Audiobooks are my JAM*


In case you couldn’t tell from the title and the GIF, I love audiobooks. I love reading and I love performance, so an audiobook is the marriage of those two things into a consumable media that I just devour. Also, they are so handy to read when you’re traveling, doing chores, or cooking. Traveling is a particular draw for me, as the audiobooks I listen to are housed online or on my phone, which means I don’t have to carry any extra weight with me when I travel.  Besides all this, I think they are just super neat! Seriously, of the fifteen non-school related books I’ve read in 2019, eleven have been audiobooks.

But there is phrasing around audiobooks that really bothers me, and it is that, supposedly, when one listens to audiobooks they aren’t ‘real’ reading.

Okay, I say after a deep, calming breath, I’ll bite. What are the reasons that audiobooks aren’t ‘real’ reading? 

““I was a fan of audiobooks, but I always viewed them as cheating,” says Beth Rogowsky, an associate professor of education at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania” in Markham Heid’s article Are Audiobooks As Good For You As Reading? Here’s What Experts Say.

Rogwsky went on to conduct an experiment in 2016 where she had students read the same section of a book on an e-reader and in audiobook. She found that the retention of information from the reading was the same in both formats, although she did say that that might have been because e-books have been shown to sometimes have a smaller retention rate than physical books (Heid, Are Audiobooks). However, we know that this is not necessarily the truth, thanks to Maria Konnikova’s article Being a Better Online Reader where Konnikova finds that difficulties with retention in reading have more to do with distractions than to do with the physical format (Konnikova, Being).

The most compelling evidence that audiobook reading is not ‘real’ reading, in my opinion, is that the spatial and physical aspects of reading a physical book are lost, leading to poorer retention of material (Heid). However, those issues also exist in e-book reading, and I haven’t heard many arguments that ebook reading is not ‘real’ reading, just that you need to read it differently (Konnikova).

Audiobooks have immense benefits that should not be undermined by negative connotations. They can help children who struggle with reading, as we read about in Linda Flanagan’s article, but they can also help readers with disabilities, like dyslexia and blindness. By writing audiobooks off as cheating, people are also writing off those who benefit from audiobooks as less than as well. Also, people get the story the same way whether it be through physical, audio, or e-book.

Different people learn in different ways– for example, I’m a kinetic learner, (with my audio and visual learning coming in second and third, respectively) which means I learn things best when I’m moving. Audiobooks stimulate this for me, as I can move when I’m listening.

In my opinion, audiobooks are just as much of a reading experience as reading a physical or e-book. By saying otherwise, people might forget the ways in which audiobooks excel where the other formats do not.

*seriously, I don’t listen to music anymore HELP ME

Work Cited

Flanagan, Linda. 2016. How Audiobooks Can Help Kids Who Struggle with Reading. KQED

Heid, Markham. Are Audiobooks As Good For You As Reading? Here’s What Experts Say. Time. September 06, 2018. Accessed April 02, 2019.

Konnikova, Maria. 2014, July 16. Being a Better Online Reader. New Yorker.

3 Replies to “Audiobooks are my JAM*”

  1. Hey Moorea,

    You finally get to talk about audiobooks yay!!!!

    I really appreciate you trying to dig deeper into understanding why people think listening to audiobooks is not considered reading (something I didn’t even know people said until you mentioned it in class). This is also just a good exercise to do …try to understand a side that we don’t agree with!

    I like the points you make about ebook vs audiobook retention and the lack of physical and spatial aspects in both audiobooks and ebooks. Thank you for also sharing how audiobooks have benefited you and your type of learning style! I don’t know too much about kinetic learning so that’s super cool!

    If you’re interested check out this cool article about the differences between reading (print books) vs audiobooks.
    The author shows how both mediums can help readers out and is an advocate for both. They discuss the different types of reading comprehension and emotional responses that can occur in audiobooks vs print books, plus a lot of other things. Also, the author mentions Naomi Novik’s Uprooted ;)

  2. Hey Moorea,
    Thank you for this post! It was a really engaging read, and I had a great time with it.

    Before reading this article I hadn’t really thought about audiobooks as being a marriage of books and performance, but that’s such a cool point! I appreciated in general how you explored the different strengths of audiobooks, such as their portability (making them ideal travel companions) and the way that auditory experiences free you up to move while reading an audiobook, which is beneficial to you as a kinetic learner. I’d never considered that!

    I also really appreciated the point that you made about biases regarding different reading forms actually extending to biases regarding the people who depend on these alternative forms. You summed it up really succinctly when you said, “by writing audiobooks off as cheating, people are also writing off those who benefit from audiobooks as less than as well.” So true! So. True.

    Thank you for this post and for all the GIFs. We miss you, and congratulations on finishing PUB 802!

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