20 June 2010

Sunday Salon: What is Reading? Do you count Listening?

Browsing some blogs this week I came across the suggestion that listening to books is not reading.
It was obviously a question that the followers of that blog were very intersted in - there were 33 comments - so I decided to see what the good folk who visit MYSTERIES in PARADISE  think.

First of all, there are some interesting definitions of reading:
  • the cognitive process of understanding a written linguistic message
  • a complex cognitive process of decoding symbols for the intention of deriving meaning (reading comprehension) and/or constructing meaning
  • Reading is an action performed by computers, to acquire data from a source and place it into their volatile memory for processing
  • a multifaceted process involving word recognition, comprehension, fluency, and motivation.
Ok, so you get the idea... Reading starts out with an interpretation of the written word.
My focus in this topic is probably narrowed by the fact that I am interested mainly in crime fiction, although to be quite honest I read every day and all day as part of my job. I read books, computer screens and so on.

I think that, in listening to an audio rendering of a book, I am reading. Certainly I count these books in the lists of books that I have read, and I review them just as I review books that I read with my eyes.
I acknowledge that I am listening to an interpretation by the narrator of an author's original work, but as I've noted before, I feel that often enhances my enjoyment.

I have one rule though: I do not listen to abridged versions of novels, just as I don't read abridged printed versions (Like Readers Digest ones, tempting though that can be). Nor do I count dramatised versions as reading, unless the original was meant for dramatisation, like a Shakespearian play - but then we are not talking about a short story or a novel.

I often think how audio versions of books must enhance the life of the visually impaired by opening up for people the wonderful world of fiction.

BUT, I don't count watching a dramatic version of a novel , e.g. a TV version of an Agatha Christie novel, as reading the book.

So what do you think? Do leave a comment.
To make things a bit simpler too, I have put a poll over on the right hand side: tell me, yes or no, whether you count audio books in your lists of books read.


Anonymous said...

Kerrie - Oh, what an interesting question! I actually do count (full length) audio books as reading, simply because research shows that we use similar cognitive processes to make meaning from stories that are read to us as stories we read ourselves. Perhaps the two are not identical, but they are closely related.

Kerrie said...

Raises some interesting questions doesn't it Margot. Do we actually "recognise" a word we hear that we wouldn't if we saw it on paper? For example young children will understand a book read to them that they wouldn't be able to read on their own

Tania said...

Interesting issue! Can I say yes and no? ;-)

Possibly because I haven't really gotten into audiobooks, I wouldn't consider a book listened to as a book read. I'm on a number of lists where people post monthly reads, and in that case (for the sake of learning about new books) it applies in my mind. I guess it depends on the context (and how picky and/or literal we want to be).

For me, reading involves a book, my eyes, and somewhere comfortable to park my behind. :)

That being said, any which way someone wants to take in a book is fine with me as long as they do it!

Marco said...

Listening to a book is a different experience in the sense that the narrator's dramatic and interpretive gloss inevitably supplants your own. You absorb an audible book more passively than you would if you were reading it yourself. That can actually enhance the reading experience if the narrator is talented, which is why I follow an additional rule in choosing audible books: I refuse to listen to any book read by an ineffective or irritating narrator (and there are way too many of them).

Even though listening is not identical to reading, I certainly treat audible books as ones that I have "read." In fact, I often cannot recall whether I have listened to a book or read it in hard copy or on my Kindle.

Mason Canyon said...

While listening to an audio book is technically not 'reading' a book, I do consider it so. I have absorbed the plot of the story, I have visualized the characters in my mind, and I have drawn a conclusion of whether or not I liked the book the same as if I had read it.

I have found several series that I prefer to listen to rather than read because of the narrator's dialect. They add more to the story than I can when reading from a book.

I love to hold a book and the feel of it, but I also enjoy listening to a book as well. They are especially wonderful in the car and while I'm working in the yard.

Thoughts in Progress

Anonymous said...

Kerrie, I have virtually the same thoughts as you do about audio books and if they are reading.

Yes, in my opinion, they are.
No abridgements.

I count them in with my yearly stats and also break out how many were on audio.

I like to reread books on audio because I can glean something new usually from the book being read to me. Plus I don't have to pay attention quite so closely if it is a book I have already read.

BooksPlease said...

I do count audiobooks amongst my books read but I have a limited attention span for them. If I'm driving, especially if it's an unfamiliar route I find that I've missed chunks when I was concentrating on the route, traffic etc.

But audiobooks are great if I'm a passenger on a long drive, except when the satnav jumps in!

Marg said...

I meant to go back to that post again and see what got said.

For me, whilst listening to a book is a different to reading it, I do get to listen to the story and get to experience what the author had to say about it, so I count it as a book read, particularly as listening to a book enables me to do other stuff as well.

Dorte H said...

Difficult question as I have never tried to listen to a book. I didn´t even like listening to stories when I was a child so I am not sure I would feel I had read it.

Richard R. said...

For me, "reading" means a book, one with ink-and-paper, between covers. I don't count audiobooks, digitized books, magazines, journals, graphic novels or other items, regardless of page count or time spent. Not do I count use of a reference book unless I read it through, pretty much all at once (this does happen occasionally). I can say I'm reading when I read a magazine, but nothing goes on my list of books read except books as defines above.

Deb said...

A few months ago, Stephen King wrote a piece in his "Pop of King" column in "Entertainment Weekly" magazine about audiobooks. King said, in essence, that all literature began in the oral tradition of listening to someone tellling a story and that audiobooks are very much part of that literary tradition. Whether we absorb a story through reading the words or through hearing the words, the point is, we've absorbed the story. I see no difference between reading the book or listening to the book (as long as it's the full-length, unedited version of the book).


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