Are Audiobooks Actually Books?
I recently added up how many books I’ve read since joining Goodreads in 2012. A rough estimate is about 600. My Goodreads Challenge Goal for 2020 was 52 books, since I typically aim to read a book a week. I exceeded that goal this year at the halfway point of the year.
To say I’m an avid reader would be an understatement. Specifically, an avid audiobook reader/listener. Until recently, however, I’ve never really questioned if audiobooks are actually books.
Scrolling Pinterest this summer, I came across a pin promoting the “Bookstagram” world. Wait, what? I felt instant FOMO for never having heard of this little nook on the ‘gram.
I’d been wanting to start doing book reviews for years. I’ve been a lifelong reader and writer (specifically as a journalist for more than a decade) and I’ve learned the ins and outs of WordPress over the past year over at Fourganic Sisters.
PLUS, Netgalley announced they were launching Audiobook ARCs! It felt like fate.
The Birth Of a New Book Blogger
I bought the domain I’d been toying with in my head and started attempting to write book reviews. Hopefully, I’ll get more comfortable and stronger in the review process, but for now, it’s been a great creative outlet.
Once I joined the Bookstagram community on Instagram, I instantly felt connected to this group of readers. I felt a welcome escape from the typical world of social media, with its finger-pointing, mask-shaming, and political fighting. Then, as the days went by, I started seeing more and more “influencers” asking “Do YoU CoUnT AuDioBOoks as BoOKs?”
“Huh?” I found myself thinking over and over. Is this a thing? Do people really think audiobooks shouldn’t count as actual books? How, in 2020, with, um, a global pandemic, hate and ugliness and bitterness and fighting and bigotry and racism and sexism and ageism and body-shaming and political bull crap, is this an actual thing? Now you’re going to shame people for how they READ?!?!? I guess I wouldn’t call it shaming, necessarily, but it definitely seems like there are many who don’t view audiobooks as “real” books.
I get that they’re not for everyone, but even if they’re not for you, why discount how other readers read?
I’ve slowly started feeling like more and more of an outcast in this book-loving world the first month. What the actual beep? It had me actually questioning, “Are audiobooks books?” S.M.D.H.
Why I Read Audiobooks
Here’s a little background about WHY I choose audiobooks at this stage in my life. I’m a 37-year-old SAHM (actually a WAHM who doesn’t make any real money from what I do yet 😉… I spend at least 3 hours a day on my other baby, a budget meal planning and prepping site). I’m married to an IT nerd and we have a 2, 5, and 7-year-old and an 11-year-old Yorkie.
Before I started staying home full time five years ago, I worked a (mostly) one-person-band multimedia journalist around the state of West Virginia and then our local tri-state area (WV, OH, & KY). I spent A LOT of time alone in the car. I traveled hours away on rural roads, chasing breaking news, severe weather, fires, meth busts, drug busts, homicides, robberies, fairs and festivals, ribbon-cuttings, car crashes, freak accidents. You name it. I covered it. My escape from all this craziness was to listen to CD audiobooks in the car. Janet Evanovich, Nora Roberts, James Patterson, Dot Frank, Jen Weiner. These authors helped my mind take a break from the nitty-gritty of the news world.
Audiobooks and #momlife complement each other well
I became a mom almost eight years ago. The first year was SO hard. As a working mom with crazy hours and a newborn who had AWFUL colic, I again turned to audiobooks. Have you ever tried to nurse a baby and hold an actual book? No? Okay. Well, if and when you ever do, you’ll never “knock” audiobooks again. Listening to an audiobook while trying to comfort a screaming baby who is only content laying in your arms is again, an escape from that nitty-gritty.
Fast forward till today. I have three kids on three different reading levels. My toddler will honestly listen to anything I’m reading the bigger kids, but we spend a lot of time reading board books and picture books. My soon-to-be-kindergartner likes the Step Into Reading Type books, and my 7-year-old was reading at a third-grade level in kindergarten and fifth-grade level in first grade, so she’s all about chapter books that we often read together.
As a single-income family, we have to make real-life choices on a real-life budget. When I buy bright and shiny new books, they are 98 percent of the time designated for my kids.
I use free reading apps (Libby, Hoopla, etc.) to check out most of my books. Yes, I use local libraries, but right now it’s just a little too tricky. (Plus, late fees 😉).
Audiobooks and Multi-tasking
With a toddler in the house, there aren’t many times when I can truly relax and take my eyes off the prize. I can listen to audiobooks folding the mountains of laundry our family of five produces each week. I can listen to audiobooks while I’m cooking 2.3 zillion meals a week. (And also when I’m cleaning mess up from said meals. My husband does a lot of that though.) I can listen to audiobooks during my hour of meal prep time on Sundays or Mondays. Even just going around and cleaning up millions of messes each day is a little easier when I’m listening to a book. Also, have you ever read a book while cleaning out poop-stained underwear or clothes? I didn’t think so. #audiobooksforthewin
The Audiobook Listening Experience
Finally, I LOVE the experience. For instance, I recently listened to “On the Come Up”, by Angie Thomas. Bahni Turpin, one of my absolute favorite narrators, voiced the audiobook. I was totally immersed in Bri’s world for the duration of the book. Even Turpin’s rapping skills made me feel totally #inmyfeelings.
In The Shadows, the narrator’s pacing and suspense style was so intriguing and really drew me in to what I thought was an otherwise “okay” book. This week I finished comedian Ali Wong’s memoir “Dear Girls”, narrated by her. It was like my own personal stand-up show. She’s SO dang funny, and I don’t think I would have enjoyed the book nearly as much as if I just read the words.
Do Your Kids Read Audiobooks?
My 7-year-old recently started asking to borrow audiobooks as well. At first, I was hesitant. I wanted her to read physical books. Her little brain is still growing and learning new words every day. I relented, and I have to say I’ve been pleasantly surprised by what’s happened.
We’ve read aloud together for a few years now, but it wasn’t until she started listening to audiobooks that I felt that she really started gaining more confidence reading aloud. Her inflections and character nuances have really progressed this summer. She’s currently working her way through The Boxcar Children and many Roald Dahl titles. (While immersing herself in Nancy Drew and Harry Potter physical books.)
You Don’t Know Someone’s “Why?” for Choosing Audiobooks
Okay. That’s my PERSONAL story for choosing audiobooks at this stage of my life. Not that I should have to DEFEND that choice, like ever.
Moving on. There are some people who LITERALLY COULDN’T READ ANYTHING WITHOUT AUDIOBOOKS. There are many reasons why people can’t read physical copies of books. Visual impairment. Dyslexia. Illiteracy. Poor visual comprehension skills. Neurological disorders. Physical disabilities. Would you have the audacity to tell anyone in any of these categories they aren’t “readers”?
I’ve always been a great listener. Maybe that’s another reason I went into journalism. I have no problem listening, understand, and comprehending audiobooks, podcasts, etc. I would never knock on someone because they CAN’T listen to audiobooks… it’s just such a strange soapbox to be on to me I guess. To be clear, I love ALL FORMS of books. Physical books. Ebooks. Audiobooks. Board books. Picture books. Chapter books. Thrillers. Memoirs. Romance. Rom-coms. Literary fiction. Nonfiction. Historical fiction. YA. Suspense. Fantasy. Rhyming books. WAIT- not rhyming books that try to rhyme “again” with rain or pain. NOT THOSE BOOKS. Change my mind on that one.
Final Thoughts: Be Kind to Everyone
I get why people ask sometimes. It’s a conversation starter. Apparently, it’s a controversial topic in the Bookstagram world and it gets people (or is it just me 😉) fired up. Cool. Whatever. Just don’t bring other people down for the choices that make them happy and hurts no one.
How about you? Do you think audiobooks are actual books? If not, well, I still review books, so stick around. Thanks for listening! Well, I guess… reading 😉