Woo! Something bookish (besides a book review) to talk about two weeks in a row! Look at me!
So let’s get right down to today’s topic. Do audiobooks count as books read?
Spoiler alert: Yes. They do. And to be honest, I’m not really sure why this is an issue I keep seeing come up, but I do, and it’s starting to get me a little feisty, so here’s my take on it all.
First off, “reading” a book basically means absorbing it, understanding it. When we’re tested on reading comprehension we’re not tested on can. you. read. each. of. these. individual. words. We’re tested on can you string these words into a sentence and understand them. You don’t actually have to physically read the words with your eyes to string them into a sentence and understand them. Simply put, reading is not a physical act you need sight to complete.
Which leads me to my second point which is: it is ableist as hell to tell someone that audiobooks don’t “count” as reading. What about blind folks? Do they have to get a book in Braille for it to count, per this silly rule? Do you know how few physical books there are that are produced in Braille? And how expensive they are? A copy of The Hobbit is $72.95. Want a more recent young adult book? A copy of Ash Princess is $97.95. Game of Thrones? $239.95. Audiobooks are expensive, too, don’t get me wrong, but they’re more widely available, and there are many more library options.
It’s not only blind people who this nonsense excludes, either. “Not counting” audiobooks also hurts neurodiverse people. Audiobooks are often used as an alternative method of teaching for kids (and adults) whose brains aren’t neurotypical. Just because some people mix letters up doesn’t mean they’re not able to comprehend stories and information. It doesn’t mean they don’t count.
I think this is really why this issue fires me up, to be perfectly honest. Because by saying audiobooks don’t “count,” it feels like people are saying those for whom audiobooks are the only viable (or affordable or accessible) option don’t “count” when they in fact do. Very much. They’re just as much a part of the literary community as everyone else. I want them as part of my audience. I want everyone as part of my audience. I want that tent to be as wide and welcoming as possible. I don’t care how you absorb stories; I only care that you do.
Ableism is point one and the most important, but point two is time. Some people don’t have time to read as much as they’d like (or at all). Single parents, workaholic types, people having to hold multiple jobs, people doing school and work, those with long commutes, the people who might make up this category are endless. As you get older and take on more and more responsibilities, you have less and less free time. And what free time you have is precious. Maybe you’re trying to get that side hustle going. Maybe you need to spend more time with your partner or children. Maybe you’re just too damn tired from struggling that you can’t make the words turn into sentences at the end of a sixteen-hour day. Audiobooks give you back a little bit of free time because you can read and do other things. I listen to audiobooks on my long commute, at the gym, while I’m cooking dinner, taking the dog on a walk, cleaning my house, etc. All things that need to happen, all things that cut into the time I have to read a physical book. To have the luxury to have so much free time that you can choose not to “count” audiobooks is a privilege, plain and simple.
Final point on why audiobooks definitely count as books read: because not counting them is silly, really. I recently listened to Furyborn by Claire Legrand on audiobook. I wasn’t taken with the narrator, so I read the sequel, Kingsbane, in hardback. Shockingly, I didn’t have to go back and read Furyborn in hardback to understand Kingsbane. I simply picked up the book, opened the cover, and started to read. This is because I’d read it by listening to it. I mean, this is not that complicated.
So, at the end of the day, this is my word problem: According to Goodreads, Aimee has read 55 books this year. If 27 of them were audiobooks, how many books has Aimee read this year?
Answer: Aimee has read 55 books this year.
As always, be kind to yourself, and keep at those Goodreads goals, however you reach them!