Is an “Audio Book” a book?
In our recent discussion about The Essence of a Book we determined there is a special beauty in a book that can only beheld between your hands.

I realize Audio Books and “books on tape” are invaluable to the Blind
and are also a wonderful way for them to access books that are not
printed in Braille.
But for the rest of us… if you hear a book instead of reading it,
have you actually read the book?

Does the sound of a voice that is not created in your head skew the
intention of the author because of the way the performer reads the book
to you aloud? Where is your involvement in the interpretation of the
words and phrasing if that part of the reading experience is already
being done for you?

I know people who listen to Audio Books while driving to work. I have a
hard time understanding how that is a profitable way to “read” a book
because, for me anyway, reading a book takes entire body involvement
and tremendous concentration on the words to discern meaning. I must
forcibly engage all five senses.

Listening to an Audio Book while doing something else is as if you
never intended to make the book a whole part of you. Why bother?
If an Audio Book isn’t a book, what is it? Radio?


  1. I checked out a science-fiction audio book to listen while I was driving for work.
    I enjoyed listening, but the experience wasn’t the same as sitting someplace and spending quality time with a book.
    You can’t (or shouldn’t) concentrate much on listening to the audio book while accomplishing your driving duties — especially in my area where there is endless road construction, jersey barriers, new lane configurations, toll plazas, traffic jams, and all sorts of road hazards.
    Plus, hearing someone’s voice sometimes distracts me from the story. I’d rather hear my own inner voice as the narrator because it doesn’t get in the way of my imagination.

  2. Right, Chris!
    If you’re going to give yourself time to read a book — why not read a book instead of listening to one?
    I think people who prefer to listen to reading are those who prefer to be told what to think instead of taking the time to blaze their own path.
    Yes, reading is an exploration of your imagination. Listening is an exploration of someone else’s imagination.

  3. Hi Nicola!
    I like it we have so many “real book” lovers! It reconfirms my belief that only genius people put up comments here!
    It’s great to hear from you over the weekend!

  4. I shall take that as a compliment !
    I should be working, but a change of plan means freedom to catch up on blogging. I tend to be busier at weekends than in the week most of the time.

  5. Hi Nicola!
    I’m so glad you were able to pop in here over the weekend.
    Based on the lack of comments on weekends compared to the work week — it’s beginning to look again like we aren’t being as actively read on the weekends as during the week by a wide margin.
    It might be best, from a time and tide perspective, to just publish during the work week when, curiously enough, more people have time to comment!

  6. I thnk it might be a summer holiday/weekend thing. More people are outside , with family , on holiday etc etc
    A quick look at my stats shows me that Sundays in particular are light on traffic at the moment.
    I wonder how many people surf at work ?

  7. Hi Nicola —
    Yes, the weekends are pretty dead here, too. That’s rough because it takes just as much blog babysitting on my end to reply to comments on a dead day as it does on a busy one.
    I think most of our weekday traffic comes from people at work. That’s the feeling I have from the IP addresses anyway.

  8. I must say I am impressed about how quickly you do reply – and at the depth of the replies too – it must be very time consuming.
    Personally I only reply if I feel I can contribute – sometimes the subjects are beyond me.
    e.g the ultra techie posts go woosh right over my head – and I have to confess to being totally out of my depth on the shooting and gun crime posts as well. Thankfully that is totally alien to me.

  9. It is a commitment to run the blog the way this blog runs, Nicloa and I’m glad someone like you gets that because many folks do not.
    It is my goal to respond to every honest effort at a comment. Usually that works out well with my writing schedule because I’m here working, I always love a small break to clear my mind and post a comment or two, and then back at the business of the day.
    Without commenters, though, the workday can get rather long and tedious!
    So this blog only works because of those who choose to comment.
    I understand we talk about lots of different things here — and the danger in that is losing comments from keen people like you who may feel left out of the topic for the day.
    It would probably be smarter and more reliable if the topics here were just only about The Urban Core all day every day. Then you’d have readers who were really interested in that topic and that would be that and you’d have your core comments and the blog runs itself.
    This blog has a great commenters core but we also lose people who obviously pop in for a topic that may run a few days and then we never see them again. That’s always a little disappointing. The more minds, the merrier!
    I’m a bit of a polymath so I have many wild interests and I just can’t write about The Urban Core every day because it would emotionally take too much out of me.
    I like the wild posts we sometimes have here and I look forward to the unexpected turns the comments usually take every day. It all helps keep the mind sharp and the boredom at bay and you always learn something new.

  10. Dont change a thing – please. I always enjoy reading, even if I dont always comment and whatever tangent you chose to go off on!
    What I particularly like is that you write from the urban core – and I write from the equivalent of the *boonies* ( where the buses dont run) – and that some core values remain the same.

  11. Hi Nicola!
    Okay, thanks for the feedback! When I get comments from smart people like you who say some of the topics “woosh” then I begin to get concerned we aren’t communicating on an appropriate and accessible level for our readership.
    If there’s something that “wooshes” but catches your imagination — ask a question or something because there are others out there who are probably wondering the same thing but are too timid to step forward to say anything.
    I agree the magic about us all is that there really isn’t much of a difference between the urban core and the ‘burbs — it’s the density of the people that change — not the moral or social fabric of what we believe makes us human. That’s what I’ve learned so far…

  12. I tend to listen to audio books only on long car journeys, when I know I can play the whole book in one sitting.
    While I don’t enjoy them as much as actually sitting down with the physical book in my hand I do find it a good way to “read” something that has perhaps been on my “to read” list for a while (note that this list is pretty substantial and if I live to 100 I doubt I’ll get to the end. Mainly because it’s growing faster than I can read!)
    I’ve had mixed experiences. A competant speaker with a pleasant voice can enhance the experience. I now try to avoid any book which may have regional accents in though – just in case the narrator decides they are going to attempt them!
    Several times I have listened to the book and then gone out and bought it to add to my bedside reading pile 😉

  13. Thanks for that insight, Mike. I still don’t know how an Audio Book can be successfully retained — but I believe you were able to manage it!

  14. Hi David,
    I wish I had gotten back into this topic over the weekend. I was running around like everyone else was.
    My stats for my other blogs are down on the weekends this summer. If I look at a graph for 30 days, I can see the peaks are during the week and the valleys are the weekends.
    People have more time and access when they are at their desks during the day because they can pop in and out while they are working.
    I also noticed that my stats went down when students went home for the summer. I wonder if some people lose their internet access when they are away from school. School is starting up soon, so I’ll see if my stats climb as everyone re-connects.

  15. Hi Chris!
    Thanks for sharing your stats with us!
    Yeah, I guess you just keep publishing every day with the angle on getting indexed, searched and returned later in the search engines if you don’t get immediate comments.
    You’re right about the students. I think at school they have a superfast connection while at home they are busy doing stuff and may not have such a speedy connection — so they get online to do email and then jump off.

  16. Audio books can be a great tool for people who are learning to read and may not have anyone to help them (ie. the child of new immigrant parents). Hopefully they develop a passion for the written word and can quickly wean themselves from this habit. What may be more detrimental to those who already lack imagination is relying on the movie interpretation of a book (I’ve seen people do this for book reports when I was in school).

  17. Addendum to the audio books being a great tool, one would need to have the “real” book and try to read along with the recording.
    I had this in my early childhood (about 4-5 yrs old). My parents barely spoke English. And when I tried to read all the words appeared jumbled unless I held the book upside down (possibly dyslexia).

  18. What do you think of translations? They too depend on the interpretation of an outsider. And when one reads translated material, are our views not skewed by our own cultural biases?
    I also wonder if a sighted person who would experience a book in braille differently than a blind person? The human brain is a marvel and it would be interesting to find out how the senses affect how it gets into one’s head.

  19. Hi A S —
    I think translated versions are a necessary evil if you don’t understand the native language of the book. With a book written in English and then performed in English as an Audio Book I think the onus for the reader is to read the book first and then entertain secondary translations like the Audio version.
    I wonder if enjoyment of a book in Braille depends upon when the person became blind? I’m pretty certain a blind-from-birth person “reading” a book in Braille has a similar experience to a sighted person reading a printed page in a book.

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