Audiobooks Need to be Recognized More as a Legit Form of Reading

I read a lot, and I read a lot of articles about people who read a lot and why they read a lot and what got them into reading, etc. Today I was reading an article from The Atlantic titled “Why Some People Become Lifelong Readers”. Of course I was immediately drawn to the title when I saw it on Twitter, and started to read and see if I fit the description of a lifelong reader.

But as I read, I realized that there was so much emphasis on reading physical books, which is fine, but there were no mentions anywhere in the article about audiobooks. And then it hit me: a lot of articles like these (I mean ones from big magazines or journals) don’t really talk very much about audiobooks, if they do at all. Why is that? Do people who only listen to audiobooks not count as readers?

I disagree with this notion. By excluding audiobooks, articles like this one are being rather ableist, excluding those who have learning disabilities like dyslexia, those who are blind even and cannot physically read. The author of the Atlantic article I mentioned says “…even though plenty of people simply don’t enjoy reading (or have trouble enjoying it, possibly because of a learning or attention disorder), it’s a vital skill.” He’s right, reading is a good skill to have, but just because one isn’t reading a physical book doesn’t mean that they’re not a reader and don’t enjoy it. One can take meaning and develop their thinking and knowledge by using audiobooks. I mean, books used to be absorbed mostly through oral tellings — should we not consider the original fans of the Odyssey to be readers?

Excluding audiobooks also can have elitist tendencies — is the person who doesn’t have time to read and instead listens to audiobooks in the car on the way to work not a real reader? I would say no, of course they’re a real reader, they love books and are finding the time to enjoy them as best they can. A physical book does not and should not equal higher status or intellect. Reading and books should be a joy for everyone.

Besides all this, audiobooks are just fun in general. I particularly love listening to Neil Gaiman read his books the way he intended; I enjoy listening to books with full casts that do the best (and sometimes funniest) voices; and, for myself personally, audiobooks are a great way for me to reacquaint myself with and get to know better a book I’ve already read. If I had not reread The Fellowship of the Ring on audiobook there could have been things I never noticed before in other readings (also the narrator for the LOTR trilogy is fantastic, would absolutely recommend).

I respect the author of the aforementioned Atlantic article for what he is trying to say, and he makes some very good points about the skills gleaned by reading and what kind of people readers tend to be (I fit into a lot of those categories myself). But by leaving out audiobooks, he and others leave out a whole other category of avid readers.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store