The Rock & Roll Librarian

May 23, 2006

Is listening to an audiobook the same as reading?

Filed under: audiobook,Technology,Uncategorized — Tyler Rousseau @ 11:28 am

My friends and I have a continuing argument about this.  We are all audiobook junkies but my friends claim that listening to an audiobook is the same as reading.  I completely disagree.

As much as I love this media, there are differences between reading and listening.  Key elements are altered for you when listening to books.  The three main ones are:

 1.  Interpretation- How a narrator chooses to read a passage might be greatly different than how the reader would.  For example, the two sentences below are the same, wordwise.  The italics are used to show where a narrator might choose to emphasize a specific word.

       We already have a problem

       We already have a problem

      In the first sentence, I would interpret it as an existing problem being the issue.  In the second, that the problem is personal.  How a narrator chooses to interpret the words has a great deal of influence on how the reader understands the context.

2. Creativity- When reading books, most people come up with their own voices and sceneries.  This is one reason why people come out of books-to-movies disappointed and saying "it wasn't anything like the book."  When a narrator puts their voice to the words, it takes away at least one element of the reader/listener's creativity, now they are only left with the visual content to make up.

Does this really matter?  I say yes.  I still remember when Garfield went from the pages and onto the TV.  Why oh why did they choose that voice!?

3. Senses-  Reading requires eyes, listening does not.  Two different senses; different sensory experiences. 

You wouldn't smell a sandwich and say you tasted it.  You wouldn't read a book and say you listened to it.  It's time to stop the delusions and claiming we read when we heard.

I wonder if people had this argument in the hey day of radio shows.

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  1. Ned’s Automic Dustbin is still around?

    I’m glad you shattered that myth regarding regarding audiobooks vs reading.

    Do you use any of the downloadable audiobooks out there. LA county public has NetLibrary but I’zz don’t have a Windows File format player or any Mp3 or related player for that matter. I always get the impression that they make those Audiobooks Databases a pain the ass to actually use in the real world. It’s like they (big publishing business) want another stream of revenue without actually sacrificing any content. In other words Cake and Eat it too.


    You rock, rock n roll librarian!!!

    For those about to rock, we salute you!

    Comment by Mateo — May 23, 2006 @ 6:08 pm | Reply

  2. i’m with you on the garfield deal.

    Comment by Melanie — May 23, 2006 @ 10:33 pm | Reply

  3. along with the rest of what you said…that shouldn’t
    be clouded over by the garfield comment, lol.

    Comment by Melanie — May 23, 2006 @ 10:34 pm | Reply

  4. ok, they’re not the same – but is the experience lesser? sure reading, actually reading is very important. but listening is probably as important a skill. i work in a school, and while the skilz are important, the content is as important – if they can’t keep up with the content because of delivery, they lose out multiple times. and just fyi, while im a big promoter of audiobooks to accompany reading (in other words, you listen and read at the same time), i myself don’t listen to them at all. they put me to sleep. but then again, im a very bad listener and only remember things i read or see.

    Comment by scrappylibrarian — May 29, 2006 @ 11:44 pm | Reply

  5. WOW! Its TOTALLY not the same. No argument. I also think that reading is the more “interactive” of the two and is “better.”

    Comment by Amy — June 23, 2006 @ 4:03 pm | Reply

  6. You can skim through the pages when you read and read back if you think you missed something but it’s too unintuitive to rewind audiobook back to “relisten”!

    Comment by Kakynologyst — September 28, 2010 @ 9:27 am | Reply

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