Every January, a common New Year’s Resolution is to read more books this year than the last, or set certain goals like 21 books in 2021/a book a week. And this inevitably leads to certain people within Bookstagram or daily conversations arguing that audiobooks don’t – or shouldn’t – count towards your reading goal.
Which, to be honest with you, I think is a load of shit. Of course audiobooks should count towards your reading goal. Reading a book, whatever the genre, is about engaging with a text and characters/plot/themes. Whether you physically read the words or listen to them, it doesn’t change the fact that you have immersed yourself in the narrative and engaged with what the author has written. Arguing that audiobooks don’t count as ‘real’ reading to me is as stupid as arguing that reading off a Kindle doesn’t count as you’re not physically flipping through the book pages. It’s all down to personal preference and what works for you. I can almost guarantee you that the people arguing that audiobooks shouldn’t count towards your reading goal are the same people who will confidently shout that Jack Kerouac is their inspiration or who get all their critical literary thoughts word-for-word from various Sunday newspapers.
Audiobooks are a really great way of reading whilst on the go, so they’re perfect for commuting or having on whilst you potter around. For people who find it hard to dedicate time to reading or find it difficult to sit still and read, audiobooks are a really great way to get through that next book you’ve been eyeing up. The exponential growth of podcasts are another example that many of us enjoy listening to our news, books, culture or interviews as opposed to reading print editions.
Also, to argue that audiobooks don’t count towards your reading goal is very ableist, as audiobooks are a way to read books if you are unable to/find it difficult to physically read. Being able to engage with literature and enter new worlds and use your imagination or critical thinking is one of the best things we have available to us (in my opinion), and audiobooks enable books to be more accessible.
Another great thing about audiobooks is that they can more easily be a shared experience with others. Putting an audiobook on during a long journey or at night time enables a bonding experience between yourself and others. Through history, many writers have written with the goal that their work would be a shared experience. Shakespeare’s plays were performed with the audience always becoming involved through adlibbing or shouting in, actors mingling amongst the theatre goers, all crafting the story together. In many communities, the core folklore stories and traditional stories were passed on from generation to generation through verbal storytelling, not being written down until relatively recently. Bringing it to present day, virtual book clubs are becoming a more popular way to keep in touch during lockdown, taking over from the dreaded “pub” quizzes. Books are meant to be a shared experience, from being debated to recommended to read aloud in school classes. For an artform that has so long been a community venture, audiobooks – a book being shared between the reader and listener – of course, count towards your reading goals.
Image courtesy of Lena Kudryavtseva.