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So Tell Me: Audiobooks Vs. Reading

When you listen to an audio book, do you consider the book read? How do you view the experience of the different formats? As an author or aspiring author, would you prefer readers to read your novel(s) in text as intended, or have you no preference?

I'm exceedingly curious about this, but I have to admit that I'm not a good candidate for the discussion. I generally don't listen to audiobooks. The few times I have, I found the experience surprisingly different. The book is usually read in a different rhythm than I would read it. I don't have the time to pause and speculate over things, feel the words, like I normally might. I can't study the structure, etc. It's certainly an enjoyable experience in that it brings other unique elements to the table but I can't bring myself to say I've read a book that I've only listened to on audio. For me, the experience is much more enjoyable if I've actually, physically read the book first.

Let's discuss! What are you thoughts and opinions?


C. N. Nevets said...

This is a toughie for me. As both an author and a some-time voice-actor, I feel a link to each medium. As a consumer, I think it depends on the book and the reader/performers.

For instance, I find Piers Anthony incredibly difficult to read off the page. On the other hand, the unabridged audio-adaptations of his Incarnations of Immortality, melt into my ear and my imagination like sugary butter.

On the other hand, I love reading Jack Higgins and Michael Crichton, but have yet to enjoy an audiobook adaptation of their works.

I know several librarians and book-o-philes will call me a heretic, but I consider a book read when I feel I have been able to absorb it and relate to the materials as I think the author intended me to. Vague? Probably. But it's all I've got.

As an author? Forget it. If I don't read my own audio adaptations, it's never happening.



Trisha Pearson said...

I seem to have ADD issues or something when it comes to audio books. I bought one two months ago, put it on my iPod and I haven't made it through Chapter 2. I keep having to start over because I stop paying attention. I personally would never say I've read a book unless I actually READ the book because I know I don't absorb half of what I hear.

I envy those of you that can use audio books. It would be so awesome to "read" while doing other things. (sigh)

Nora MacFarlane said...

The only time I listen to audio books is if I have a long car trip to endure. I can't read in the car without feeling ill. I'm a captive audience while traveling, so my attention doesn't waver from the audio book. However, if I tried to listen to one at home I'd never be able to follow the story. Too many distractions!

Casey Something said...

Interesting perspective, Nevets. The words are certainly still "taken in" in either form but it seems so different from reading to me. It's definitely a very subjective thing!

Thanks for chiming in, Trisha! I agree. There's too much room to get distracted with audiobooks. It just doesn't get fully absorbed the same way. That probably has a lot to do with my experience with audiobooks as well.

Same here, Nora. I can't read in the car. If I did more traveling, I'd probably be much more interested in audiobooks!

C. N. Nevets said...

Yeah, it's very subjective. I'm very much a non-visual learner, so I actually get more distracted sometimes when I'm reading. I can absorb the audio a lot better many times.

It's not literally reading, but I know if I were the author, and someone else were getting the same thing out of listening to my book, I would count them as a reader.

There are still some books I think of as having read with my mom and dad, even though I never set eyes to their pages.

Unknown said...

I have an auditory perception disability, so I have had very limited success with audiobooks. I've had to learn to live with my situation, obviously, so I'm thinking about giving audiobooks another try after many years. I'm kind of doubtful, but it's probably safer than reading while I drive (I kid, I don't really do that ... much as I might like to :-))

Casey Something said...

Good point about readers, Nevets. I suppose if they're still getting what you intended and supporting you as a writer, it's same-same from an author's perspective.

I stills say it's definitely different from the reader's perspective though.

Lol - KLo! Wouldn't it be great if we could read while driving? I guess audiobooks kind of do give us that option, huh? I hope it works out for you when you give it another again.

Heather Hansen said...

When you listen to an audio book, do you consider the book read? No. Nonetheless, I find it enjoyable. :D

How do you view the experience of the different formats? The only time I listen to audiobooks is when I’m taking a vacation where there is a lot of driving involved. It’s a different experience because it’s a community one. Everyone in the car participates in the “listening.” I find that fun. Especially since it starts interesting conversations.

As an author or aspiring author, would you prefer readers to read your novel(s) in text as intended, or have you no preference?No preference at all. I would say, though, that I’d want a person who had an awesome voice to read it. ha.

Oh, and, always remove your audiobooks before you set your iPod on shuffle. It totally sucks to be grooving out and then hit a random chapter. Hahahahaha.

C. N. Nevets said...

That's so funny that you say that, Heather. Just yesterday my wife and I were driving in the car, listening to music on on her iPod, on shuffle, and suddenly...

Chapter 14 of a Cat Who... book she had on there.


PJ Hoover said...

I've been listening to audiobooks for almost eight years now regularly. Some read very well. others not so much. Actually I plan to do a blog post on it at some time in the near future, so I'll save my comments for them!

Casey Something said...

Thanks for your thoughts, Heather. Reliving a story I love in a different format is a treat. And I think I could enjoy a story I haven't read, if it's not something I'm going to want/need to analyze. I think I'd like to listen with others, too. I haven't really done that. I could see Jesse and me enjoying an audiobook on a long drive.

Can't wait to read your post, PJ!

Anonymous said...

I consider every audiobook that I've ever listened to read. I totally agree with people saying that reading is a different process. No doubt about that. You get more information and experience a lot more when actually reading a book. But detailed analysis of every word or every sentence is not really that important to me. For me reading or listening to a book is all about grasping the main message of the book, about looking on the world with the eyes of the heroes of the book. The style or the way the author uses the language rather, is also very important to me.

A friend of mine, who is a 3rd year English philology student, is of opinion that it is impossible to grasp neither style, nor sentence structure, nor even the message of the book while listening to it. I must say that I respectfully disagree. This is definitely harder for some people, but is just as clear to me that it is easy for others, me being the living example.

I wouldn't like to gloat, but nevertheless, I'm glad that I can absorb enough of the book to feel I've read it. Listening to audiobooks is definitely not for everybody, but I would just like to advise not to give audiobooks up as a bad idea just because your friend says so. Give it try, just get yourself an audio version of your favorite book or try a completely new book that you've never read before. Try getting a book that you never have time or patience to actually read. If nothing else, you will know what the book is about, the general style of the author's writing. The only thing is get a book read by a good studio or a good cast of professionals. You really don't want you first audiobook to be read to you by a kid, which was recorded on his home computer.

Anonymous said...

Audio books would work well for the blind and the dyslexic. Or people who have trouble reading.

If you can read well then either reading or listening can work. You can listen to the audio while reading.

As you read you get better with reading overtime.
It's good to keep on reading so that you can read easily.
You can take a speed reading course.

You shouldn't rush reading. When your rush it, you wont enjoy it.

Large book are not make to be read in one sitting. You should stop and take breaks periodically.

When you feel that you can't handle any more reading then stop.