Books on the Nightstand discussion


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message 1: by Jana (new)

Jana (jazziegirl2010) | 309 comments Another great episode!

RE: Audiobooks
I absolutely say I have "read" a book if I listen to the audio version.

I know a lot of you do this (hi Emily), but for years I have combined both listening and reading one book. Currently: The Luminaries. When I'm driving or otherwise occupied I can listen, when I'm home I can pick up right where I left off and read my tome. When I finish it I will have read the book. ALL of it.

This whole passionate obsession we all have with books is firmly rooted in oral storytelling. I just don't understand the argument against it. I might also mention what a wonderful gift for sight impaired people to be able to read so many books these days.

Climbing down off my soapbox now. Next?

message 2: by Eric (new)

Eric | 1175 comments Mod
Before radio, people used to enjoy books by reading aloud to one another. I see audiobooks as just going back to an older way of enjoying books.

message 3: by Terry (new)

Terry | 3 comments I agee 100% with you, Jana. There are few things more pleasurable than listening to someone read to me. I also combine the book and audio, which adds a lot to the experience. And, I really love your comparison to oral storytelling.

message 4: by Linda (new)

Linda | 2764 comments Mod
My dyslexic husband and I can finally talk about books. I have him hooked on audiobooks and thanks to the Ohio e-book project having audiobooks, we don't even have to leave home to find books for him.

He comes home from work (he listens while he works) and often wants to see if I'm far enough on the same book that we can discuss it.

Personally, I have to be careful what I listen to since I am a visual learner rather than an audio one. There are books that I've "listened" to that I have to admit has been no more than noise while I drove. In that case, I don't count the book as read until I find a copy more compatible with me.

message 5: by Cory Day (new)

Cory Day (cors36) | 67 comments I think those of us who are more visual and tend to easily tune out noise, listening to an audiobook feels like a very different, potentially less satisfying, experience, for that very reason, Linda. I have almost entirely stopped listening to audiobooks of books I haven't read for that reason, but I love to reread in that way. I think a lot of the people who don't believe an audiobook counts as reading may process information so much differently in audio format that they can't imagine its being anything close to the same experience. That doesn't mean it isn't reading though, because not everyone's brain works that way; assuming other people don't get the same (or better!) experience out of listening as they do from setting eyes to paper is problematic. I don't list audiobooks on my books "read" because of the way I use them, but I don't at all begrudge others from doing so...

message 6: by [deleted user] (last edited Feb 13, 2014 07:48PM) (new)

Should listening to audiobooks count as reading?

Well, I guess that depends on what you are counting them for! If you are reading for the purpose of decoding alphanumeric symbols, glyphs or Braille dots in rows, then no, audiobooks don't count as reading. But if you are listening to an audiobook for the content of the written word, then yes, it absolutely does. Unlike movies or plays, audiobooks are verbatim readings of the print. It is not an adaptation or dramatization (though those do exist; but are a different thing and are clearly marked.) The best narrators are transparent to the listener, letting the story/text live.

It takes a little training or "reformatting of the brain" to be able to process text via audio. Unlike ancient times (e.g. Classical Greece and Rome which had messengers use The Memory Palace technique to memorize huge tracts of material for the purpose of relaying messages to other courts verbatim) and other places (e.g. the Cuban cigar factories which had Readers narrate Classics aloud to the workers), when oral history was the chief mode of transmitting stories or information, many people's attention spans or ability to focus and really listen are much diminished. Church pews and lecture halls are filled with the restless! But for the initiated, audiobooks can exponentially broaden a reader's horizons. Structure, form, style and language can be much more easily grasped. As there is no skimming, details emerge that may have been skimmed in the print reading. A listener's memory improves dramatically over time (without the ability to flip back and forth between pages, the brain learns to retain what it has heard for future reference.)

The arguments that audiobooks don't count as reading or that audiobooks are "cheating" are near-spurious and usually only proffered by those who don't "get it;" so for the uninitiated, I would recommend listening to something fun like David Sedaris or Tina Fey; then move on to children's stories, and plots with straightforward A & B plots. Along the way, you'll find the narrators who resonate with you (and conversely those who do not) and maybe even follow a narrator out of your usual genres! If after giving it an honest try, you still don't get it or like it, then so be it; but to say that it doesn't count for others is spurious.

message 7: by Eric (new)

Eric | 1175 comments Mod
I count them. I count them like this:

"One audiobook!

Two audiobooks!

Three! Three audiobooks. Ah! Ah! Ah!"

(Thunder and lighning effects)

message 8: by Eric (new)

Eric | 1175 comments Mod
I agree with everything you've said, Tanya.

To have a problem with the way anyone takes in a book is a bit "Rain Man". Whenever I hear someone say something like that, I wanna say, "Wapner's on!"

message 9: by Gerald (new)

Gerald Miller | 808 comments I have not listened to the episode yet because I did not go to work yesterday and that's why I listen to audio books. I have a chance to sit and work and listening to books is the perfect way to pass the time.

message 10: by Jana (new)

Jana (jazziegirl2010) | 309 comments Eric wrote: "I count them. I count them like this:

"One audiobook!

Two audiobooks!

Three! Three audiobooks. Ah! Ah! Ah!"

(Thunder and lighning effects)"


message 11: by Melissa (new)

Melissa (thenovelbutterfly) | 101 comments I think Tanya put it very well!

I definitely count audiobooks I've listened to as "read." So long as it is the actual unabridged book. I actually listened to two book club selections recently and I was definitely able to participate in the discussion just as if I had read the hard copy book and I felt I had a unique take on one of the books because of the way it was read (it was The Rosie Project-- I think I got more out of that book because I listened to it). And the class I have been teaching this semester is an hour away from home/work, and audiobooks have been wonderful for the 9 p.m. drive home.

However, to each his or her own! This was a great podcast; I also enjoyed the literary criticism discussion.

message 12: by Liz (new)

Liz Manion (lizcmanion) I don't think there is one answer to this question. As Melissa said above, "to each his or her own". I personally am a very visual person and have always had difficulty with audiobooks. While I certainly can appreciate that for many or even most people, the audiobook is a similar experience to reading, for me it is certainly not. I love the physical presence of my books and some of my experience of reading is a tactile one. Part of the enjoyment of my reading experience is also dependent upon my ability to quickly flip back and forth to reread sections or try to find the source of references in a current passage. I find myself easily distracted while listening to audiobooks and the inability to quickly refer back to passages often is very irritating to me. I usually give up on the audiobook or spend much time listening to segments over and over. Or worse, finish the book without a true appreciation of the story or the author's skill and intent. However, I am fully aware these limitations are uniquely my own.
Even with my audiobook deficiencies, they do have a place in my life. Literary fiction and nonfiction I continue to difficulty with in the audio form. However, easier to read and highly "entertaining" books (as I classify them), particularly genre fiction, serial mysteries, etc., I can and have enjoyed in the past as audiobooks. I particularly remembering listening to and enjoying a Jack Reacher novel during a long car ride. That being said, the experience for me is almost a cross between reading a book and watching a movie and not a truly a reading experience as I "define" it for myself alone.
And that is my humble, very limited, and very personal opinion. My jealousy for those readers who can enjoy all types of books in the audio form continues to grow!

message 13: by Gerald (new)

Gerald Miller | 808 comments Its amazing how my mind wanders when I listen to the podcast. Mike was talking about The Martian by Andy Weir and I started about thinking about "Robinson Crusoe on Mars" a 1964 B movie that I thought was very cool.

message 14: by Esther (last edited Apr 26, 2014 03:21AM) (new)

Esther (eshchory) I count the audio books I have read, and I definitely count the audio books others have read, as reading but for me it is a much less satisfying experience and for a couple of audio books I really enjoyed (for example The Hunger Games) I had to go back and read the hard copy.
Although I am sure my mother reading to me so much as a child nurtured my love of reading once I could read by myself I rarely enjoyed being read to.
There are exceptions: I prefer to have plays and poetry read to me and then there is David Sedaris...

message 15: by Jena (new)

Jena (outlanderfan74) As a totally blind reader, I definitely count audio books. I'm incredibly grateful for the quantity and variety of reading that is available to me in 2014, because it wasn't there, even as recently as ten years ago. One of the things I still feel giddy about is my ability to read a book on the same day it is released to the sighted world. As a Braille reader, you'd generally have to wait at least a year for the "new" books to be released, if they were in Braille at all. One of my most memorable moments in this new era of reading was starting "11/22/63" by Stephen King around midnight on the day it was released.

That being said, if I had the choice to read either audio or Braille, I would choose Braille for the majority of my reading. Audiobooks are wonderful, but for me, there's nothing that can replace seeing the words as the author formatted them - where paragraphs begin and end, proper name spellings, etc. However, it is possible to read until your fingers begin to go numb. I've done it on several occasions, most notably when I was reading "Lonesome Dove." So as far as I'm concerned, there is plenty of room for both the audio and the visual in reading. I LOVE the "storytelling" perspective that someone posted earlier. I never thought of audio books in that way, but it makes perfect sense.

message 16: by Ann (new)

Ann (akingman) | 2097 comments Mod
Here's a cool article someone just tweeted: "Boston-based National Braille Press remains a top publisher for the blind" -

message 17: by Jena (new)

Jena (outlanderfan74) I'm glad to see that some people still value Braille, because recently, I've been reading and hearing that "Braille is obsolete" from so-called professionals. It frightens and dismays me that the "professionals" who teach blind children would think audible input is a valid substitute for the written word. So it's good to see that National Braille Press is alive and well.

message 18: by Linda (new)

Linda | 2764 comments Mod
Rachel wrote: "I'm glad to see that some people still value Braille, because recently, I've been reading and hearing that "Braille is obsolete" from so-called professionals. It frightens and dismays me that the ..."

Someone who is blind is not necessarily an auditory learner. You make good points, Rachel about seeing the words.

Last week I was listening to a book in which the people of the small town were trying to come up with ideas that would bring tourists to their town. One of the options was to make the town more Hawaiian and a character said something about giving out leis.

Not seeing the word, my mind immediately went in a more comical direction and wondered about a sign on the interstate directing people to Elmwood Springs for a lay.

message 19: by Jena (new)

Jena (outlanderfan74) Heheheheh! Oh, that's great!
The same thing just happened to me, as I'm using a screen reader. I had to pause the speech, and navigate letter by letter to see what you meant, but I had the same thought that you did before I spelled it out.

message 20: by Ann (new)

Ann (akingman) | 2097 comments Mod
I think we've talked about this before, but I'd love to get you on the podcast to discuss the state of reading for the sight-impaired. If you're interested, please email me at ann at and let's see if we can make arrangements.


message 21: by Robin (new)

Robin (mcrobus) | 254 comments Ann wrote: "Rachel,
I think we've talked about this before, but I'd love to get you on the podcast to discuss the state of reading for the sight-impaired. If you're interested, please email me at ann at bookso..."

Ann, as a sight impaired person I would love to listen to a show on this topic. I continue to listen to audiobooks, but ebooks have given me much more accessibility.

message 22: by Robin (new)

Robin (mcrobus) | 254 comments Aren't Audiobooks like the first stories before writing?

message 23: by Buttonwillow (new)

Buttonwillow (buttonwillowsf) | 7 comments I never have the chance to sit down and read a book anymore, so listening to audiobooks in the car is the only way I read now. Who's counting anyway? What a weird question ;)
An audiobook does throw an extra variable in though, and that's the narrator. A narrator can absolutely ruin a good book (looking at you Bleeding Edge) and can make even a cliche-ridden novel entertaining (hi Simon Vance). The narrator of The Third Policeman adds so much to the book that it lost half its charm when I later read it in paperback. I think the narrators of Hilary Mantel's latest two novels, and that of the River of Doubt, add so much dimension to the story. Of course what I consider a wonderful narrator may seem quite dull to others (much like the books I enjoy). So, while this is somewhat mitigated by the free audio samples most sellers offer, it's still a variable that some might wish to leave out entirely by simply reading the printed version.
I'm grateful for all the different methods of reading that are available and that make reading more accessible to many.

message 24: by Gerald (new)

Gerald Miller | 808 comments I had one audiobook destroyed ,actually two,by narrators. One was FREEFALL a crime drama set on the shore in South Jersey when the narrator did the lead characters voice in low bass. The other was an authors narration of short stories. I won't mention the book because the author is beloved by readers.

message 25: by Louise (new)

Louise | 279 comments At the moment I'm listening to Talking It Over by Julian Barnes, narrated by some of my favourite narrators (three!) - that certainly adds to the story/listening experience

message 26: by Jena (new)

Jena (outlanderfan74) Ann,

I'm so sorry, i'm only just now seeing your post. I don't remember discussing it with you, but I will certainly EMail you this evening!
And thank you for the interest!

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