Nathan Bransford is a literary agent for Curtis Brown who writes a very informative blog about the publishing world. Since that is a world I hope to one day break into, I tend to read his blog. Yesturday, Nathan posted a question that caused me to think. He asked, does listening to an audio book count as reading a book. The vote count came in almost dead even on the yes/no votes. I voted “yes” but as a verasious listener, my thoughts about audio books are more complex than most readers.
I currently listen to about twice as many books as I read. When a book comes out that I really want to read, I usually buy it in the paper form. But when I visit the library I don’t even look at the paper books and instead focus solely on the audio section. The popular best sellers are almost always checked out, so most of the books that I listen to fall into the classic literature sector. Listening to Jane Austin, Charles Dickens, and William Faukner is a slightly different experience than reading David Sedaras and J.K. Rowling. But both are enjoyable. I consider the books I’ve read and the books I’ve listened to the exact same way. If someone asks me if I’ve read any good books lately, I’m not going to disregard the books I’ve listened to when making a recomendation.
I think that my current ability to read has a lot to do with why I now think of listening the same way I think about reading. When I couldn’t read, and listening was the only literary outlet available to me, I knew that I was different. As a teenager, I would have described myself as “well read”. Most of my friends off in AP and Honors English would come to me for reading recomendations, and I think they probably would have admitted that I’d read more books than they had. But as I sludged through remedal English with the aid of my audio books, I knew I wasn’t actually reading. At that I’m I would have been more likely to say I hadn’t “read” any books, before addmitting that I didn’t know how to read.
The physical experience of listening to literature on fast forward while playing video games is very different from that of currling up on the couch with a well loved paperback. The information still enters your pscyche, it still penitrates the sole, but it gets there by a different path. My college roommate definately didn’t think I was reading. ‘Cause tetris wasn’t a part of her homework assignment.
I still remember listening to great books like “The Long Walk to Freedom”, “A Prayer For Owen Meeny” and “The Chosen” as a teenager. Those books became a part of me and filled me with hopes and desires. More than ten years later, I could still tell you not only the major plot points, but also the way I felt while I became a part of those stories. So did I read them? Or did I not know how to read?
What do you think? Does listening to an audio book count as reading? Or do illiterate idiots like me have to admit the truth and only say, “I heard a great book the other day, you might want to listen to it.”