When it comes to reading books, many people consider physically turning the pages of a paper or hardback to be the only “legit” way to consume written content. However, with the increasing popularity of listening to audiobooks, some gatekeepers and reading purists insist listening to a book doesn’t “count” as actual reading.
And let’s face it, those people are probably not a lot of fun at parties and church potlucks, so who cares what they say anyway?
Can we do away with the myth that listening to audiobooks “doesn’t count” once and for all?
Audiobooks can be a great option for individuals who struggle with reading due to physical limitations or learning disabilities. For example, I personally know several individuals with dyslexia who’ve told me it’s much easier for them to consume and process written content when it is read aloud to them via audiobooks.
Similarly, individuals with vision impairments may find audiobooks to be a more accessible form of reading.
Scientists have proven that people use the same part of the brain to listen to an audiobook as they do when they are reading a written book. When we read or listen to a book, our brains are engaged in the same process of comprehension, which involves a number of cognitive processes such as decoding the words, understanding their meaning, and making connections between the words and our prior knowledge or visualizing what’s being read.
These processes involve the activation of multiple brain regions, including the prefrontal cortex, the temporal lobe, and the parietal lobe. So, whether we are reading a written book or listening to an audiobook, our brains are working in similar ways to understand the text and derive meaning from it.
The Science of Listening to Audiobooks is Settled!
According to a recent article in Discover Magazine, people who listen to audiobooks can understand the book just as well as someone who read it.
So while YOU may find that you retain information better when you read a physical book, as it allows you to go back and re-read sections or make notes in the margins, it isn’t the case for others. Some people may find that listening to an audiobook is less immersive than reading a physical book as it can be harder to visualize the characters and settings when they are described through spoken words.
But scientifically, it makes no difference to our brain.
It’s just a matter of personal preference.
Despite these potential drawbacks, there is no denying that listening to audiobooks can be a convenient and effective way to consume written content.
While some people may prefer the traditional method of physically reading a book, others may find that listening to audiobooks is a more convenient and effective way to consume written content. Ultimately, the most important thing is that people are engaging with and enjoying written content, regardless of the format in which they consume it.
Historical Precedence of Listening to Teaching
My Christian readers should appreciate the fact that in early Jewish culture and first century Rome, only a small percentage of the population were literate. Most of the stories and teachings of rabbis and eventually epistles that made it to our Scripture canon were passed down orally.
People listened to the teachers.
The Apostle Paul repeatedly asked for his letters to be READ aloud in local congregations. They weren’t printed and Xeroxed and a copy given to every person present.
And remember, just like Romans 10:17 says, “faith comes from reading.” Oops.
Let’s try another one, “man shall not live on bread alone, but from reading every word that once came from the mouth of God and was transcribed into our Bibles”.
You get the point. Absorbing teachings and information is very much an auditory experience as much as a visual one.
Whether you read or listen doesn’t matter.
Plus, the science is settled and if there’s one thing our culture tells us it’s that you can’t question science no matter what!
Is Listening to Audiobooks Really Reading? WIRED’s spiritual advice columnist on bardic traditions for a modern age—and why book snobs worry about the wrong things.
Of course audiobooks count as reading. “The notion that there are cultural gatekeepers who get to say “what counts” feels … medieval. And I mean that literally.” by Judi Ketteler on NBCNews.