In a previous article — Audio Books: Is Hearing Reading? — we asked aloud if listening to a book with your ears provided an identical experience as reading one with your eyes.

Today, I ask you this question:
Do Books Create Sound?
I’m not talking about the purposeful sounds described in text on the
page by the author — I am talking about the legitimate, indigenous,
sound a book creates — or not — inside your head as you read and add
your own measure of imagination and wonderment to the experience of
reading the book.
Is sound created in the painting below? If yes, how is that possible?

Do we learn to hear or are we born with the ability to hear in all circumstances?

Do we hear only with our ears or do our bodies and our eyes hear as well?

If you believe books create sound, where is that sound found?

What creates the environment out of the echo?

If books create sound — does that mean the Deaf are
able to “hear” those sounds as well? Is reading then a remedy for the
Deaf and Hearing impaired?


  1. Hi David!
    I think our eyes hear too, in its own way.
    Yes, there are sound in the painting that you referred to, but the interpretation will be different.
    Those who are familiar with the sounds in reality will relate the painting with life, those who are not – they will imagine.
    Every form of art leaves room for imagination!

  2. The power of an audio book relies on the talent of the reader. I enjoy Leo McKern reading John Mortimer as much as I do the print version of Mortimer’s books. The production of audio books has become more polished, the sound quality terrific and good actors are serving as narrators.
    It is a market with a bright future, methinks, especially with the proliferation of podcasting, etc.

  3. Katha!
    You’re at the core of my wondering. I agree when we read we all hear different sounds and voices in our head that are unspoken — so how does that experience change meaning and context in the the reading?
    We read the word “dog” and we both know what the word means without image and without sound — but when our minds “fill in the musical sound gaps” while reading — how can we share the same experience of the same book?
    Does sound add a richness than cannot be universally quantified as, as a author, how do you respond to that reality?

  4. Welcome to Urban Semiotic, Cliff, and thanks for the comment!
    As I argue in my other piece, I am not a fan of audio books. They ruin the reading for me much as music videos ruin songs by clamping down semiotics and imagination into a single, repeatable, rut.
    That doesn’t mean audio books won’t be big, though, but I personally prefer to “perform” and “voice” the books I read. If we must have audio books then I always prefer the author reading their own work aloud — that provides much more insight and magic than a hired hand.

  5. Hi David,
    Interesting question and tough as usual!
    I think “sound adding richness” to the context is situation specific.
    We both are familiar with the word “dog” in the same way.
    Those who are not familiar with the “sound” probably would imagine the barking image of it, and I guess the void will not be there – as they were not familiar with it.
    Sound makes the context richer only you are familiar with it – I guess.
    How much I miss these sessions! 🙁

  6. Katha!
    I miss you, too! I hope things are going well and you will soon be able to return to us! 😀
    Do you think these created sounds in books we place there are audible to the Deaf? Must one first experience heard sound with the ears before it can be created from text in the mind?

  7. Do books create sound? I think it depends on the reader. For me personally, yes, books DO create sound. When I read, my mind is speaking those words and creating images that go along with the words flowing on the pages, till I almost feel as though I’m right there in the story. I find I don’t get the same “effect” so to speak, from an audio book, and that is why I’m not a huge fan of them.

  8. Thanks for the keen answer, Dawn, and I appreciate you sharing the intimate process of your reading with us. I agree we all “read it out loud” in our head and it is that “voice” that churns all the voids and spaces the author cannot possibly fill.

  9. Yes, I will be back!
    I left a part of my life in that other side of the globe, left some things half done – will have to complete it.
    I think it is important for a “hearing person” to listen to the sounds to describe it to the “hearing people”.
    I think those who are unable to hear they have a way to imagine it – I am not sure how they will describe it if they are not familiar with the sound.

  10. I can’t wait to have you back, Katha! 😀
    You describe the hearing/deaf conundrum well in your analysis of the problem! I will have to think on this some more!

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