In Defense of Audiobooks
Oral and Multimedia Storytelling
Storytelling and information gathering isn’t limited to just reading printed words. Oral storytelling was the first form of storytelling before written history. Many of the ancient works that we study in school were not written down for centuries. They were delivered orally and visually through a collaboration by playwrights, actors, musicians, set designers, costumes, and any spontaneous circumstances. They took on a different life based on variations of those factors and they changed from region to region and over time. All of them are still valid versions of the original. These stories relied on multiple media in order to get the core message across. Even printed media use spacing and typeset to enhance the reading experience.
Non-fiction is often delivered through speeches, podcasts, lectures. A college lecture has a different flavor from a podcast which is different from a TED Talk. All of these can be compiled into a print book or audiobook, but what is important is the information that is delivered.
Reading Is A Privilege
For centuries, writing and reading were reserved for those who were privileged enough to be provided with an education. In fact, in many parts of the world, that’s still the case. Watching plays or listening to others tell a story is a good option in those situations.
Reading is often considered a form of meditation, but print books and e-books exclude those with disabilities. Just like Braille is a tool, audiobooks can be another tool. Consider a person with arthritis who loves to read. If the physical pain of lifting a print book and holding the pages open impedes them from their meditation, then an audiobook could be a welcome relief.
Sometimes, busy professionals and/or parents just don’t have the time or energy to read. Audiobooks help them ‘read’ books while they run errands, drive to and from work, get chores done etc.
Even for those who are able to read print books, their parents or teachers read aloud to them when they are children. These children are technically listening to audiobooks, but it is one of the most effective ways to instill the love of reading into a child.
To digest the information in a book and synthesize it is more important than the medium through which we receive the information. Listening to an audiobook is a valid form reading. Audiobooks are not for everyone and that’s ok, but for some, it might be the only medium available.
*Note: If I used any language that is not appropriate in this post, please forgive me and let me know the proper terms so that I can update my wording. Thank you!