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Is Listening to Audiobooks Just as Good as Reading? A Writer’s Perspective

Reading books is one of the most important aspects of becoming a writer. It’s one of the most common tips given, just after “write a lot.” But does listening to audiobooks really count as reading? This is a great question and in my opinion the answer is ABSOLUTELY YES! Of course, as with everything, there are pros and cons to listening to books rather than reading them, but we’ll get into that. Here we go…

My #1 justification for listening to audiobooks is just as good as reading is that storytelling has been auditory tradition a lot longer than it has been a written tradition. I mean it hasn’t really been until the last century that a majority of people to even read. There are many great truths to life that have been lost to the world because certain cultures only maintained an oral tradition.

Justification #2: If you think about it, in most people’s experiences, our very first introduction to books and reading is listening to an adult read us a story as a child. To be honest, I don’t remember what my first book was; but I can certainly say that my mother probably does because she was the one who read it to me. As children, until we learn to read on our own, we have others reading for us. So, there’s no reason why listening to books through out your life it makes reading any different.

Justification #3: Audiobooks saved my life in high school and college literature classes. Some students survived using “CliffNotes” and I survived by listening to audiobooks – at least then I could come to my own conclusions about the reading.

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An Personal Story

A funny story about this is … one day in college, I was sitting in a comfy, living room chair in  reading and listening to Jane Eyre (when I was in school I often followed along in the reading as I listened) and my roommate asked me, “How can you stand to listen to that book instead of reading it? I’d go insane.” I looked up at her, feeling a little envious that she’d be able to finish Jane Eyre in probably a half of the time I ever could imagine, and replied, “The narrator reads it out loud faster than I can read it in my head.” I think my roommate was a little embarrassed for me too at that point and left me to my listening.

This is a sad story but true and unfortunately it’s still true for me today. My dyslexic brain really doesn’t allow me to read very fast. If I don’t read every word of whatever I’m reading strange things happen. I also have a very active imagination so I could make things up that aren’t even written down if I’m not careful. It’s quite a challenge when you think about the fact that you really should do a lot of reading if you want to be a good writer. So, I content myself with the realization that I am who I am and have found certain ways of working around my weaknesses. I do have to admit that listening to audiobooks has certainly improved my auditory learning skills.

Don’t get me wrong, I still read books; it just takes me longer to do it and now a days I don’t have as much time to sit and read as I used to. Which brings me to another reason for why I love audiobooks. They allow me to finish stories in almost the same amount of time as a collage level reader. Yay! Almost. 😉

“How?” you may ask.

Well, I listen to audiobooks all the time! My iPod is filled with more audiobooks than music. Now that I don’t have access to a proper Public Library, audible.com has become my new best friend. I listen to audiobooks while I do chores. while I cook, while I sweep the floors, while I take a walk, while I go shopping, while I’m driving, while I’m washing the dishes, while I’m gardening, while I’m waiting at the doctor’s office; the possibilities are seriously endless. Any time I’m not explicitly doing something that requires my 100% concentration or having to interact with another human being, I’m usually listening to an audiobook.

Listening to audiobooks is what allows me to read just as much as my friends who can read a 200 page novel in an afternoon. For example, Winter Book 4 of the Lunar Chronicles has a listening time of 23 hrs and 30 min and I finished listening to it in three days while also getting other life things completed as well. Audiobooks are great for multitasking. And of course if I’m really obsessed with a book, my alone time will be spent sitting and listening and sometimes reading along or staring out the window instead of watching TV.

Also, if I love a book enough, I will buy the book for study. There’s nothing like having a book to read when you want to study the story. It’s one thing to listen to the words and another to see the words on the page, see first hand how the sentences are constructed or see how transitions are dealt with. For example, I love George Guidall as a narrator (though my all time favorite narrator is Jim Dale who narrates the Harry Potter series). My most recent listen of his was The Golem and the Jinni. I loved the story idea and enjoyed the storytelling, but the transitions between scenes was terrible and extremely off-putting. There was no way around it due to the way the story was physically written, which only had an extra paragraph break between the scenes. Of course I didn’t know that until I looked at a free copy of the first two chapters of the ebook.

Listening to Audiobooks

Potential Downsides to Listening to Audiobooks

One downside of listening to audiobooks is that if the author’s writing isn’t very good, it’s so much more obvious when it’s read aloud versus if someone reads your story in their mind. If there isn’t a lot of variations in your sentences or if the flow is awkward, a narrator will make that a lot more obvious to your audience. A reader easily skips sections or fills in the blank. If there are too many short sentences or too many long sentences the listener will most likely notice and potentially stop the book or lulled to asleep. This is something to be aware of as a writer looking to open the market of their story to listeners.

Another downside of listening to audiobooks is that if the narrator isn’t good it could destroy your story. I’ve suffered through some pretty terrible narrators because I had faith in the story, but I’ve also given up on stories that had terrible narrators. Some people just don’t have good recording voices. But as an author you have to ask yourself if the problem is the person who’s reading your story aloud or if it’s the previous pitfall and it’s really your writing. As a reader/listener it’s hard to tell sometimes. 😉

For me, as a book blogger, the main downside of listening to audiobooks and being audiobook dependent is that I don’t always review the newest books unless the author is already popular enough to have a produced audiobook. And I miss out, and in turn you miss out, on a lot of the new and brilliant independent writers who are out there. I haven’t quite found the right reading software to do the reading for me yet. Anyone have any good suggestions?

Read On

Honestly, I’m a big fan of story. When I read, watch, or listen to a story that’s what I’m interested in. I want to be swept away by character and plot and then I’ll look at the details of how a scene was constructed or a sentence was written. Some people enjoy writing for the sake of words; but for me, words are the tool that I use to express myself. I try to use words and structure as efficiently and vividly as possible to convey my ideas and hopefully inspire some emotion in you, my reader. Sometimes I succeed and other times I don’t. All I can do is my best and hope all turns out.

Listening to audiobooks helps me fulfill my need to read extensively. It drops me into more stories and still allows me time to contemplate story content. I highly recommend audiobooks and hope that you could enjoy them as much as I do.

So what’s your opinion? Do you enjoy reading or listening? Either way storytelling is awesome and experiencing it in whatever way you can is key.

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