Are audiobooks books?

Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.

I have an ongoing debate with my wife…when I listen to a book, did I “read” it?  When book discussions come up and I comment that I’ve read something, she is quick to correct me.  “You mean you listened to it, right, babe?”  “Thank’s very much for clarifying  that, dear.”  Several discussions on this  topic have not moved us any closer to agreement.  To her, listening is not the same as reading.

This seemed to be an appropriate topic for my first post as a subject expert on the DBW blog.  When Jeremy Greenfield, Editorial Director for Digital Book World, asked if I’d be interested in writing for DBW, I wondered what exactly I’d blog about if I signed on.  I cofounded christianaudio, an audiobook publishing start up about eight years ago and have quite a bit of domain expertise related to audio publishing.  Before that I worked for   a technology provider primarily in the eCommerce space.  More recently I have been building an ebook delivery platform that many Christian entities are now running on.

As I think through what to blog about on this site, the first question that came to mind is whether or not my audiobook experience is relevant here.  I believe it is, so I plan to write a bit about the audiobook industry.  eCommerce topics are also germane since most of us are trying to sell the content we publish!  My most recent experience, however, may be most applicable since it directly relates to a problem many independent publishing houses have, that is selling digital products to folks reading their books.

Back to the topic at hand.  Although I must concede that listening is not reading, the end result of both activities is very similar for many.  Sure, you can’t underline an audiobook.  But think about it, when was the last time you actually went back and read all those highlights?

True, you can’t flip back a few pages in an audiobook and re-familiarize yourself with that character who’s come back into the plot.  You can click back a couple of tracks, though, if necessary and re-listen to a section or two.  Let’s face it, in either case that’s not something that we usually need to do.

“I can read faster than I can listen,” you say?  Ever tired the 2X, 3X speeds on your iPod?

“I can’t follow audiobooks, reading is way easier.”  With practice following audiobooks is easier than reading for many people.

The truth is that listening sometimes unnecessarily gets a bad rap.  It’s true, some books are better in print or “e” format.   But the opposite is true as well.  Some books are better as audiobooks.  I commuted for about five years from North San Diego county to Irvine – about 1.5 hours one way.  Durning that time I became an audiobookoholic.  I devoured them (mostly classics because that’s what was available from my local library) and became particularly fond of the Russians.  Let me tell you that the average person has a much better shot at getting through the audio versions of Crime and Punishment and War and Peace – go Simon Vance!  Just keeping the names straight is a deal breaker for some.  The narrator glides through them and provides character voices to keep everything manageable.  Just sit back and enjoy.

Full disclosure, I bought a lot of these books after listening to them and made notes in sections.  I didn’t, however, feel a need to read them…because I had.  I just wanted to be able to quote a section or two and re-read a chapter because I couldn’t help myself.

My opinion is that in the near future, reading and listening may become completely ubiquitous as our desire for content begins to transcend the reading context.  Enhanced books will eventually give audio a more prominent and deserved position in the format hierarchy.  More to come on that topic as well.

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Expert Publishing Blog, Profiles
Cory Verner

About Cory Verner

Cory Verner is president of eChristian, Inc. located in Escondido, CA. Before starting eChristian (formerly christianaudio) 8 years ago, he managed multinational enterprise eCommerce projects for fortune 500 companies like HP / Compaq, Sony, Hitachi, Logitech and Hyundai / Kia. His experience spans a variety commerce disciplines including fully custom B2C, B2B, CMS, Channel and partner implementations. His experience enabled him to start several eCommerce ventures including eChristian. Cory has consulted to Outreach, Inc. managing SermonCentral, the largest destination for pastors on the web.

8 thoughts on “Are audiobooks books?

  1. Joy R. Butler

    Yes, audiobooks are definitely books! As an attorney and author, I read and write for a living which means I read and write all day long. When it’s time for relaxation and leisure, I don’t always want to pick up a book. For one thing, my eyes are tired at the end of the day. However, having grown up as an avid reader, I still crave the information and the enjoyment I can find through recreational reading. Audiobooks are a fabulous solution for getting that information and those stories while staying in relaxed mode. Audiobooks are in fact the vehicle for most of my leisure reading these days.

    Reply
  2. Jared Brandon

    I think the disagreement with your wife could stand a little clarification on the term “reading.” What does that mean? Does it require use of the eyes and presence of visible characters, words, etc. Or does “reading” include something more broad, like the intake of published content?

    To those of us who love audiobooks, the listening form of reading can often result in a much deeper understanding. If the narrator is good, they can bring a level of interest and even clarity to a book that we might have struggled to read through in the traditional sense. I’ve listened to a 9-hour biography of CS Lewis well over 10 times. That’s over 90 hours of being immersed in a book that I would never have spent if I were just reading it. I think that speaks to the power of the “listened word.”

    Reply
  3. Jane Steen

    I struggled with this question for quite a long time. I have now come to the conclusion that audiobooks count as books read when it comes to my Goodreads challenge list. If I’m able to review a book, I have read it.

    Reply
  4. John Wilder

    As a budding author I spent the first two years studying how to sell books before I started writing one.
    Audio books are often overlooked by authors to their own detriment. They are cheaper by far to reproduce and there is a huge market for them aside from blind readers. People who are on the road alot love them.
    Audio books should be a port of every marketing campaign. Also public libraries buy them at full retail and this alone is a huge market.

    Reply
  5. Rhenzi Keys

    I was actually searching for an audiobook online, when I happened upon this blog. I have had the same debate with my wife and daughters concerning reading vs. listening to audiobooks. They also tell me that audiobooks isn’t actually reading. They are avid readers. I do most of my \reading\ through audiobooks. I have several printed books that are in various stages of being read, mostly because it seems the older I get, the less patience I have with sitting still and reading a book. Moreover, I can listen to an audiobook while I am driving, doing yardwork, etc.

    If I forget details about a character while listening to an audiobook, I can either click back in the audiobook or use Wikipedia to brush up on that detail.

    I started getting audiobooks about 5 years ago and its been great. I have recently finished Crime and Punishment and To Kill a Mockingbird along with other works from Arthur C. Clarke, Zora Neale Hurston and C. S. Lewis, along with a lot of other \recreational\ reading. These are all works that I either never would have had the time or been able to sit still long enough to read them.

    BTW, Christianaudio.com is a great source of audiobooks for me.

    Great topic.

    Reply
  6. Cory Verner

    Rhenzi,

    Thanks for commenting. I agree, you can always go back and read the book or look something up later.

    I use audiobooks to sample content, especially for non-fiction, and go back and read the very best books I listen to.

    Reply

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