People are such fucking snobs when it comes to audiobooks, and I just don’t get it.
Recently I was
procrastinating heavily doing important author research by watching an old episode of The Book Club where one of the guests confessed that he’d read one of the assigned books as an audiobook. It was like the air had gone out of the room for a moment…and then the attacks began.
He was accused of being a child, told that you can’t possibly read a serious literary piece of art in any medium other than on the page, and just generally ridiculed. Basically, the episode devolved into a pile of wank.
They’re exactly the same words in exactly the same order. What difference does it make if the ideas enter your mind through your eyes or through your ears?
Now I don’t read exclusively audiobooks. I read a combination of audio, print and ebooks, with different formats for different stories and sometimes multiple formats for the same story. But I have to tell you, audiobooks are great. Even if we ignore the obvious advantages of audiobooks for people who have trouble reading traditional words-on-pages for a variety of reasons, they definitely still have a place in everyone’s library.
The experience of hearing a memoir read aloud by its writer brings a new dimension to the story that you just don’t get with a book. Hearing the emotion, the laughter, the heartbreak of the author makes the words that much more moving.
The ability to listen to a business book while commuting, exercising, or doing the housework means you can read and learn in situations where you couldn’t just pick up a hard copy. People can read more this way. You can even speed up the narration and get through the book faster.
Crime fiction, comedy, self-help – all perfect things to listen to as audiobooks, and you know what? If the narrator is good, anything can be read as an audiobook.
And yes, it counts as reading, because – at the risk of repeating myself – why does it matter if the words come in through your eyes or through your ears?
People don’t react this way to other media, do they? No, you MUST read a blog post. Podcasts are just not hard enough. Radio? Pfft. Pick up a newspaper or the information isn’t valid! It’s ridiculous. Would you say that if someone had read a book in braille then they hadn’t really read the book?
Why are audiobooks treated as inferior when they make reading more accessible?
Part of me wonders if that’s the very reason people don’t like audiobooks. Up until now, the ‘readers’ have been their own esoteric club, and they don’t like the idea of letting in the riff-raff. Why? What is this competitive nerd culture? Well, if you listen to audiobooks you’re not a real reader. If you play Nintendo DS you’re not a real gamer. If you didn’t like that band before they got famous, you’re not a real fan.
Stop being snobs. Stop being wankers. The more people who read books, in whatever medium, the better it is for authors. If authors are earning more money, they will put out more books, and that’s better for everyone. Start being inclusive. Welcome more people into your club. Talk to people about books. Maybe give audiobooks a go. At the very least, let go of your archaic notions of what a ‘real’ reader does.
There’s no need to be so fucking pretentious.
Clare Kauter is a writer, editor, blogger and book junkie always looking for her next fix. She also has a pretty sweet book necklace. But she can wear it and listen to audiobooks at the same time because she’s not a dick.
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