A Mildly Stats-Obsessed Reader’s Take On Audiobooks

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?

6 thoughts on “A Mildly Stats-Obsessed Reader’s Take On Audiobooks

  1. I don’t understand why I’ve seen so many other bloggers be so dismissive of audiobooks as not “real” reading. There seems to be an assumption that listening is easier than reader and/or that visual symbols are somehow more worthy than auditory sounds. This seems, honestly, a little elitist to me and like it’s some remnant of the days when most people weren’t expected to be literate so reading really was a sign of superior education. Or some remnant of the Victorian era when reading got this shine to it, like it’s morally superior to engage in reading as a leisure activity, but other leisure activities are “wastes of time.” Even though reading can be as mindless as any other activity, depending on the reader and the material.

    However, it’s not clear to me that listening is fundamentally easier than reading words on a page. (Witness a class of children with a teacher vainly trying to get them to follow a simple instruction.) Actually, I find it very difficult to listen to audiobooks. I can’t multi-task (actually science shows that no one can and any “multi-tasking” involves the individual switching attention between two things–never doing them at the same time–so that it can take longer to multi-task because you have to factor in all the extra time spent switching between tasks.). If I listen to an audiobook I have to be doing something totally mindless like or else just sitting there and listening to the book.

    To me, active listening is a skill–and on that increasingly few people seem to have these days. After all, if you walk into any college classroom, I’d guarantee that maybe two people are actually listening to the instructor. The rest are probably “multi-tasking” on their laptops or phones–that is, not listening at all.

    • You touch on so many good points in this comment! I hope I don’t come across as elitist – I’m not trying to discount audiobooks because they do count as reading (and as I said, when it comes down to it, I’m happy when people read anything and value books). I do think they’re a different type/experience of reading than sitting and reading a book however.

      I definitely don’t actively listen when I put on an audiobook (as I mentioned, my mind tends to wander and I listen while doing other things, like my job) so in my experience, listening to an audiobook doesn’t carry the same weight for me as sitting down to read a book. That’s why I won’t count the pages in my tallies because I didn’t put in the time to really listen to the book and it doesn’t seem fair (to myself) to count the pages that I barely listened to.

      After reading your comment, I would now go so far as to say, in terms of how to account for an audiobook experience vs a physical book experience that there are two kinds of listening. The type I do (which is not really paying attention) versus someone sitting and actively listening to an audiobook as if they were reading a physical book. That does take more concentration and time and I would agree that active listening is certainly a dying skill.

      I’m the type that’s curious when people say they’ve read like 20-something books in a month, whether those books are comics, novels and/or audibooks. I find it interesting because I think, if you listened to 20 audiobooks in one month during your commute, while working, cleaning the house, etc. that’s different than if you actively listened to 20 audibooks, and -that’s- different than if you read 20 physical books.

      I think that there is some comparison between the amount of books everyone reads a month (speaking broadly, of course, because not everyone looks at how many books they read vs others) and I think there’s a lot of discussion that can come from all this!

      • Oh no! I didn’t mean to imply you’re elitist! I can see your post is more of a personal one about wondering how to integrate an audiobook into your stats. This isn’t a totally crazy question. I can see this being asked by schools or libraries that require students to read so many minutes. They might also wonder if audiobooks are allowed since they might be trying to teach students how to focus on a written text and learn literacy, and not only have the students enjoy the stories or the experience of a book. However, I have seen a few bloggers who basically suggested that anyone who reads audiobooks isn’t “really” reading and that audiobooks are somehow inferior to print books. I don’t understand that attitude if we’re all just reading for pleasure. Why would anyone care if I listen to The Hunger Games for my blog or if I read the print text?? Weird, right?

        I think there may also be, as you suggest, no one way to count audiobooks or not since we all have different experiences with them. I personally find listening to them a somewhat trying experience because I find them very slow and I can’t do anything else while listening. Someone else might find them easier than print texts, however. Or they might have only listened to half of it while also trying to watch a TV show (probably not unheard of).

        Likewise, someone might think they are reading a print text but they’ve actually skipped all the descriptions of scenery, the poetry, and a few scenes with characters they don’t like. So who can really say which reader did the most reading? It’s like some sort of really difficult word problem. 😉

        Personally, I guess I’m kind of easy going. I don’t really track what I read or how much or how often. I’ve seen some bloggers wondering if they should count picture books as books read because they’re short. But I don’t want to get into that. Then maybe we’d also have to throw out some novellas. Maybe Of Mice and Men and Ethan Frome shouldn’t count, either. But then what if you read The Count of Monte Cristo? Should that count as three books?

        To me, books are books. Picture books are complex and lively works of art. Length shouldn’t count against them. Audiobooks are books. Novellas are books. We should all just enjoy the books!

        And I totally understand that that is what you’re doing here and you’re just posing an interesting question about people’s reading habits. But I also wish more people would approach it with the sense of fun you have here. If we’re asking if picture books count because it’s just one of those weird nerdy book questions readers like to pose, awesome. If it’s because the blogger was told what they’re doing “doesn’t count,” then that is sad. 😦

      • Yeah audiobooks definitely count as reading! Anyone who says they don’t is crazy. It does prove challenging though, when people need to log that time or when they track their reading stats. I’ve decided it depends on the listener and the extent they’re listening.

        Today, on my lunch, I “listened” to an audiobook while “reading” an ebook. It’s safe to say I didn’t pay attention to either! XD

        I deff count everything, even picture books, when I log my reading. I like to track my stats and my system works for me. Each individual books gets a page count and counts as one book. But auidio is a new format for me, one I’m still kind of trying (though primarily using for rereads) and as it’s not a physical thing and I don’t track hours/time spent reading I was like…wtf do I do with this?! Lol.

        But certainly everyone should be in charge of their own counts and no one else should tell someone what they read doesn’t count! Even if it does feel competitive sometimes, we should still all support each other in our quest to read ALL THE BOOKS!

        I’m so glad this sparked a discussion for us!

      • I know schools tend to log time read now but personally that would drive me crazy. What about snack breaks? Interruptions from other people? Staring off into the middle distance while I contemplate the book/get distracted by the clouds? I think your way of counting pages might be easier. At least for me. Maybe I am just too easily distracted….

        Yes, discussions are fun! 😀

      • Distractions are s normal part of reading, no matter the format. I’m glad I didn’t have to track reading in school. I imagine it gives some kids a reason to dislike reading in general

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