This is the hill I’m willing to die on: audiobooks are book-books.
Every now and again on Twitter, I’ll see friends of mine reacting to a viral tweet in which some idiotic blowhard claims that audiobooks are cheating.
It’s always a lot to unpack. First of all, reading is not a competition, which precludes the possibility of cheating. In fact, if these naysayers want to get technical, audiobooks (or at least their predecessors) are older than print books. Before the printed word existed, stories were passed down orally from one generation to the next. This is why policing what counts or doesn’t count as “reading” makes no sense to me.
My own relationship with audiobooks had a fraught beginning. As someone who has ADHD, let’s just say my attention varies. Sometimes, I can focus on the same thing for hours at a time and at other times, I struggle to stay with one task for more than two or three sequential minutes.
That said, I never liked audiobooks as a child. I preferred print. Now, part of this can be chalked up to access. Every other child who grew up in the early aughts knows how difficult it was to follow along with the audiobook narrators chosen to spin the yarns on the infamous classroom cassette player.
The other part has to do with the way my brain operates. You see, no one ever told me that to really enjoy an audiobook, you have to have (A) a good narrator; and (B) be able to adjust your “ear reading” speed to more closely match your “eye reading” speed. Now before I make anyone angry, I am speaking of my own personal experience. That’s just the way it works for me.
Because of the way my brain works, I can’t listen to audiobooks on CD. I’ve tried it. For a long time, I said audiobooks weren’t for me because I’d only ever tried them on CD (or cassette). Even my first tentative forays into digital audiobooks were challenging. Once I figured out how much adjusting my listening speed heightened the pleasure of the experience, I was hooked.
The first audiobook I listened to (and enjoyed) was Born With Teeth, the dazzling memoir by Kate Mulgrew (of Star Trek and Orange is the New Black fame). Kate Mulgrew showed me how audiobooks are an art form all their own, and that a story well told is its own reward.
Now, audiobooks are part of my everyday life. I have an Audible account, but there’s no way I could afford every single audiobook I want to listen to, so I use OverDrive. With OverDrive, you can access thousands of ebooks, digital audiobooks, and other media with your public library card. Since OverDrive simply takes back your borrowed items when they’re due, you never have to worry about late fees or replacement costs.
Now, every time I see someone dissing audiobooks on my timeline, I’m quick to join the fray. Stories are stories are stories, and books are books are books. So, whether you’re reading a favorite paperback in bed, on your phone at the airport, on your Kindle at the beach, or in your car as you drive down a lone stretch of highway, you are a reader. You are valid. Read (and listen) on.
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