Earlier this week, a close friend (and one of my favorite book people – a true BBF) was moaning to me about her progress toward her Goodreads goal. Only two weeks left in December, and she’s still short 12 books! She’s planning to take a bunch of smaller books and graphic novels with her on her family holiday trip, so it’s likely she’ll make her total by the end of the year.
I’ve already passed my goal (okay, I did read a lot of graphic novels this year!), and as I was talking to my friend about some of the books that pushed me over the top, numbers-wise, I mentioned Uprooted by Naomi Novik, one of my favorite audiobooks of the year. The conversation took a sudden and unexpected turn:
BBF: You count audiobooks?
Me: Yes. (Of course! I added in my head.)
BBF: But that’s not reading!
Me: Oh yes it is!
We didn’t stick out our tongues at each other… but in terms of childish behavior, we came close!
So what is reading? What “counts”?
The primary definition of the verb “read”, according to Dictionary.com, is:
to look at carefully so as to understand the meaning of (something written, printed, etc.):
to read a book; to read music.
Okay, that one focuses on the written/printed word. Here’s definition #2:
to utter aloud or render in speech (something written, printed, etc.):
reading a story to his children; The actor read his lines in a booming voice.
Hmm. That’s the act of reading aloud. When my son was younger, I read to him all the time, even up to age 12, when we read together such books as Eragon and The Hobbit. I had never read Eragon before, and as I read it to my son, I was reading it for myself as well.
But back to the original question: Is listening to a book the same as reading a book? Do your eyes have to be involved in order to have read something? What about someone who’s vision-impaired? Using a Braille book seems to obviously be reading… but what if they don’t know Braille? What if they can only enjoy books that they listen to? Does that count as reading?
I’ve become a big fan of audiobooks in the past few years, so my take on the issue is pretty clear-cut. For me, whether I’ve used my eyes or my ears, my brain is certainly involved, and either way, I’m absorbing a story, ideas, plotlines, themes, and more.
I suppose I’d be in favor of a more expansive definition of reading, along the lines of:
Using one’s senses to take in the content of a book.
(Okay, let’s agree to exclude taste and smell from the above! I love the smell of a bookstore, but sniffing books definitely isn’t reading! And I don’t recommend eating them either.)
Of course, as I probably should have said earlier, it doesn’t actually matter what anyone else thinks when it comes to Goodreads stats. I’ve seen people argue about all sorts of things “counting” as real books, such as novellas, graphic novels, and re-reads. I take a pretty lenient approach with myself: If I feel like I’ve read something, then I have! And that includes all of the above.
Yes, in my opinion, if I’ve listened to an audiobook, then I’ve read the book. Period.
Where do you stand on the issue? Are audiobooks books? Does listening “count” as reading? And would you (or do you) include audiobooks in your list of books read in a year?
Share your thoughts, please!