Audiobooks and the written word

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Aedes
 
Reply Wed 28 Oct, 2009 08:33 pm
I've got a 57 mile commute to work, so I spend at least 2 hours a day in the car. I've gotten very into audiobooks, and in the last 6 months I've "read" on audiobook the Complete Works of Shakespeare, Les Miserables, Moby Dick, The Count of Monte Cristo, David Copperfield, Oliver Twist, A Tale of Two Cities, and a number of other shorter works. This adds up to probably 10,000 pages of written text. On the other hand I'm truly reading (the conventional way) Anna Karenina, which is the best of all these books I've mentioned except maybe some of the Shakespeare plays and Moby Dick, but it's taking me far longer -- because I can't read it while driving, or while doing some brainless task like exercising or doing yard work.

Obviously there's a bit of a difference processing auditory information than with visual information. Technically to "read" implies using your eyes to apprehend visual text. Then again, you're not missing any of the written text when going through an audiobook, i.e. every written word is spoken. You can miss spoken words if you zone out, but the same can happen with reading text.

So what do we call this activity?
Is it "reading"?
If not, is there a better word for it? -- "listening" doesn't connote the same comprehension as "reading"

And does the interpretive aspect of a narrator's performance significantly alter the book? (keeping in mind that a written score of music is always interpreted by a musician)
 
Labyrinth
 
Reply Wed 28 Oct, 2009 11:18 pm
@Aedes,
Whether you're conventionally reading the book or not, the effect on the brain should be very similar. We receive only the words and our minds are left to process the images actively on their own. This active process is bypassed in say, watching television. I'd say as long as this element is there, one receives the benefit (or its greater part) of actual reading. This would explain why reading to children is so helpful to them.

The only thing taking away from our experience in listening to audiobooks is that we can't be totally focused on them. I'm assuming people listen to them while some activity such as driving as I can't imagine one just sitting on a couch listening to an audiobook.

I used to do what you've described, but I went through the books too quickly and it was a bit too pricy to keep pace. An audiobook is so much more expensive than the used books I'm used to buying. (Do you get your audiobooks used?)
 
Aedes
 
Reply Thu 29 Oct, 2009 05:28 am
@Aedes,
The vast majority are free on LibriVox, which are more than 2400 public domain works ready by volunteers. I also get some from the library and from friends and I subscribe to audible.com, which is a fairly cheap subscription fee.
 
gotmilk9991
 
Reply Thu 29 Oct, 2009 08:13 am
@Aedes,
I work at Barnes and Noble, and listening to an "eBook"we consider reading because it is still the act of gathering a story from a book, whether by visual or auditory. But I think that anything by auditory is a substanial amount harder to retain than visual so to me, physically having the book and reading it allows me to remember the story and also to be able repeat it to others.My last comment is that I would rather have the physical book in my hands than a gig on a electronic.
 
Aedes
 
Reply Thu 29 Oct, 2009 08:32 am
@Aedes,
My wife has become a huge fan of the Kindle, and it's a lot more pleasant than reading on a typical backlit screen -- and she can take it everywhere without the bulk of lots of books.

I have thought of myself as a visual and not an auditory learner, but I find I'm retaining a comparable amount with the audiobooks (even when doing some additional menial task like driving). The one thing I lack with audiobooks is seeing the spelling of names, which is particularly important with French works (like from Dumas and Hugo) because even though I speak a little French I have difficulty "seeing" the word when I hear it pronounced.
 
Pangloss
 
Reply Thu 29 Oct, 2009 12:13 pm
@Aedes,
This is an interesting subject. The two main issues that immediately come to my mind here are ones that have already been brought up.

First, you are right that the narration would affect the story. Hearing a voice is added information to the words, and I think can definitely affect one's interpretation of the material, depending on tone of voice, inflection, etc.

Second, there's just the simple issue of focus. It seems that when you read a book, there's a conscious effort to put aside time to sit down, open the book, and purely focus in thought on the material. Listening to an audiobook though, as you said, can be combined with other tasks, and I don't think this is as effective as reading just due to the fact that your level of attention is not as high. Not that it isn't possible...I suspect that if you were to close your eyes and meditate on an audiobook, your retention and understanding of the information could be as good, maybe better, than what you get from real reading. But one of the most basic things I've learned from psychology and my own experience is that attention level is incredibly important...many people may think they are paying attention, but there's that level of focus you can get to that really makes a difference in memory and understanding, which I don't think you can really achieve with 'reading' an audiobook, as long as it's accompanied by even menial tasks like jogging or something else.
 
 

 
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