Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Listen Up: Thoughts on AudioBooks

This weekend, I drove up to Michigan and I was faced with a last minute dilemma. My car, a 94 Buick Skylark that I bought off an old lady, does not have a CD player and my MP3 player was broken. Knowing I couldn't bear even an hour with just the radio or, heaven forbid, silence, I stopped at the library to pick up an audio book.

Over the past year there has been much discussion about whether or not listening to a book is actually considered reading. Personally, I have harbored a slight bias when people tell me they listened to a book, didn't actually read it. I thought of them like the kids in high school who bought the Cliff Notes and was reminded of a certain Seinfeld episode. But as I drove and listened to my audio book, I was thinking how much better it was than listening to music and, how much "reading" I could accomplish by listening to books in the car instead of NPR or crappy pop music. I think this is the mentality of most audio book listeners, that they can multi-task.

My step-mom, an AVID audio book listener, mentioned that in book groups, participants were not allowed to listened to the books, that they were specifically told they must read them. At first, I found myself nodding in agreement, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized how silly that was. Stories began as an oral tradition, long before written words and bound books. In writing workshops, pieces are read aloud to catch any snags in dialogue or awkward sentences. We go to hear authors read from their books, longing to hear the voice behind the words. So why all the uproar about listening to books?

Me, personally, I would rather read than listen. Audio books don't compare to the feeling I get sitting with a book in my lap and turning the page. And to be honest, since my Michigan trip, I have not resumed listening to the book. But that's me, and now I do not judge those who prefer audio books. While there are many differences between the two mediums, I do not believe one is superior to the other. Anyone disagree? I'd love to hear people's thoughts on this.

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