There’s been a lot of debate about whether audiobooks are “real books” since they’ve started becoming more popular and accessible. And I keep wondering how this is even a debate. Audiobooks are “real books.” Period.

The Essence of an Audiobook

First of all, “book” is in the noun “audiobook,” so the name itself reveals its essence. An “audiobook” is simply a book that has the quality of being listened to when it is read. What would you call an audiobook if you didn’t call it an audiobook?

Simply put, an audiobook is the audio format of a book released by whoever publishes it. Publishers also release large print versions of the same book, and paperback versions, etc. Would you not determine those to be the same book? The text of the book itself is still the same, and its story is still the same (unless it’s a new or revised edition, and therefore a new book)– the only difference is its format and that it is being read aloud in its audio version, which brings me to the second point I would like to make.

Books Have Been Read More Often Historically Via Listening

Books have been read and consumed aloud since books started being written hundreds of years ago. In fact, it was more common for people to read books by them being read aloud to them for much longer than it has been more common for people to enjoy books on their own in solitude by looking at words on a page. Even the ancient Greeks read their texts aloud. Historically, it’s a very recent phenomenon that people read and consume books in solitude.

People were read the Bible in church, for instance, long before they were able and allowed to read it on their own in solitude. In fact, for a long time, it was illegal to read a physical copy of the Bible yourself, even if you were literate. And it was common, for hundreds of years, for one person to read a copy of a book to others around a fireplace for entertainment in the evening, as it wasn’t uncommon for there to be only a few copies of a single book in existence at one time.

Whether You Read Via Listening or Viewing Your Brain is Still Processing the Same Narratives and Concepts

Whether you’re listening to a story or encountering it with your own two eyes, your brain is still processing the same narratives and concepts in whatever book you’re reading. Your brain is still processing the same story present in a novel, whether you listen to it or look at the words describing it on a page. And your brain will still be processing the same facts and arguments presented in a physical copy of a book as its audio version.

Plus, many of us readers were fortunate enough to have our parents or guardians read to us every night or most nights before bed. And I can assure you that a love of reading and consuming books as adults comes from that practice of having been read to as a small child.

Not Identifying Audiobooks as Books is Ableist

This is probably the most important point to make when it comes to considering the essence of an audiobook. If you refuse to acknowledge that audiobooks are books, then you are being ableist, and are essentially claiming that only people who can see, who aren’t blind or visually impaired, can read. And that just sounds absurd. People who are visually impaired consume real books and listen to real books with real narratives and real information in them. Period.

What are your thoughts on audiobooks? Leave a comment. And don’t forget to like and share this post if you’d like others to see it, too. Thanks!

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