The Sword and Laser discussion

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Can people listening to audiobooks really say they have "read" the book?

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message 1: by dudeslife (new)

dudeslife | 9 comments Nope. Listening to my ipod doesn't give me the ability to "read" music either.


message 2: by terpkristin (new)

terpkristin | 4211 comments I wholeheartedly disagree with you, but really I'm only posting to point out that this topic already exists. http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/3...


message 3: by dudeslife (new)

dudeslife | 9 comments terpkristin wrote: "I wholeheartedly disagree with you, but really I'm only posting to point out that this topic already exists. http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/3..."

Ah thanks. I didn't look in Off-Topic because to me, that category name means everything NOT dealing with books and reading.


message 4: by Daniel (new)

Daniel | 17 comments I had a friend tell me that reading the ebook isn't really reading either.


message 5: by Stan (last edited Oct 04, 2010 11:38AM) (new)

Stan Slaughter | 359 comments Well, I guess you can say you've read the book, just as much as I can say that my children read the "Hobbit" when they were 4 years old as they lay in bed listening to me as I read them asleep.


message 6: by Vance (new)

Vance | 362 comments I think if you have the entire story going into your brain, it matters not whether it goes in through your ears or your eyes.

I will say that I believe in most cases I get a deeper, richer experience from listening to the audiobook and feel as if I more fully "consumed" what the author was presenting.


message 7: by Veronica, Supreme Sword (new)

Veronica Belmont (veronicabelmont) | 1721 comments Mod
I say yes, and I think I can absorb the information just as easily as if I'm reading, and with the same amount of comprehension.

I cannot, however, learn to read music from listening to music. That example doesn't hold up.


message 8: by Daniel (new)

Daniel | 17 comments The books I have the greatest success listening to are strong narrative pieces. When digesting pieces of strong academic or experimental fiction I read the book or ebook.


message 9: by Michael (new)

Michael Minutillo (wolfbyte) Do the blind not often read with their sense of touch via Braille? It matters not how the info gets in to you. If you have it, it is now consumed. Assuming you need to shave trees to pass info around is silly.


message 10: by Otto (new)

Otto (andrewlinke) | 110 comments My students frequently ask me to read to them in class, not because they cannot read, but because they like the pace and inflection of my read-aloud better than the silence of their own reading. I don't always do it because it is important to be able to process and understand written content, but we do always read at least half the story aloud because some people simply absorb information better when listening.

Personally, I absorb the story equally through audio and reading. It just goes a bit faster when I am listening, and the constant pace helps me get over rough spots.


message 11: by aldenoneil (last edited Oct 04, 2010 08:05PM) (new)

aldenoneil | 1000 comments It's semantics. I could read or listen to a Wheel of Time novel, proudly say I read it, and still not be able to tell you what happened. My lack of retention remains after consuming either format. Therefore, in either case the result is the same.

Also, have I read Hamlet if I've seen a production? No, but the same stuff happens. That's a case, however, where the format matters, and people would say they've either seen something or read something, so forget that example.

So technically I haven't read books I've listened to, but I'm not going to take the time to explain that to someone if they ask me. I'll say, "Yeah, I read it, AND I can pronounce the names better than you."


message 12: by John (new)

John | 43 comments I'm tired of saying "I 'read' the book. Well, I listened to it on audio, but you know what I mean." For that matter, I'm tired of putting quotes around it when I "read" the audio book. What else are we supposed to say? I "heard" that book? You know what? We don't have to take this anymore. We should take a stand and shout it to the masses that we're tired of having to qualify our quote reading unquote of books simply because they are on audio book. Now, would this sentiment be any different if I posted an audio file instead of writing it here? How about if it were narrated by Wilford Brimley?


message 13: by Watcher (new)

Watcher | 3 comments In the English language, there is no good word for indicating one has experienced the material non-visually. So even though "read" is technically incorrect, it is good enough for every day use.

For those people who claim that listening to books is an inferior experience to reading them, I believe the burden is on them to provide objective evidence backing up that claim.


message 14: by Vance (new)

Vance | 362 comments My kids are both big readers of physical books AND audiobooks (I started them young!). I don't let them take Accelerated Reader tests on the "listened to" books at school since it is against the rules, but my wife is a teacher and they use her account to take the tests for fun anyway. While they do very well on the tests for physical books, they ALWAYS get 100% on the audiobooks. They just retain it better.

I have considered petitioning the school to allow tests on audiobooks, but actually I do agree in limiting the testing to physical books. Many of these kids simply need the reading skill improvement that comes with physical reading. But I see no advantage, otherwise, to physical books. And this comes from a huge bibliophile who collects books!


message 15: by Kate (new)

Kate O'Hanlon (kateohanlon) | 778 comments I don't think that you should say that you 'read' an audiobook (I mean, you can if you want to, I'm not going to come round your house and yell at you). I don't think reading a book is better that listening to an audiobook but they're different experiences and different things should have different words.

If what Vance said is true and his kids retain the information better when the listen to the audiobook then that just proves that they different ways of getting the information and that the brain is handling it differently.


message 16: by dudeslife (last edited Oct 05, 2010 06:46PM) (new)

dudeslife | 9 comments Veronica wrote: "I say yes, and I think I can absorb the information just as easily as if I'm reading, and with the same amount of comprehension.
Th..."

You said "as if I am reading".. So you agree that it's not reading? So an audiobook isn't read.


message 17: by Sandi (new)

Sandi (sandikal) | 1212 comments Watcher wrote: "In the English language, there is no good word for indicating one has experienced the material non-visually."

I disagree with this statement. The correct term is "listened to". For me, listening to a book is a completely different experience than reading it. I always say I listened to a book rather than saying I read it if I consumed it in an audio format.


message 18: by Drew (new)

Drew Perry (drewperry) | 9 comments I have a different position that I don't believe anyone has broached thus far. I'm not an avid audiobook listener, although I have listened to a few over the years. But I have no problem with listeners stating they have read the book (note my lack of quotations around "read." :) excepting where the audiobook is an abridged version of the text.
It's not as popular in newer audiobooks but there was a time where a large portion of audiobook catalogs were abridged versions. I'd no sooner consider that reading a book than I would actually reading those old Reader's Digest condensed versions. If you want to call it having read, you've got to have the whole text. If the author wanted a shorter work, he or she'd have left out words. :)


message 19: by Al (new)

Al | 159 comments Roman wrote: "Nope. Listening to my ipod doesn't give me the ability to "read" music either."

So your theory is that folks should read Beethoven's Ninth rather than listening to it? Dude?

And thank God I gave up my house for this nifty blueprint.

You are, of course, correct that listening to a book isn't the same as reading a printed copy but, unlike the direction your analogy was heading, they are equivalent in many respects. But your mileage may vary.

My son was having a lot of trouble reading Hamlet for school so I snagged the Audible version. Score! It is much more comprehensible that way. A good reader can lift content out of the text that isn't otherwise accessible without months if not years of study.

I tried listening to Nietzsche's Birth of Tragedy on tape coz the guy is pretty funny. Big Fail!

I tried listening to Moby Dick (read by Frank Muller) on tape. Big Win!

It's all about composed language and our cognition and imagination and whatever works best for someone by definition works.


message 20: by Vance (new)

Vance | 362 comments Sure, I could say I "listened to" a book, and if there is some reason that it is important to make the distinction, I do that. But, in general conversation, it seems unnecessary to make that distinction. Just like I might still say I "taped" a show last night (DVR'd it really), or listened to the new "album" by Weezer, the words may not fit the activity exactly anymore, but they most comfortably convey the meaning. Same with "read".


message 21: by Andre (new)

Andre (andreb) | 34 comments Listening to an audio book is not reading. Reading has a specific definition. It doesn't mean that one is better than the other, but they are different experiences.

How are they different experiences if it is the same "data" that is being delivered? Both have their own attributes that can be gained through their delivery. When we read a book, the written grammar gives us clues as to context of the information being presented. Authors arrange sentences, punctuation, paragraphs, typeface, for how they display to the human eye on a page. Most of this is subconscious code that we learn when we become literate. Audio books can convey some grammar, but not everything. On the other hand, audio books can provide tone, inflection, voice, sound and other items that you can't get from a printed page.

I wouldn't say I've read audio books. I think a lot of people want to say they read audio books because they are implying that there is some kind of value to reading versus listening. They don't have to be at odds with each other, but they shouldn't be lumped into the same thing. You don't have to be literate to enjoy an audio book. You don't have to have ears to enjoy reading a book.


message 22: by aldenoneil (new)

aldenoneil | 1000 comments But, in general conversation, it seems unnecessary to make that distinction."

Amen. I don't want to take the time to explain my method of consumption.

It seems to me what most people are saying is: sure, they're different, but the end result is much the same.

Come to think of it, though, I rarely talk to anybody I know about books I've read, audio or otherwise, so in my case it's all moot. Im'ma go watch something on the tube, er, panel.


message 23: by Vance (new)

Vance | 362 comments Yes, Andre, I agree that they are different experiences and, when in some way important, we should make that distinction. But, for me it is simply a matter of convenience not to have to use two different words. When someones asks if I ever read a particular book, I will not respond "no, but I listened to it". Likewise, if I am talking to a friend, I will say "hey, I just read this great book!" not "hey, I just listened to this great book!".


message 24: by Jared (new)

Jared (notthatjared) | 17 comments It's easy to quibble over semantics with a topic like this, so before I throw my two cents in, I'll say this:

Since "read" is in quotes, I'm going to assume that we're really talking about ingesting a work. Now, for the two cents...

When we read a work, our brains process the words and translates the syntax into concepts and ideas which we file away.

When listen to a work, our brains process the words and other aural information and translates those into concepts and ideas which we file away.

Point is, anyway we take in a work our brain turns it into something we understand, conceptualize and envision. So, yes listening to an audiobook 'counts as reading' it.
In fact, as I actually read, I hear myself reading the book aloud in my mind.

If I can connect with a work, how I ingest that work makes no difference to me.


message 25: by Vance (new)

Vance | 362 comments Jared said: "In fact, as I actually read, I hear myself reading the book aloud in my mind."

But, Jared, do you lips move? :0) I was in Barnes and Noble the other day and there was an adult sitting in a chair reading a book and she was mouthing every word. I honestly have never seen that before.


message 26: by Jared (new)

Jared (notthatjared) | 17 comments Vance wrote: "Jared said: "In fact, as I actually read, I hear myself reading the book aloud in my mind."

But, Jared, do you lips move? :0) I was in Barnes and Noble the other day and there was an adult sitti..."


Honestly? Sometimes they do! But I only if I'm REALLY into a book. And never in public ;)


message 27: by Vance (new)

Vance | 362 comments That is true, I could see myself getting SO into the story that it could happen!


message 28: by Andre (new)

Andre (andreb) | 34 comments Here is something to ponder. I bet most people would get the best of both worlds by doing both. It wouldn't surprise me if you tested students who read a book out-loud, that they retained more information than those that just read it, or just listened to it.

I'm sure somebody has done that experiment somewhere.

I did this once with a book in college, and I can still remember more about that book than anything I've read or listened to since.

It can be pretty awkward in public though. :)


message 29: by Vance (new)

Vance | 362 comments Andre, I think if you do it in public, it should be as a loud, dramatic reading! :0)


message 30: by Sandi (new)

Sandi (sandikal) | 1212 comments Andre wrote: "Here is something to ponder. I bet most people would get the best of both worlds by doing both. It wouldn't surprise me if you tested students who read a book out-loud, that they retained more in..."

I don't remember a single thing if I read out loud. It's like what I'm reading completely bypasses my brain. A better test might be to test students who read along to someone reading out loud.


message 31: by John (new)

John (jacor) When I'm reading a book I will sometimes read a sentence or paragraph aloud for the pleasure of hearing the words spoken. I think I've read a large portion of Terry Pratchett's Discworld books out loud to myself.


message 32: by Mike (last edited Oct 06, 2010 07:35PM) (new)

Mike (mikespencer) | 60 comments Yeah, I think you can say that you "read" it if you listen to the audiobook. Sure, perhaps the more correct phrase would be "listen to," but it's just semantics.

Either way, you are experiencing the full content. I don't listen to that many audiobooks myself (so darn expensive), but afterwords, I definitely feel like I've read the book. For me, that's more than close enough.


message 33: by Michael (new)

Michael Minutillo (wolfbyte) John wrote: "When I'm reading a book I will sometimes read a sentence or paragraph aloud for the pleasure of hearing the words spoken. I think I've read a large portion of Terry Pratchett's Discworld books out..."

Me too. In fact I'm finding myself do the same with the Princess Bride. There's a certain lyrical cadence to the style that just demands to be out loud. Reading it internally just isn't the same.


message 34: by Mike (new)

Mike Rentas (mikerentas) | 65 comments I used to think audiobooks should count as "reading", since you're getting the same story albeit in a different medium. Since reading e-book and paper versions of a number of volumes I'd previously listened to, I no longer consider that to be the case. It's a completely different experience, like reading a play instead of seeing it performed. You get much more detail and engagement when actually reading, you have more time to think about the content, the characters, etc, because you can pause and flip back a page or ten when something catches your attention. I also find that I tend to drift in and out of paying attention to audiobooks, particularly with long ones.

That said, I don't think audiobooks are bad, just different. They're entertaining in their own way. If I still drove to work rather than taking the subway, I can pretty much guarantee I'd still have a platinum audible account and plowing through several books a month.


message 35: by Alan (last edited Oct 09, 2010 07:04AM) (new)

Alan (professoralan) {edited for clarity} listening to the unabridged version = reading, as far as I'm concerned. You get the entire body of what the author desired to communicate to you, you are simply using a different sense to receive it.


message 36: by Dan (new)

Dan (daniel-san) | 101 comments Alan, I gather you meant "listening" rather than "unabridged". In that case, I agree. It's all about consuming the information, whatever the means. I would not tell a blind person they "felt" rather than read the braille version of Tom Sawyer, as another mentioned in another post. I imagine that if Prof. Farnsworth (Futurama) made a breakthrough with his smell-o-scope, we'd be smelling instead of reading. :)


message 37: by Sandi (last edited Oct 07, 2010 04:53PM) (new)

Sandi (sandikal) | 1212 comments I don't think the comparison to Braille holds water. When a person reads in Braille, they are doing the same thing with the fingers that a sighted person does with the eyes. They are putting letters into words, words into sentences and sentences into paragraphs. The reader is responsible for creating the inflections, emphases, and characterizations based on the words on the page and his/her own experiences. When one listens to a story, the narrator adds a level of interpretation that doesn't exist when one reads a book in text.

Listening to audiobooks is a valid way of consuming literature. I just can't consider it reading because of that extra level of interpretation. If a read a book to a pre-literate child, I cannot say that the child read the book. However, the child will get something out to the book, maybe more of a something than if he/she was able to read and read it his/herself.

It's that extra layer of interpretation that makes listening to a book different from reading it. There's no need to get defensive, both are valid ways of consuming literature.


message 38: by Don (new)

Don | 80 comments What a tempest! I work alone and listen to audiobooks every day. Sometimes I can't recall if I read it or listened to it. It gets jumbled up in my memory, unless it was a brilliant performance. I always used to say "I listened to the audiobook of..." It is tiresome. What does it matter? Unless I want to talk about some property of the recording, or the book cover or font.


message 39: by Michael (new)

Michael (michaelbetts) I agree with Sandi, and also the notion that we lack a good English word to mean, "to experience a work of literature." You can't read an audiobook, but the net result is a valid experience.


message 40: by Al (new)

Al | 159 comments Mike wrote: " You get much more detail and engagement when actually reading, you have more time to think about the content, the characters, etc, because you can pause and flip back a page or ten when something catches your attention. I also find that I tend to drift in and out of paying attention to audiobooks, particularly with long ones."

Interesting, with me it's almost precisely the opposite! I end up getting almost every word in audio but will frequently start skipping words, then paragraphs, then almost full pages when reading the print version.


message 41: by terpkristin (new)

terpkristin | 4211 comments Al wrote: "Interesting, with me it's almost precisely the opposite! I end up getting almost every word in audio but will frequently start skipping words, then paragraphs, then almost full pages when reading the print version. "

Same here, though I have found that there are some books I just can't listen to, and there are some books I just can't read in print.

But as to whether or not one can say they've really "read" the book, I'm going with yes, they can. Though it is a different sensory experience having a book read to you than reading the words on the page, in the end, both the reader and the listener have experienced the book. They know what happens. They can discuss events, plot, characters, etc.

I think humans are (generally) able to both read and be read to and get the experience of the book. Some find reading print works better for them (that their mind wanders when they listen) and some find listening works better (ability to shut the eyes and envision what's going on)--I find that for me, it depends on the book. It's not like music, where not everybody can do that. But some people can listen to music and virtually write out the sheet music for it, or those who can look at sheet music and sing/play on first sight.


message 42: by Tamahome (new)

Tamahome | 6393 comments I find I miss little bits when I listen to a book, because it's harder to backtrack (I never do), (and I'm probably driving), but I'm more likely to finish an audiobook, which keeps chugging on by itself.


message 43: by Hilary (new)

Hilary A (hilh) | 40 comments I generally find that if I listened to a book without first having read the text, I would space out, and the backtracking to get back to where ever it was that I stopped makes me so frustrated I stop listening to it in general. However, after reading the book, I am more likely to sit through the whole thing and enjoy it. It's almost like my ears get to go to the movies instead of my eyes.

Also, I'm more likely to skip parts of the book if I'm reading it past the first or second time. That's where I think the audiobook comes in handy - when I just feel like "urgh, don't want to read this part again".

Regardless, I feel strongly about not using audiobooks as a primary form of reading in schools. My english vastly improved because I was forced to read books versus having it read to me. It can, however, be an excellent supplement to teaching!


message 44: by Vance (new)

Vance | 362 comments On the relative benefits of the two, I would say that for developing reading skills when young, then the paper book is essential. BUT, the audiobooks have special advantages that my kids have greatly benefited from. Their pronunciation and inflection knowledge-base is enhanced by listening since they are not making it up on their own. How many times have you heard adults entirely mispronounce words or use the wrong inflection simply because they have never heard it spoken aloud correctly?

And, my kids are willing to listen to books they would never read, thus broadening their horizons. My daughter will listen to Jane Austen and Agatha Christie, but does not like reading them, for example. And my 11 year old son will listen to the Lord of the Rings, but has no interest in getting the books down.


message 45: by Mike (new)

Mike Basinger (technoviking) | 11 comments I believe listen to audiobooks can absolutely be called reading.


message 46: by Rick (new)

Rick Pasley (hikr3) | 71 comments Reading is not listening. Listening is not reading. Both are consuming information, but they are not interchangable. Reading is active, listening is passive. They are not the same. I say no, you are not reading when you are listening. To call the two the same thing is just wrong.


message 47: by Alexander (new)

Alexander Draganov (darthsparhawk) In my opinion, yes. And I disagree with comment of Rick. Listening to an audiobook is active, not passive, you must keep your focus. Actually it is tiresome for me, so I prefer good ol'reading.


message 48: by Kithkannan (new)

Kithkannan | 8 comments I'll agree with all the people who say that "read" is technically the wrong verb to use for audiobooks.

I'll also agree with all the people who say that there is usually no need to distinquish between the two in casual conversation (unless discussing this topic).

I'll agree with the people who say that listening to the unabridged versions of audiobooks provides a different experience that reading the text, and whether that is a better/worse experience entirely depends on both the work in question, and the consumer.

I also agree with the people who say that the reader of an audiobook can influence the content and context of a text to the point where what you are hearing is not what the author intended, but I would point out that this frequently happens when you read the text as well. each individual reader takes a work; processes it through their own mind, experience, and expectations; and then retains that processed version of the book (or in the case of an audiobook narraratior, regurgitates it).

I personally think that the best way to ensure that the story I retain is as close to the author's intent as possible, is to listen to audiobooks that are read, or directed, by the author as is the case with the growing market of podcast fiction (podiobooks).


message 49: by Kristen (new)

Kristen (aubi) | 14 comments I'm curious in what terms, given the limited range of this website, we should use to say we have completed an audiobook. Maybe I'm in the minority, but once I have completed my audiobook, I do consider it to have been "read". I'm not likely to go out and then actually read the book .. I've already experienced the story. I have kind of re-read a book in a series if it's been a while, but for the most part I am more likely just skimming through it rather then truly reading it.

Once I've listened to a story, I consider it read ..


message 50: by Philip (new)

Philip (heard03) | 383 comments In answer to the OP, yes. Why do some people seem so uptight on this issue? What is it to me if I have read a book with my eyes while someone else listened to the audiobook, and then we both say we have "read" it? The distinction is often tedious and unnecessary.

With the prominence of audiobooks in our culture, the definition of "read" needs to be expanded to include audiobooks. It's as if some people want audiobook listeners to apologize for not having consumed a book with their eyes- just goofy in my opinion.


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