Recently I read – er – listened to Neil Gaiman’s View from the Cheap Seats and after I was finished, I found myself wondering how to handle this media in regards to how I track my monthly reading progress.
An audiobook is still a book at heart, but as someone who keeps a little notebook by my bed where I record the reading dates, title, author, page count, first sentence and any notable quotes (and the rare vocabulary word, which I’ve become incredibly lazy about) and a spreadsheet that tallies my books and pages read per month, the average pages per book and average pages I’ve read per day, plus yearly totals and averages, I was stumped as to how to factor an audiobook into my slightly obsessive tracking (look, I know there are people who track way more stats than I do.)
Now, I know reading isn’t a competition (although at times it feels like it) but I actually enjoy keeping these stats and I found myself wanting to “properly” categorize and account for Gaiman’s book. I didn’t feel it was right to add the pages of the physical book to my counts, because I didn’t actually sit down and put in the “work” it takes to read the book (more thoughts on this in a moment.) But I did spend however many hours it took to listen to the book – I can’t recall how many hours it said it was, maybe 12, and I did listen on 1.5 speed – and that accounts for something.
In the end (after half a day of mental anguish), I decided to add it to my number of books read for the month, but not to give it a page count. This doesn’t seem quite fair, but I don’t want to drastically change how I log my books considering how seldom I actually listen to audiobooks. I don’t log the hours I read, or actually pay attention to how many days it takes me to read a book (I log dates mostly to keep track of what books I read in what month), nor do I want to. If you do something like that, how do you factor in audiobooks?
This all leads to my next thought, which is, do audiobooks really count as reading? This is actually a discussion I read over on the bookdrblog a few months back. They make a good point in regards to my comment on reading sometimes feeling competitive – if someone says they read 20 books in a month, but 10 of them were really audiobooks, is that the same as actually reading 20 books in a month?
This interests me. In the end, I’m happy people are consuming literature, whatever way they choose to do so, and I’m part of the blogging and Instagram communities so that I can talk to people about stories and what we liked and didn’t like. The more people that read, the merrier! But I do think there is a distinction between sitting down and carving out the time to read a book, or listening to an audiobook during your commute, at work or doing whatever else you’re capable of doing while listening.
There’s certainly a difference when it comes to my experience. When I read, I’m (usually!) focused on the book. Give me an audiobook and chances are I’ll only absorb a small amount of what’s being said. I’ve always preferred to read to myself rather than be read to (ugh, listening to other student’s read out loud in school was so annoying) unless I’m trying to sleep, then I love bedtime stories!
I listened to Gaiman’s book primarily at work and a little in the car (I have a fairly short commute) so I was always doing something else in addition to listening. As a result, I really can’t say I remember all that much about the book, though I know I enjoyed it (part of that is Gaiman’s godly voice, like, can that man please narrate everything ever?) This is why I have a hard time giving myself any page credit for having listened to the book because I didn’t truly listen, not in the way I listen when I read to myself.
I can’t just lie in bed and listen to an audiobook either. I find myself getting bored and looking for things to do with my eyes and hands, like dick around on my phone or color. Anything I decide to do to occupy myself then distracts me from the audio! It’s a curse.
But I can sit down and read a good book for hours. In the end, I don’t listen to audiobooks often and if I do, I try to find books I’ve already read, so at least I know the outline of the story and I don’t feel like I’m missing out on the whole thing when I inevitably space out. A good example is the Abhorsen trilogy by Garth Nix, narrated by the lovely Tim Curry (swoon). It’s a series I’m gaga over, I know the basic plot outlines of all three books and I can let Curry’s melodious accent waft through my brain while I go about my business.
So tell me, am I crazy? Do you struggle with how to account for the audiobooks you’ve listened to each month? Do you make any distinction in your counts between books and audiobooks? Am I the only one who has trouble paying attention if someone else is reading to me?