offer audiobooks on CD, on Playaway, and for free download at … You should look into those options and save yourself a ton of money!

  215. Well, I think it depends on a book.If you,for example ,listen to foreign language audio book,then it’s better to listen an audio book.But if you want to get to know Jane Austin, then it’s better to read her book.
    Great topic Jamie!

  216. Hi! I just love your post. Though I’m not yet at this stage that I have to listen to books- by choice, and probably because I still find time to sit down and read books. I would love the opportunity of being able to “read” a book while doing something else.

  217. I worked and volunteered in libraries since I was fifteen, and I wholeheartedly agree that audio tapes are not cheating. I worked in YA for over two years, and sometimes audio was the only way to get teens to start reading, and our collection exploded with more and more audio/mp3 than it has ever had before during my time there. I love audio tapes when I’m on the road, and I think they are fabulous, especially when the right person is narrating. Thank you for this great post.

  218. I fail to see the problem–in fact, when I was little my mom would get me the storybook that had the enclosed record (yeah, I’m dating myself) to read along with. I’ve even in my adulthood checked out the print and audio versions of the same book and reverted to those childhood habits (and thus educating myself with the difference between abridged and unabridged editions). Storytelling started as a verbal tradition anyway–I don’t see any of them ragging on book readers….

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  220. I am a lover and advocate for books! There is something about holding a book in your hands and getting lost in the author’s expressions. I enjoy audio books, especially on road trips. However, there is nothing wrong with enjoying the experience of audio books. I do not find it cheating only a time to rest and relaxation. You can get carried away with each word that comes forth and takes you back to the days of my youth when we would have story time. Awesome.

  221. You certainly hit the high A note with this post! Congratulations on FP. Reading is reading, by whatever method. I love audio books and consume them much more quickly than printed. They are also a way to read more difficult literature if the narrator is good. If I’m interested enough, I’ll purchase the printed book to support the audio. Read on!

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  224. I do love the feeling of having a good book in my hands, but since I was introduced to digital e-readers, it is hard to go back. Now for the audio books, they are a great option, however you have to follow at the narrator’s pace. If you missed something you can’t just go right back to it. When you are commuting an hour one way each day, being able to keep your mind occupied instead of just listening to the same songs over and over is very nice.

  225. I love audiobooks, have read and reviewed over 160 this year. I used to be a hardcore reader, but things changed and I took up listening to audiobooks, because they worked better with the changes in my life. Now, I’m obsessed with them.

    One thing I discovered this year is that audiobooks are a great way to reread an old favorite. Audible put out an audio version of Swan Song by Robert McCammon this year, a book I read about 5 times in my late teens and early twenties. Listening to it gave me a whole new perspective on the book. I find, with a good narrator, I can pick up on the rhythms and poetry of prose better than when I read print.

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  228. I have 2 year old triplets and a 16 year old and I make time to read. True it may not be as much time as I would like, and perhaps I don’t get through as many books as I would if I listened to them, but I enjoy reading a book much more than listening to it. If consuming content is your only goal, if plowing through as much content as possible as quickly as possible is your goal, then I agree there is no difference. I read as much for the content as the experience of reading, so audio books simply don’t meet my needs. In no way do I look down upon people who get their content by listening, but I definitely wouldn’t consider the book “read”, anymore than I would say my 2 year old triplets “read” Llama Llama when it was read to them. There is a difference and one way takes more effort than the other. You wouldn’t say that you drove to a destination if you were actually driven, nor should you say that you’ve “read” a book when it was in fact read to you.

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