Literary Debate: Does Listening to Audiobooks Count as Reading?

by Allison

Does listening to an audiobook count as reading?

It’s a question that has led to many a heated debate in the literary world. Can you say that you’ve “read” a book if you listened to it on road trip to Branson? Does reading a physical book have more benefits that simply listening to the words read aloud? Does an audiobook enhance the reading experience in ways books in print can’t?

The ladies at Literary Quicksand thought about these questions and are sharing our opinions with you. Just as in any group of people, our opinions vary and fall on both sides of the debate.

Make sure to check out our favorite audiobooks at the bottom of this post.

Joli: Oh, it totally counts! Chalk those suckers up as Read on your Goodreads! I am not an audiobook kind of woman – at least not at this point in my life – but I’ve tried, and I know that it takes so many hours of listening and concentrating on what you’re “reading”. It’s a book, just in a different format. So yes, it definitely counts! And I wish I could get into it, because it would be nice to have as an option. I just find myself not having enough quiet time to listen to them.

Aubrey: Yes. No more comment needed :).

Rachel: I’m ashamed to say I used to fall in the “No” camp, but I just recently started actually listening to audiobooks and now my answer is an enthusiastic “Yes!” I still think there’s nothing quite as satisfying as holding an actual book in your hands, but I love “reading” while driving, doing laundry, and running!

Rebecca: Absolutely! I can 100% understand why people would say it doesn’t count–you haven’t technically earned the right to say you’ve read it because you haven’t actually moved your eyes over the words; but I think that books are much more than just the physical pages. They’re the stories and the characters themselves. I think that as long as you have been immersed in the story (as the author wrote it, not just as a movie!), listening to the audiobook can be considered reading it. I think it’s a great way for people who struggle to find the time to sit down and read, or find reading the words on the page to be a bit of a chore, to enjoy an excellent book! Can you tell I’ve only recently entered into the world of audiobooks and might be a little bit obsessed? 🙂

Becky: I am inclined to say “No” because I am not moving my eyes across text and READING. However, I have become a big fan of audiobooks, and I feel like I can say I’ve read a book even if that meant I listened to it. I am careful to make sure my audiobooks  are unabridged, so I guess maybe that would be something I would consider criteria for having “read” the book?

Janna: Listening to audiobooks is definitely reading. Think about someone who’s visually impaired or a child reading with a parent or someone who struggles to read. Audiobooks open up books to so many more people! If you read a hardcover book and I listen to it, we can still have a full fledged conversation about it, and to me, that’s what matters.

Caleigh: So I really do like the audiobook experience, since I do a lot of driving to and from the farm. But here’s the thing: there are certain genres that I absolutely won’t choose the audiobook version of. In particular, I tend to select audiobooks written by famous people when they are also read aloud by those said actors/comedians/etc., as I find it adds some depth to the book. But a romance? Sci-Fi? Nope, I just won’t touch it. My imagination needs to run, and it does this best via written words. Obviously this is personal preference, but it leads me to my end opinion; while audiobooks technically “count”, I feel that they are often a cop-out (sorry guys, I know I’m going to be the dissenter here!) of sorts, from letting one’s creativity out in full bloom. Also, they speed up my reading consumption by so much that I kind of feel like I am cheating on my Goodreads challenge! Time to re-evaluate my 2018 goal I think…

Allison: I love audiobooks because they allow me to consume books while doing other things. I definitely feel that listening audiobooks counts as reading. You’re getting everything a physical book has to offer, just in a different way. Like Caleigh, there are certain types of books that I have a hard time listening to. It has to have the right narrator and right subject matter.

LQ’s favorite audiobooks:

Click on the image to read the synopsis of each title. All books are LQ approved! 

Join the debate. Tell us your thoughts on audiobooks in the comments below!

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Annette July 12, 2018 - 7:03 am

I love audiobooks and think listening to audiobooks counts as reading. I can indulge my favorite passions of reading and knitting at the same time. I have even recommended that people listen to my favorite series, the Amelia Peabody mysteries about a Victorian-era Egyptologist byEgyptologist Barbara Mertz (pen name Elizabeth Peters) rather than read them because the reader is so exceptional. I have read and listened to the series and preferred listening.

The only things I don’t listen to are non-fiction books containing photographs.

Katie July 19, 2018 - 10:16 am

If you had asked me this a year ago it would have been a firm NO. Now, I’m sitting on the fence. I’ve learned a lot in the past year about reading aloud and all the benefits it has for language development etc for children. So I can only imagine that listening to a book also has benefits as an adult. BUT there’s a couple reasons – for me – that it doesn’t count. I am a visual person. When my eyes are going over the words I’m taking everything in more than if I were to be hearing it. Also, when I’m reading a physical book, 100% of my attention is on that activity. I’m holding the book. I’m moving my eyes over the words. If I’m listening to a book and folding laundry, my mental effort is split. Even if folding laundry or doing dishes is almost mindless, it’s still a distraction to me. I easily zone out and miss parts of the story. That’s essentially why I’ve stopped listening to audiobooks. I can’t pay as much attention to them as I would like. So if I have to stop and focus on them, I may as well just pick up the book. Exceptions are favorite books I know and love – Jane Austen, Harry Potter etc. I can tune out and tune back in and totally be fine.

Allison July 19, 2018 - 11:52 am

That’s why I love this debate! People have valid reasons for their opinions on both sides of the argument. The most important thing is that you’re reading in the way that works best for YOU! That’s all that really matters.


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