adaption in audio

27 January 2019

A lot has been said about audiobooks over the years. It almost seems like a tired, overdone subject to discuss. As audiobooks have become more popular through Audible and other services, debates on whether or not listening to audiobooks should count as reading have polarized the bookish communities online. There are people who are adamant that audiobooks can't replace physically reading a book. And then there are others who can only find time to enjoy books through audiobooks. It can become a heated topic among bookworms.
But audiobooks fascinate me, and I have a lot of thoughts and opinions about them that I have never seen any other book blogger/reviewer talk about.

When I was growing up one of my absolute favorite parts of the day was when it was read-aloud time. I loved to sit on the floor, coloring or playing a game quietly, listening to a story being read to me. I loved to lay in bed, covered in blanket, surrounded by stuffed animals, waiting for the beautiful words to lull me to sleep.
When there was no one around to read to me I turned to audiobooks, which I called "talking books" at the time, that I eagerly checked out from the library. It was always such a special, immersive experience for me. My imagination would become so vivid. I felt like the world of the books would surround me, instead of just living in my mind when I read on my own.

As I got older though, I gradually stopped listening to audiobooks and spent more time reading physical books. I still enjoy listening to audiobooks, but I prefer to listen to them for rereads of old favorites, or to help me get through a book I'm struggling through.

Very rarely do I turn to audiobooks for my everyday reading. That's because, in my opinion, listening to an audiobook is not reading. 

It's just not the same as reading a book on your own. Reading is a personal thing. No two people read the same story, and with audiobooks, you're hearing someone else's version of how the story should be read. Also the physical act of reading is very different to just listening to a book being read to you. You can't literally "read an audiobook," you can only listen.
I know this is an unpopular opinion, but before all the audiobook lovers in the world disown me, I do think that it's fine to count audiobooks toward reading goals and other things like that. It can be confusing.

Audiobooks serve as adaptions of books. They are an exciting and unique way for book lovers to consume a story.

When you look closely at what an adaption is, it makes sense that an audiobook should be looked at as an adaption of a work. Audiobooks are similar to watching a movie adaption of a book. They are interpretations of the author's original words.

The complicated part with audiobooks is that they are for the most part unabridged. It's easy to recognize that a film version of a story is an adaption since they take a lot of liberties to translate a book to film. Audiobooks don't take things out or alter the story. They are made up of the exact same words found in the physical book. I think that's why many people feel like listening to an audiobook is no different than reading the book.

It is for this unique reason that I think it's fine to count audiobooks toward "books read" lists, since when you are listening to an audiobook, you are consuming the exact same story. It's just through a different medium. Not reading, but you still get the full unabridged text. I would still argue, however, that they are still adaptions all the same.

I could have a completely different experience depending on whether I physically read a book or listen to that same book on audio. I might dislike a book that I read on my own, but when it's enhanced with sound effects, music, and a narrator with a soothing voice I might like it more.
As I've matured in my reading tastes, I just personally prefer my reading to be solely my own interpretations of the stories. It makes the reading experience more personal to me and it's one of the reasons why I love reading so much now.

I don't have a problem with audiobooks. They're entertaining, convenient, and someday in my future I might have to turn to them more in order to consume stories if I get too busy to actually read. I just find the concept of audiobooks as adaptions so fascinating.

It's something I haven't seen anyone else discuss, so I wanted to share my thoughts here so I could hear your opinions as well.

What do you think of audiobooks? Should they be considered as reading? 


  1. I didn't want to get into this argument in the actual post, so I'm just going to address it here for anyone who's interested. A lot of people argue that audiobooks should count as reading, and that it's actually offensive to say that it's not, because there are some people with disabilities who are not able to read. I think it's amazing that disabled people are able to enjoy books through audio! However, that still does not make it reading. It's still just listening. To me the act of read is by translating symbols on a page or screen into words that can then be formed into coherent messages in your mind. Braille is a way blind people can actually read. Audiobooks are not. If there's an illiterate person who listens to an audiobook, whether they're disabled or not, it does not make them literate. I know it's a touchy subject, but that's my strong opinion on it. Thank you <3

  2. I enjoy reading for the most part though I have to say I hate audiobooks I like the way I read books rather then listening to how someone else reads them. And sadly I just don't have the time for reading or listening to books, I get them with the hope of reading them but I just never get around to it:(

    1. Thanks for your comment! I hope you're able to find time to read!

  3. I too loved getting audiobooks as a child, they would come with the book and tape in a little bag and we'd pick them off the hanger at the library, so we would follow along and listen (I was a later reader too).

    I don't listen well; I'm also NOT AT ALL an auditory person (I don't often listen to music and have to "force" myself to listen to things like podcasts and lectures). However, I think for many books, I'm not sure we get the same intensive cognitive benefits listening as reading; I'm sure there are probably studies on the benefits of reading, reading is NOT the same as listening, yes it is nice for those who can't read but that doesn't make it the SAME experience cognitively.

    I desperately needed something to listen to at one of my recent temp jobs, so I grabbed some Playaways one of which was James Herriot's All Creatures Great and Small. I had been against counting audiobooks on Goodreads, but I really wanted to count it. I decided to borrow the books, but realized it wasn't the same. Christopher Timothy (the actor in the tv series) brought those books alive (he was MORE than a narrator), and it just wasn't the same, so I'm going to listen to the rest. I do have to do something (I'm thinking I'm a kinesthetic learner) while I listen to pay attention best. I think narration and the type of books and paying attention all matter. As well as learning style.

    1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Livia! I totally agree that there are definitely books that are more enjoyable to consume through audio because of a good narrator. And it's true that different learning styles can play into whether or not people enjoy audiobooks or not.

  4. This is exactly how I feel about audio books! "You're hearing someone else's version of how the story should be read" is what I've always thought and it doesn't let you imagine how each character sounds on your own. I really agree that audio books have the same words count and you definitely know the story but serial readers almost always prefer a physical copy. I usually listen to them if it's a book I'm not that interested in or want to re-read but never for the first time, it's just not the same! (p.s. I'm in love with your Yellowstone pics!) ♡

    1. Yeah at this time in my life I don't think I would pick up an audiobook for a book I'm really excited about. I only go for them for rereads or books I just want to get through quickly too. Thanks for your sweet comment!

  5. I don't think I've ever read an audiobook by myself but I do sometimes want to try it for some books because it might just be a more efficient way of going through more books.

    Of course, it's not 'reading' but you're still consuming the story so it's all good, I guess. I don't think it's wrong to say it's not reading, as long as one acknowledges that it's still consuming the story in some form.