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Debates > Is listening to audio books considered 'reading'?

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message 1: by Hallie, I'm all about the books (last edited Aug 21, 2018 06:34AM) (new)

Hallie (inkyhallie) | 5470 comments Mod
I come across people saying that listening to audio books is not the same as reading, and the same is considered "cheating".

When reading, you read at your own pace. You decide the pronunciation of the names and places. You decide how to voices of characters are in your head. On the other hand, listening to audio books, the narrator sets the pace and decides how the words must be pronounced. However, you can still enjoy the writing. You can still get sucked into a fictional world, or simply enjoy the string of words - whether they are printed on a page or narrated.

So does the method of processing the same content make one method less valid than the other? Does the make those who are impaired visually or just too busy to make time to read a physical book 'listen' and not 'read'? Literally, of course, it isn't reading, but what about figuratively? Does that make listening to music or podcasts also reading? Let me know what you think!

This debate has not been started with the intention to be disrespectful to those who have a disability and turn to audio books to enjoy literature, but out of inquisitiveness, and also, hopefully, to bring out some experiences related to this. I apologize beforehand for any offensive or ableist comments that hopefully will not pop up in this discussion; this is meant solely to see what others think of audio books.


Cobwebby Reading Reindeer Remember Ukraine 🇺🇦  (readingreindeerproximacentauri) | 4 comments I started listening to audiobooks in January 2018, with Dan Simmons' THE TERROR (a Long audiobook!) and i was immediately hooked. For decades i had refused to even try, for the same reason i avoid film and TV: i prefer my own imagination. But now I listen to Lovecraft and other Weird Fiction on YouTube, and to lots of novels on Scribd, including books that are currently too pricy for me to purchase.


Creative Orange (Rumell Khan) (rkrespectedmember) | 2542 comments Would you count listening to the radio as reading?


message 4: by Creative Orange (last edited Aug 19, 2018 05:16PM) (new)

Creative Orange (Rumell Khan) (rkrespectedmember) | 2542 comments That is a question that will live in peoples head for days.


message 5: by Eliza (new)

Eliza Taye (eliza_taye) | 66 comments I agree with Hallie that it isn’t reading in the literal sense, but figuratively it can be. I know that when I listen to an audiobook (which is something I’ve been doing quite often lately), I do many of the same things I do when reading a physical book or an ebook. I think about the characters, their actions, and motivations, as well as what is going on in the plot. If one is engaging in the same behavior as when they are reading, how is it any different than reading? If you’re getting into the story and feeling for the main character’s struggles or hating the villain in the story as well as analyzing it like you would if reading the text, then I would say that it is reading in the figurative sense.


message 6: by Eliza (new)

Eliza Taye (eliza_taye) | 66 comments Rumell wrote: "Would you count listening to the radio as reading?"

It depends on what kind of radio you’re listening to. If you’re listening to a radio that has only music with the regular commercials, then it isn’t like reading or listening to an audiobook. If you’re listening to talk radio, is it something that would be put in a nonfiction book or audiobook? What if the radio you’re listening to is an audio drama?


message 7: by Creative Orange (last edited Aug 20, 2018 06:23AM) (new)

Creative Orange (Rumell Khan) (rkrespectedmember) | 2542 comments But wouldn't you be reading to the lyrics of the music or conversations to adverts?


message 8: by Klain (new)

Klain Eliza wrote: "I agree with Hallie that it isn’t reading in the literal sense, but figuratively it can be. I know that when I listen to an audiobook (which is something I’ve been doing quite often lately), I do m..."

Wouldn't it mean that watching a show is reading to?


I started this year fot the first time to listen to an audiobook. I am listeing to it while I draw, because reading it wouldn't be worth my time (but I really want to know how the story goes on, you know what I mean). Often I start to realize that I didn't know what I actually heared. I was to focused on what I am actually doing.
In my opinion it's not reading it's listeing.


message 9: by Creative Orange (last edited Aug 20, 2018 10:25AM) (new)

Creative Orange (Rumell Khan) (rkrespectedmember) | 2542 comments That was my exact point. I think reading is where if someone is picking information from a written text. There is complete different to listening and reading. The message that you receive from listening is different to reading. I have learned this in my Psychology. Reading is a very complex cognitive process.

I do not think listening from audio/radio or watching TV shows count as literature.


message 10: by Eliza (new)

Eliza Taye (eliza_taye) | 66 comments Rumell wrote: "But wouldn't you be reading to the lyrics of the music or conversations to adverts?"

No, it wouldn’t be the same. It’s listening to music, not the lyrics of the song specifically. Some people listen to music and don’t pay attention to the lyrics if the music has them at all. Listening to a conversation isn’t the same either because you’re processing it differently than you would be reading a book.


message 11: by Eliza (new)

Eliza Taye (eliza_taye) | 66 comments Klain wrote: "Eliza wrote: "I agree with Hallie that it isn’t reading in the literal sense, but figuratively it can be. I know that when I listen to an audiobook (which is something I’ve been doing quite often l..."

Watching a show is exactly that. You’re watching it. It is someone else’s interpretation of a piece of text or literature, not your own imagination. At least with audiobooks, you’re still free to imagine whatever you’d like in your head. I do agree with you, though that it is easy to zone out depending on what you’re doing while listening to an audiobook.


message 12: by Mara (new)

Mara Pemberton (marapem) | 115 comments TAILSPIN by Sandra Brown


message 13: by Creative Orange (last edited Aug 21, 2018 04:43AM) (new)

Creative Orange (Rumell Khan) (rkrespectedmember) | 2542 comments So my complete conclusion of the question: Is listening to audio books 'reading'?

No. I do not think listening to audio books count as reading.

Here are the big reasons:
1) Audio books are not a form of literature.
2) Listening to audio and reading from written text thrives different cognitive process.
3) Just because something creates an image in your head doesn't mean it is reading. That is just simple Art.


Phoenix~They/Them When I read I get an image in my head. Audio books are just being lazy about reading


message 15: by Hallie, I'm all about the books (last edited Aug 21, 2018 06:49AM) (new)

Hallie (inkyhallie) | 5470 comments Mod
Then, Rumell, please answer this. If a person who is dyslexic or has a vision problem listens to the same book that you and I read a physical copy of - let's say Harry Potter, are you trying to say that what we read is literature and what they heard is not. The same words by the same author is not 'literature' because it is being narrated by a different person? That doesn't really make sense. Also, many cultures have passed on stories orally, which are very much considered as oral literature (albeit sometimes referred to as orature to avoid the oxymoron, but it's still as valid as literature).

Secondly, listening to audio books and reading books are mostly the same. I'd like to assert that we are talking about this figuratively, and not literally. Yes, there are differences between reading and listening, but there is a transition that takes place during late elementary school that makes the cognitive processes of understanding the written word becomes similar to understanding the spoken word. So technically, Comprehension is the same whether listening to information or reading information. With the same scientific evidence, listening to music or radio doesn't make the song a book because, like Eliza mentioned above, you are processing the information very differently. As I mentioned before, listening and reading become almost the same after that transition, which means that listening to an audio book doesn't make it less complex than reading a physical copy. So listening to audio books, in my opinion, count as reading.


message 16: by Hallie, I'm all about the books (new)

Hallie (inkyhallie) | 5470 comments Mod
And no, audio books aren't being 'lazy' about reading because both actions process information mostly the same way. In no way does listening to a book make it easier to process the information.


message 17: by Creative Orange (new)

Creative Orange (Rumell Khan) (rkrespectedmember) | 2542 comments Hallie wrote: "Then, Rumell, please answer this. If a person who is dyslexic or has a vision problem listens to the same book that you and I read a physical copy of - let's say Harry Potter, are you trying to say..."

I actually had a study in this in GCSE Health and Social Care. No it is not. Even if the person does have dyslexia they are not technically reading the words they hear. They are listening to the audio and not reading. What is written down is a form of literature and what you hear from is audio. It actually does make sense.

Listening to audio books and reading books are not the same category.

I don't think it is lazy. However if you are able and not even trying physical books then it is lazy.

Audiobooks are helping-hand tool for those who do struggle to read.


message 18: by Hallie, I'm all about the books (last edited Aug 21, 2018 06:00AM) (new)

Hallie (inkyhallie) | 5470 comments Mod
I think you're sticking to textbook information only. Once again, I remind you - figuratively. You're saying that they are only listening to the words from Harry Potter, which is not a book because it's an audio book. They are still processing the same information which is also available in written form. So Harry Potter is isn't literature according to you if you read both formats. And I'll bring up oral literature once again. The concept of literature has changed meaning over time and nowadays it can broaden to have non-written verbal art forms. At least to me, your arguement does not make sense whatsoever. If folk tales are included in literature, so can this.

No, it's still not lazy. Like I mentioned before, scientifically, both processes take the same effort after elementary period.


Phoenix~They/Them Hallie wrote: "And no, audio books aren't being 'lazy' about reading because both actions process information mostly the same way. In no way does listening to a book make it easier to process the information."

I just am wondering why pick up an audio book when you could take time to read, I just think some people might do it because they dont want to open books. IDK Im not a fan of audio books, I prefer reading cuz then I can give the characters a voice in my head


message 20: by Hallie, I'm all about the books (last edited Aug 21, 2018 06:05AM) (new)

Hallie (inkyhallie) | 5470 comments Mod
Sylveon~Raven wrote: "Hallie wrote: "And no, audio books aren't being 'lazy' about reading because both actions process information mostly the same way. In no way does listening to a book make it easier to process the i..."

Reasons differ, but I'm hoping this thread will bring out more reasons. For starters, those who are dyslexic and visually impaired cannot read physical books, so they turn to audio books for an alternate means to connect with the literary world. There are also others who don't really have time to set aside to read, so they may listen to audio books while commuting from one place to another. And some people want to read when they travel places but cannot because that makes them sick, so audio books save them from boredom. I think it's a bit prejudiced to say that they don't do it because they are lazy. Of course, you need not opt the same means if you don't prefer it, but I personally don't think it's fair to call their method invalid.


message 21: by Creative Orange (last edited Aug 21, 2018 06:07AM) (new)

Creative Orange (Rumell Khan) (rkrespectedmember) | 2542 comments Hallie wrote: "I think you're sticking to textbook information only. Once again, I remind you - figuratively. You're saying that they are only listening to the words from Harry Potter, which is not a book because..."

Actually processing information from physical harry potter books is reading. You'd use the audiobooks to help to guide you whilst reading. Harry potter in written form is literature.


message 22: by Hallie, I'm all about the books (last edited Aug 21, 2018 06:10AM) (new)

Hallie (inkyhallie) | 5470 comments Mod
Rumell wrote: "Hallie wrote: "I think you're sticking to textbook information only. Once again, I remind you - figuratively. You're saying that they are only listening to the words from Harry Potter, which is not..."

Yes, I never denied that reading from a physical book is not reading, but I don't get your second sentence. But you're telling me that the audio book is not literature even though it is technically written by the same person and the same words and read out from the same physical copy. That is what doesn't make sense to me because oral literature exists in many cultures, and if that is valid, so is this.


message 23: by Creative Orange (new)

Creative Orange (Rumell Khan) (rkrespectedmember) | 2542 comments In an audio book the person who is narrating is reading off the story. Just because the story is spoken out doesn't mean you are 'reading' what the person is saying. I don't technically believe in 'oral' literature. It is very ironic. It is like you are saying if a person is verbally starting a conversation with you, you are 'reading' to what they are saying.


message 24: by Hallie, I'm all about the books (new)

Hallie (inkyhallie) | 5470 comments Mod
Eliza mentioned earlier that listening to audio books and listening to conversations process information differently. In any case, I still don't think it's fair to invalidate anyone with a vision impairment saying that they have only 'listened' and not 'read' the book. The definition of literature has broadened, and doesn't necessarily have to be in a written format to count (debating on that would mean a whole new topic), but you are still processing the content the same way you do as reading. So once again, figuratively, I defend that listening to audio books and reading is the same.


message 25: by Creative Orange (last edited Aug 21, 2018 07:04AM) (new)

Creative Orange (Rumell Khan) (rkrespectedmember) | 2542 comments Actually it is the same category. Listening to conversation is non-fiction. Actually it is righteous to say if a person with a vision impairment saying that they have only 'listened' and not 'read' the book. It is a correct terminology even if you think it isn't fair.

Literature is 'written works, especially those considered of superior or lasting artistic merit.' The meaning of the word has not changed.

It is possible for someone to receive exact imagery some do not receive the same imagery. This is how art works. It is unpredictable.

I completely believe listening to audiobooks and reading are different.


message 26: by Hallie, I'm all about the books (last edited Aug 21, 2018 07:47AM) (new)

Hallie (inkyhallie) | 5470 comments Mod
No, it's actually different. You do not process conversations in the same whatsoever. I remember reading some scientific evidence to back this up, which I will try to find again to show you. You don't get the same feel from listening to conversations as you do when you read. Reading still requires different processing which is mostly similar to that of audio books, but not the same as conversations. Correlating the two won't very well work.

I have a friend who is blind and has read thousands of books with the same information. They know all the details like I do and had the same experience that I had when I read the same book. To tell that their experience does not count as reading just because 'it is the correct terminology to use' is sort of ableist. How is it, in any way, fair that the next time you ask someone whether they have read a certain book, those who have listened to the audio book must not raise their hand and join in the conversation? If you're pedantic about the word 'reading', well, I'm being pedantic about the words 'count as' when I say that listening to audio books count as reading, while I am very well aware that the literal terminology would be 'listen'. Why deprive them of their right to say that they enjoyed the book?

I suggest you drop the textbooks and dictionaries for literal meanings of everything and think freely for a bit. It has changed over the years. In fact, literary works first started as oral tales. The Iliad, which is very well considered as literature, was actually first composed in the form of oral literature. So whether you believe it or not, it's there, and literature isn't necessarily restricted to written works.

I always believed that art is more of expression, so I wouldn't really categorize that as art.


message 27: by Creative Orange (new)

Creative Orange (Rumell Khan) (rkrespectedmember) | 2542 comments Just to let you know. Your senses is the one that interprets the image in your head. Whether it is by listening, reading, feeling, tasting or smelling.


message 28: by Hallie, I'm all about the books (new)

Hallie (inkyhallie) | 5470 comments Mod
Not very sure what you're trying to say here...


message 29: by Creative Orange (last edited Aug 21, 2018 08:23AM) (new)

Creative Orange (Rumell Khan) (rkrespectedmember) | 2542 comments Hallie wrote: "No, it's actually different. You do not process conversations in the same whatsoever. I remember reading some scientific evidence to back this up, which I will try to find again to show you. You do..."

Actually you do you create an image in similar way but the outcome is different. It is because the visual takes over it. When you are having a conversation you can see how the person looks like behind the recorder you cannot see how the person looks like. I have also been reading scientific evidence. The signal the brainwave sends is similar. Reading both fiction and non-fiction sends a different signal.

I have also had a same experience you did. I had many friends who were blind. The shape or size of what they hear from audiobooks is very unlikely to be similar. It isn't impossible it is just unlikely similar. No two brains will think the same way as another. That is nurture not nature.

But obviously the person will create an image in their head. They will not always see the same colour, size or shape as you do. It is just by chance an image will be similar. A bit like doing heads and tails of a coin. You won't know the outcome would be.

Well I wouldn't feel any different. The word 'reading' helps to comforts that persons feeling because they do not want to think that they no longer have the ability to read. But it isn't a correct terminology.

If they felt like as though they were not feeling included when their raise their hand. The one who you should be speaking to is the person who isn't letting them e hand. No one should left discriminated because of their skills or ability.

You don't get to suggest if I could drop textbooks or dictionaries Sometimes you need evidence to back it up. I have researched up-to-date dictionaries. A person can't just make up a meaning up just because they feel like it is right. I don't always use dictionaries and textbooks for my defence anyway. I also use logic for my defence. And they aren't always for me defending myself. They are used for purpose.


message 30: by Creative Orange (new)

Creative Orange (Rumell Khan) (rkrespectedmember) | 2542 comments Hallie wrote: "Not very sure what you're trying to say here..."

I was backing my comment when I said 'It is possible for someone to receive exact imagery some do not receive the same imagery. This is how art works. It is unpredictable.' Art is not just about expressionism. It is also about creativity.


message 31: by Hallie, I'm all about the books (new)

Hallie (inkyhallie) | 5470 comments Mod
Do you process a conversation the same way as reading a book? For sure, I don't. We'll be talking in circles about this, but yes, we see the facial expression and body language, but the way we perceive what the person is saying is different from that of listening to audio books; the latter which is the same as reading a physical book to your brain. Yes, to your brain, listening to audio books and reading a physical book is the same. Another reason why it is tantamount to reading the book.

That was not what I was trying to say, and forgive me if that wasn't clear enough. To make myself clear, I'll explain with an example. My friend and I love the Harry Potter series. Harry many look different in both our minds, but the details are the same. In both our minds, irrespective of what he looks like to us, he has a scar. In the first few chapters of the first book, he is wearing baggy clothes. I might imagine him to be in blue jeans and an oversized grey jumper, and my friend might imagine him to be in khaki pants and a baggy, orange T-shirt, but the detail 'oversized and baggy' remains the same. We are both presented with the same details and ultimately we both imagine the same details, of course, as you said, in different pictures, but that is the beauty of the book world, and that happens to every reader. Same goes for people reading audio books. So why discount them from being able to safely say that they have read the book and not being accused of cheating?

I don't know if you really got my point. You say it isn't reading, but have you any idea how many call audio books 'cheating'? "I did read the book, but it was an audio book" should be accepted but yet it is not the right terminology. That seems a bit contradictory. What I'm trying to say is that listening to audio books can count as reading, and you and saying it doesn't, but yet you say that they person is free to join even though, in your own belief, they didn't 'read' the book but 'listened' to it.

I don't think you got my point here at all. Yes, evidence is necessary, but simple definitions from a dictionary will not do any of us any good here. It is almost non-existent, because the definition of reading differs from person to person. They are not made up because they follow the defined meanings in dictionaries, but I am telling you that people here think beyond the words printed in a dictionary, but they still follow the definition of r the same word. I'd elucidate, but I think we are drifting away from the topic.


message 32: by Hallie, I'm all about the books (new)

Hallie (inkyhallie) | 5470 comments Mod
Rumell wrote: "Hallie wrote: "Not very sure what you're trying to say here..."

I was backing my comment when I said 'It is possible for someone to receive exact imagery some do not receive the same imagery. This..."


Expressing your creativity, yes. I realise that you edited your comment while I was posting, so now I can see what you meant.


message 33: by Creative Orange (last edited Aug 21, 2018 08:56AM) (new)

Creative Orange (Rumell Khan) (rkrespectedmember) | 2542 comments I wasn't editing my information's.


message 34: by Hallie, I'm all about the books (new)

Hallie (inkyhallie) | 5470 comments Mod
Uh, yes, you did.


message 35: by Creative Orange (new)

Creative Orange (Rumell Khan) (rkrespectedmember) | 2542 comments I am clear. Just to show that I am I will go piece by piece.

'Do you process a conversation the same way as reading a book?'

No. I do not think so. But I have not said they were the same. I clearly have stated it is different.

Do you think you are 'reading' to the conversation we are having now?

'but the way we perceive what the person is saying is different from that of listening to audio books'

The things we perceive is the outcome. Conversations and audio come from the same genre just like how we read written information. The conversations is what would've been 'non-fiction'.

'the latter which is the same as reading a physical book to your brain'

The signal that is sent is what makes them very different.

'Harry many look different in both our minds, but the details are the same'

Yes. But it won't be accurately similar.

'he has a scar.'

When you tell me that he has a scar. I do see him with a scar. However I might think the scar would be on the right side of his cheek. But a second person may think it'd be on the left.

'oversized and baggy' remains the same.

When I am thinking oversized it makes me think the trouser is large than it is normally is. Baggy makes me think it is big yet wrinkly. But person to will think differently.

I definitely think it is to do with our sensory and probability.

'Same goes for people reading audio books.'

This is because what you hear creates an image as well.

'So why discount them from being able to safely say that they have read the book and not being accused of cheating?'

I have not said using an audiobook is cheating. But what do you think about those who have the ability to read books without problem but use audiobooks as an excuse as something you'd 'read'?

'You say it isn't reading'

Yes I do say and that is what I think.

'but have you any idea how many call audio books 'cheating'?'

Actually I have and I experienced this myself.

'I did read the book, but it was an audio book'

The correct sentence would've been for this is. 'I did read the book, but I was listening to an audio book.'

'hat listening to audio books can count as reading, and you and saying it doesn't'

Yes that is what I am saying.

'but yet you say that they person is free to join'

That is not what I've been saying at all. I was referring to those with visual impairment who feel like they are not free to raise their hands up and join in the conversations. They shouldn't feel left out at all.

'they didn't 'read' the book but 'listened' to it.'

That is correct. However a person may use this to make them feel comfortable and included. Usually a person with a visual impairment would use audiobooks while reading a book.

'people here think beyond the words printed in a dictionary'

But like I said. I don't always use dictionary. I use other resources if I need a backup. Or I use logic as I said before.

'but I think we are drifting away from the topic.'

I think what we are saying is concluding the topic. I don't think we are drifting away since they all connect.


message 36: by Hallie, I'm all about the books (last edited Aug 21, 2018 07:27PM) (new)

Hallie (inkyhallie) | 5470 comments Mod
I'm really tired because it's pretty late, so I don't have the mood to highlight everything that you said, but you have not got my point in most of the places. The scar, for instance. The book describes where the scar is as well. To elucidate further, yes, I agree the pictures will be different, but the details from the book will remain the same. Maybe the size of the scar will be different, but the characteristic feature will remain the same.

It's not a matter of whether they feel left out. It's that they have to further explain that they listened to the audio book and didn't "read" it pedantically. Your revised correct statement would also be wrong there because according to you, they didn't 'read' the book at all. So it's "I listened to the audio book", which makes it seem less valid even the question 'Did you read this book?'

When it comes to brain signals, I don't think you can ever compare non-fiction to conversations. The content and the method of transferring information is different. Conversations have a different feel, and you can't categorize them as non-fiction. If I state Newton's third law, what I said will definitely not be considered non-fiction.

Those who have the ability and read audio books aren't lazy. It's a matter of preference. You prefer physical books, others other ebooks, and they prefer audio books. No one has the right to say that they are lazy or that they aren't reading.

I still think you are going by the literal definition of reading, which is why I suggested you drop the dictionary and think of it figuratively. Unless you do that, this debate isn't any fun. I'm not telling you to not use any resources, but to not use the resources exactly how it is. Once again, yes, we will be drifting away from the topic because this isn't what this thread is for (no, it does not connect, and this is coming from me as a moderator), so I'll quit trying to explain that to you.

Quoting your own words: "Usually a person with a visual impairment would use audiobooks while reading a book."

You just said exactly what I'm saying - that they are indeed reading the book, just with audio books. That is exactly what I'm saying :) They are using audio books, yes, but they are still reading the book. Listening to audio books count as reading.


message 37: by kaotickitten (new)

kaotickitten | 77 comments I know I am late to this, but. Ok I do listen to audio books, and I do count them as reading. I am not being lazy. I do it while I am driving or at work. I am just as engaged in the story as I am in physical books. Sometimes even more. I have read the physical versions of many of the audiobooks I have. There have been studies to show both side of the argument. Studies do nothing but confirm what the author of the study wants to confirm. Sometimes it will show the opposite, but rarely. In some cases audiobooks can help the reader discern what is actually being said. Sometimes it is for pleasure and other times for study. When you are learning a new language, you sometimes will watch a tv show or movie in that language with subtitles. That helps to show the context of the language. The good thing about reading is that it is subjective. Reading a physical book or listening to audiobooks, both stimulate the mind and help with comprehension. They both help grow empathy. So to say one is cheating or lazy when listening to a book is discouraging the story. For if librarians and author listen to audiobooks and consider them reading, who are we the intended audience to say it’s not. Some English professors will even ask their class to listen to the book. So in my opinion reading physical or listening to books are correct for everybody.


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