There has long been a stigma against listening to books, even unabridged books. Now The New York Times has weighed in on the subject too. In his article, "Your Cheatin' Listening Ways," Andrew Adam Newman has only added to this negativity. Although Newman tries to give some argument for audio books being listened to for book clubs, the negative side gets much more play here.
In my opinion, listening to an unabridged version of any book, while not exactly the same as reading it, does put the same story into your brain (and the article does have an expert attest to this, albeit buried on page 2). Leisure reading (and if you are choosing to be in a book club, you are still doing leisure reading since you are not forced to be a part of the group) should not have rules. If a person wants to experience a story for fun, why does society feel the need to make some methods of the delivery of that story appear to be of a higher standard than others? It is for that person's enjoyment alone. If it isn't hurting someone, I don't know why others care.
Personally, I am always reading one book and listening to another at the same time. This allows me to "read" more of the time. I can read my physical book on the couch or in the back yard, but I can listen to the other book while doing dishes, folding laundry, driving, etc... Audio books, and especially my i-pod, let me experience more stories and more authors than simply reading a physical book would allow.
Oh, and going back to the article, I do lead a monthly book discussion and there are many months I have listened to the selection. For the record, I have never felt the need to "fess up" about it. I think I do a good job running book discussions since I have been at it for 7 years and other libraries hire me to come and teach others how to lead a book discussion group.
If you want an audio book, for any reason, your local library will be more than happy to help you.
Feel free to add your opinion of audio books to the discussion.
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