Recently I listened to my first ever audiobook - Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. I quickly followed it up by Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by JK Rowling and even as I type this I am listening to Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets.
I know the merits of audiobooks are often discussed on book blogs, but having now listened to my first audiobooks, there are a few observations that I would like to make about the experience.
The debate about audiobooks usually seems to centre around the question of whether listening to an audiobook counts as reading. I have certainly counted these audiobooks on my list of books that I have read this year, and reviewed them as I would a normal book. But I have to admit that from a personal perspective, the experience of listening to an audiobook was very different to the experience of reading a book.
What I liked about the experience of listening to the audiobook is that it is a nice alternative to watching television. The story also comes that little more alive, at least, the Harry Potter books did, as narrated by Stephen Fry. It also gave me a new perspective of the books, particularly Pride and Prejudice. When I read Pride and Prejudice I am extremely focused on the beautiful language and the tension between Elizabeth and Mr Darcy. When listening to the audiobook though, I was really able to appreciate the comedy of Austen's story. I laughed the whole way through, and I certainly don't laugh out loud when I read the books.
Was it reading though? It didn't feel like it to me. Don't get me wrong, I really enjoyed listening to the stories as you can tell. I am especially enjoying listening to the Harry Potter series on audiobook and I will keep listening to them. But it just wasn't the same for me. As much as I love listening to the story be told to me, I love the actual act of reading better.
Perhaps this whole debate is artificial? Reading is the act of reading words on the page and listening to an audiobook is just that. That's not to say that the book you have listened to doesn't count as a story that you have experienced, you just haven't read that story. Is there anything wrong with that? I know people tend to have very strong opinions on this subject, but now having listened to and enjoyed audiobooks myself, I can't help but wonder if the question of audiobooks as reading isn't a little bit silly - reading is reading, and listening to an audioboko is listening to an audiobook. They are just two different methods of experiencing a story, and therefore the question of whether of whether listening to an audiobooks counts as reading is mute?