You’re Doing It Wrong – A Defense of Audio Books

I recently posted a review of a James Bond book on Goodreads. In it, I briefly touched on each of the stories in the book, making comparisons to the previous Bond novels and to the film franchise. It wasn’t anything amazing as far as reviews go, just the thoughts of a reader reflecting on a book. Because I had listened to the audio version, I made a final comment about the narrator’s performance.

No big deal.

Within a few hours, I received this reply: “Impressive summary. Well-formatted and expressive; lucidly composed. Except that you apparently didn’t ‘read’ these tales? You ‘listened’ via some silly audio version? Sadly, this is bogus. Inauthentic. All too common these days, but totally not the way to absorb literature, while ‘multi-tasking at the same time’.”

The reply did continue, addressing my comments about the book’s sexism and racism.  “One other remark to make: travel more overseas. Your comments on ‘racism’ and ‘misogyny’ are provincial-American. At odds with the way the world actually is out there.” But that’s not what I want to talk about. An anonymous troll on the internet has rolled their eyes as someone’s views, calling them naive. Nothing new. Nothing worth arguing with.

However, the sentiment that the medium that I used to read the book is somehow wrong or inferior struck a nerve. I’ve heard this argument many times and from all varieties of people.

So to anyone that claims that listening to an audio book is inferior, and to the troll that gave me such wonderful statements to refute, I say this: Deal With It.

Let’s break this down, shall we?

…silly audio version – Audio books are the fastest growing publisher market. Millions of readers are using them.  Gone are the days of highly abridged tomes of cassette tapes marketed to the visually impaired.  Audio book performers are highly-regarded actors (like Samuel West, who read the audio book I was reviewing).  With services like digital streaming, audio books are not some novelty fad.  Like e-readers (which also got shit on for years), they’re here and they’re here to stay. 


“…totally not the way to absorb literature…” – This line fascinates me.  Ignoring the part where he refers to a 1960’s Spy-Fi collection as “literature,” the troll’s post opens with praising my summary. He has acknowledged that I understand each of the stories enough to comment on them.  In fact, his post closes with this: “Otherwise, a really fine review and I was pleased to sift through it. Glad you enjoyed the stories.” So if I absorbed the stories enough to compose a “really fine review,” how in the fuck can you then say that I didn’t absorb the story?  The fact I gave it a thorough review proves that I did because, News Flash: People can absorb by listening.


“…‘multi-tasking at the same time’ – Ah, so you were watching me while I listened?  Creeper.  Seriously, though, I hate this argument.  Yes, audio book readers can get distracted while reading.  I drive while listening to audio books.  However, I’m real interested in the notion that people that visually read are not distracted at all.  Really?

Zero distractions

It’s nice to imagine that anyone reading a book is sitting in a comfortable wing back chair, the only sounds being the soft crackling of a fire, but it’s also fundamentally bullshit.  Reading a book doesn’t mean that life stops.  There’s still noises, keeping an eye out on a kid, the lingering thoughts in the back of your head reminding you to pay the electric bill so you can stop using a fire to read by.  Your mind wanders, you skim, you race through a few pages between other tasks, and you are rarely, if ever, 100% Distraction Free.

Reading Drive
“But Officer, how else can I absorb the story?”

Since I started Audible, my reading has gone up exponentially. The bulk of my reading is with audio books.  I enjoy them. Yes, I have gotten distracted at times and had to listen to a part a second time (maybe the troll never heard of Rewind), but no more often than times I’ve had to go back a re-read part of a book that I realized I was skimming. 

War Read
“Hey, could you hold off on that shelling? I’m at a good part.”

So, while I might not read the same as someone else, no one gets to tell me that I’m “Doing It Wrong.”

One thought on “You’re Doing It Wrong – A Defense of Audio Books

  1. Brandon Owens

    Hear, hear! (See what I did there?)

    I totally agree with this entire sentiment. I read both printed pages, and I listen to audiobooks, and I can tell you right now, that neither outshine the other. In fact, I have caught things in listening to an audiobook that I missed on reading the printed version, and vice versa. To say that any medium of literature is “better” than any other just shows your own ignorance. The written word is art, and like art, it is shown in many different ways. Would you say that the Mona Lisa is inferior because DaVinci used oils instead of watercolors? Would Rodin’s Thinker be classified as inferior to Michaelangelo’s David because ole Mikey used marble and Rodin used bronze? One can have a preference, but to say that one is better than the other simply because of the medium is just stupid at best.

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