Do audiobooks count as reading?


“Say what?!?”


“Yes what?”

Just, yes.

“Okay, back up, I’m going to need a little more explanation.”

Does listening to audiobooks count as reading?

Do audiobooks count as reading?

Yes, it sure does.

Now before you flood my comments with arguments let’s break this discussion down.

The Literal Meaning of the Question

I’m going to entertain the argumentative folks out there for a minute.

You know the type. Those folks who know what you really mean, but decide to play Devil’s advocate for the fun of it.

Yeah, I’m talking to you.

Let’s dissect the question again, thinking about it literally.

“Do audiobooks count as reading?”

Two words in that question are important here.

The first is the word “audio” and the second is the word “read.”

Can you read audio?

Well…no. No you cannot.

You can read the subtitles of your favorite music video, but that still implies a medium that is visual.

Strictly speaking, audio cannot be read.

Are you happy now?

Do you feel vindicated in some way that your hyper analytical and argumentative response has somehow been validated?

Ah, but you’ve forgot one very important thing:

The presence of a third word in that question that is crucial to our interpretation. That’s the word “book.”

When finishing an audiobook you are finishing a book.

Let’s say we forget about that word for a minute and instead turn the discussion back in your favor.

Say the question were: “Does listening to a movie count as watching it?”

This is a question that perhaps seems a little more obvious. The answer would be no. You didn’t watch it. The primary medium of a movie is visual as is the implication of the word “watch.” So to only listen would not be watching.

Thus it’s the same with listening to a book, whose primary medium is paper which needs to be read.

The Intent of the Question

But let’s be real people.

What’s the intent of the question “Do audiobooks count as reading?”

Is the intent to dissect phraseology and deep dive into the etymology of words?

No! Of course not.

What, then, is the intent of the question?

The asker wants to know if their audiobooks counts towards a reading goal, likely for Goodreads or some other similar challenge.

If you’ve read 5 paperbacks and listened to 6 audiobooks, have you read 5 books or 11 books?

The answer should be obvious, but let’s keep entertaining the critics among us.

What is a book?

It’s a gripping tale of a protagonist tangled up in an epic struggle against the antagonist and the journey that takes that character from Point A to Point B.

This could take place in many forms like a warrior who set out to dethrone the king or it could be a drunk’s internal battle with addiction.

The question then becomes, does the mode of your absorption of the story change the story?

Will reading the physical copy of the audiobook you just finished change what happened.

The answer is an unequivocal: No!

No one can refute that. Unless it’s a magic book like the moving portraits in Harry Potter, no matter how you read it, when you read it, the story will always be the same.

So do audiobooks count as reading?

They absolutely do.

The Underlying Issue of the Question

But the discussion doesn’t end there.

Will listening to an audiobook provide you with a different experience than reading it? And thereby is fundamentally different and apart from reading?

Well, the answer to that question is also yes.

Listening to an audiobook and reading the physical book are different.

Not just in medium, but in experience.

When you read a book, you create the voices of the characters, you interpret inflection, and you control the pace.

But when you listen to the audiobook, you relinquish all of those things and are subjected to the interpretation of the narrator.

No, not the interpretation of the author, but the narrator.

This provides a wholly different interaction with the same book.

I’ve done a lot of back and forth reading. What I mean by this is that I’ll listen to the audiobook during my commute to work in the car, but I’ll switch to the ebook on my lunch break or during my nightly reading time at home.

I’ve found that when I read a book, I tend to skip sections in an effort to keep the story flowing, only to find that I’ve skipped too much and have to read back a paragraph or two to see what I missed.

But an audiobook forces me to listen to every single word. It might be slower, but it restricts my tendency to skip.

But I also find that with audiobooks, I can’t see the spelling of names or places and as a result it becomes harder for me to remember names or to spatially associate them.

So, yes, the experiences are different.

Do audiobooks count as reading?

If you’re keeping score, out of the three aspects of the question: “Do audiobooks count as reading?” there are two points for “No” and only one point for “Yes.”

Why then did I start off by saying the answer to the question is yes?

Well because user intent trumps everything.

The asker does not care about experiences or grammar. They care about whether it counts.

Yes, it counts.

You finished the story.

Whether that story was read or listened to makes no difference.

You went from beginning to end.

You silently (or not for those of you that randomly whoop out loud at their books) participated as the protagonist struggled, failed, purposed to overcome, grew, and then victoriously conquered the antagonist.

There is no need to reread the book (unless you’re into that sort of thing. I know many of you are.).

Yes, you completed the book.

Yes it counts.

Who really cares whether you read or listened to it?

Looking for more audiobook discussion?

You might be interested answering the question: How much does Audible cost? Is it worth it?

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