Reading is considered a vital part of developing the mind and expanding the imagination. The main difference between reading and audiobooks is that reading is active engagement, while listening is passive engagement.
People have been reading for thousands of years. Since the development of written languages, the words have been inscribed on clay which has dried and hardened to metals, wood, and eventually paper. Paper books have been in mass printing for many centuries. When recordings were first developed in the latter half of the 19th century, it was not long before they included spoken passages from the written word. However, audiobooks were developed in the latter half of the 20th century thanks to the advent of cassettes which allowed for books to be put on tape. For millions of people when it comes to audiobooks vs reading, they are essentially the same thing.
Do audiobooks count as reading?
The answer is more complex that it first seems. This is because audiobooks and standard books are two different methods of conveying the same information. Just as radio and television differ because TV combines audio with visual images. So too do audiobooks differ from books because they add vocal narration to the words.
Is listening to audiobooks considered reading?
The answer lies in what an audiobook is, the benefits it provides, and how it is different compared to reading a book.
What are Audiobooks?
An audiobook is a book that is presented in audio form. It is not exactly like listening to someone else reading the book, but it is a close approximation. Audiobooks tend to be only the narration of the book, although there are some forms that may include music and sound effects. However, such presentations are more in line with radio plays or presentations as opposed to audiobooks.
Audiobooks are quite popular as they provide consumers an alternative to books when reading is not recommended. The most popular example is when driving a car or truck. Keeping your eyes on the road means not being able to read if you want to stay safe. In the vehicle may be the most popular venue for audiobooks.
Is it better to read or listen to a book?
Although it may depend on the situation, answering such as question requires that the benefits of both reading vs audiobooks must be explored.
Advantages of Reading & Audiobooks
There are several benefits to both reading and audiobooks as compared to television or watching videos on the internet. Audiobooks are even superior to radio plays and programs in some regards. For those who want to exercise their brain and expand their imaginations, the advantages of reading books includes the following.
Active Engagement: Because you are only being supplied with the words, reading a book activates larger sections of your brain to fill in the rest. The words provide the narration while your imagination provides the sounds, voices, and setting for each situation.
Fast: Most people can read words faster than the words can be spoken. This is why word for word a book can be read faster compared to an audiobook. If you are pressed for time in completing a book, reading can be accomplished faster compared to listening.
Inexpensive: Whether you purchase a physical or electronic book, the price tends to be fairly reasonable depending on its form. For example, a 1st edition hardback book sold in a bookstore is going to be more expensive compared to a paperback sold in a second-hand store.
For audiobooks, the advantages are considerable as well. This is especially true for those who have a limited amount of time for books.
Not Using Your Eyes: One advantage of listening is that your eyes can be focused on something else. This is why audiobooks are popular when driving vehicles. However, for those who suffer from frequent eye strain or have issues with their vision, audiobooks make for a good substitute.
No Shelves to Fill: Collecting all your favorite audiobooks can be accomplished on your computer, laptop, smartphone, or kept in an online storage area. This means no shelves full of books that must be dusted every so often.
Reading vs Listening to Books
When reading a book, your brain is activated in a way that audiobooks cannot perform. Your imagination is supplying the voice and sounds in visually creating the story that you are reading. This form of active engagement
In one reading vs. audiobooks study, those who read from a traditional book retained the information at a greater rate compared to listening to an audiobook. Interestingly enough, another study found that those who read from e-readers or computer screens had the same retention rate as listening to audiobooks.
This discrepancy between e-readers and traditional books may be because it is more difficult to know when the book ends on an e-reader. Whereas it is easy to tell when you are approaching the end of a book. Knowing when the book ends helps with comprehension because it prepares the reader for changes in when events occur. This is especially true for the final act, the big showdown, and other climatic events.
Therefore, is it better to read or listen to a book? The answer is in terms of retention and engagement, reading from a traditional book is better compared to listening to an audiobook. Of course, in terms of entertainment the results may be the same.
There are advantages to audiobooks, especially for those who simply do not have the time to read. This is mostly when reading is not recommended, such as in your vehicle driving to your place of work, on errands, or back home.
And while the question of is listening to an audiobook the same as reading can be answered as not true. What can be stated is that audiobooks do have something positive to contribute. In terms of doing something good for your brain, an audiobook does contribute. But when given the choice between reading vs. listening to books, you are better off reading when the situation allows for it.