Is Listening to Audio Books Really the Same as Reading?


We’re back to the usual question in a recent piece in Forbes: does listening count as reading? As I mentioned in this blog’s inaugural post, one goal of bringing together journalism about audiobooks is to move beyond a set of questions about audiobooks lazily recycled every time a journalist brings up the topic.

Olga Khazan is covering familiar ground here, but she deserves credit for going into greater depth than other accounts. Her piece marshals together some interesting evidence about the listening vs reading debate. For example, she cites William Irwin’s 2009 essay “Reading Audio Books,” scholarly studies of listening comprehension from the 1970s and 80s, and psychologists Dan Willingham and Arthur Graesser.

Khazan still ends up with the predictable ambivalence about whether reading or listening is superior. The answer? It depends. Sometimes reading is better, sometimes listening is better. But both are pretty good.

Too bad the piece doesn’t take on William Irwin’s comment about how audiobooks have been “woefully unaddressed by the academic community.” No more! Audiobook studies are beginning to take off: Audiobooks, Literature, and Sound Studies.

Read Khazan’s piece here: “Is Listening to Audio Books Really the Same as Reading?”

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