Audiobooks: Is Listening to a Book Cheating?

Yesterday, I was poking around Jane Friedman’s blog and read Kristen Tsetsi’s post, “Resolving My Cheater Shame: Listening to Books Instead of Reading Them.” It was a different take for me.

I have absolutely never felt like I was cheating, probably because I don’t listen instead of reading.  I listen to some books and I read others.  There are books that I will listen to, usually adult nonfiction, that I would not read simply because it isn’t tightly written enough to keep me focused on the page.

That said, I do tend to feel odd calling it “reading.”  I catch myself distinguishing between books I listen to and books I read.

I read picture books and early readers.  I do not  listen to them even when audio is available.  The illustrations are just too great a part of the experience.

I listen to more adult books, nonfiction and mysteries, than I read.  I listen while I use my husband’s rower.  I listen while I do dishes and fold laundry.  I listen while I knit, crochet or bead.  Unless I’m learning a new pattern. Sometimes a tricky pattern requires my full attention.

My husband and I listen on car trips.  That’s a big deal for us.  He’s been using it as an opportunity to introduce me to authors he’s reading that I haven’t experienced yet.

Like Tsetsi, I feel bad sometimes when I can’t stand the voice actor and have to turn the book off.  Sometimes it is because the person reads in a monotone and there just isn’t any inflection.  Other times there is too much inflection and they are just over the top.  I gave up on one book last week, and I was almost 1/5 of the way through, because the female main character was a bad ass and the reader played her bad ass to the max and it was just too much bad assery.

Will I read this book in print?  Probably not. I had heard enough of the story to realize that, to me, it felt contrived.

Listening to a book is a different experience than reading it myself.  It is a great way for me to experience books in translation when I don’t know how to say people’s names and place names.  Do I feel like I’m cheating?  No. It isn’t reading but I am experiencing the story and the characters and the pacing.  Not reading, but different.