Should Listening to Audiobooks Count As Reading?

By: Preston Simmons | Published: 4 May 2021

Book with headphones, or audiobooks

Reading truly is a wonderful thing. Being able to dive into a book and disappear into the story is like no other feeling. Flipping page after page, feeling the paper between your fingertips, reading each word until they blend into one another, creating an image of that moment in the story. These only scratch the surface of the joys that reading can bring and the experience that you as a reader have. But what if you took away the physical aspect of reading altogether? What if instead of reading the book yourself, you had someone read it to you? Would you count that as reading? Should that count as reading?

Well yes, it should.

Listening to audiobooks are a valid form of reading.

Audiobooks might take away the physical aspect of reading, but they also have their own qualities that qualify them as a valid reading method. But first, let’s play devil’s advocate. Why might some audiobook critics discount audiobooks altogether as a form of reading?

Fundamentally, the definition of the word “read” involves a physical action. Using your eyes to see words and then to interpret and comprehend those words is what it literally means “to read.” Listening to someone read is the act of being read to, not actually reading yourself. Listening to audiobooks is another form of being read to; therefore, in a literal sense, it is not actually reading.

Another argument against listening to audiobooks that some critics have is that it is easy to drift and lose attention while being read to. On the other hand, physically reading forces the reader to pay attention to the words on the page, increasing brain connectivity in the process.

Finally, some people believe that listening to audiobooks overrides the inner voice when reading. Having your own inner voice create nuances in the characters and scenes is more beneficial on a personal level than having someone else do it for you.

These are some valid criticisms of audiobooks, but do any of them actually prove that listening to audiobooks is not a form of reading?

The answer is simple: They don’t.

Listening to audiobooks is a valid form of experiencing any book and should definitely count as “reading”. In a way, audiobooks also can help you become a better reader altogether! Here’s why audiobooks are just as valid as physically reading.

Audiobooks help those with visual impairments experience reading in an easy way

man with headphones listening to an audiobook
Listening to audiobooks is an easy way to experience the books you love

Listening to audiobooks is an easy way to enjoy books for those who have visual impairments that may prevent them from physically reading. If the reader has dyslexia or blindness, physically reading a book may be more of a pain than a relaxing experience like it should be.

Imagine if someone with blindness listened to the entirety of War and Peace in audiobook format. Would you say that they experienced the epic in a less significant way than someone who physically read the book? Probably not. Would a person with dyslexia who has over 1000 cataloged and finished audiobooks on their Audible profile not be considered a reader just because they chose to listen to their books rather than physically read them? Definitely not.

Listening to audiobooks is just as valid of a way to experience a book as reading it physically.

Audiobooks are narrated by professional voice actors that take the story to the next level

smiling woman in recording studio holding a phone recording for an audiobook
Professional voice actors take novels to the next level

Audiobooks are also great because, most of the time, they are read by professional voice actors. These voice actors are trained to bring to life stories in a way only a professional can. The best of these narrators make sure each character they portray has their own unique voices, allowing you to distinguish who is speaking at any given time. Mistakes are also rare for professional readers. They don’t skip lines and usually don’t mispronounce words, so you can be sure to experience the book in the most seamless way possible. Some great readers you can check out are Michael Kramer, Travis Baldree, Nick Podehl, Scott Brick, Kate Reading, and Julia Whelan. You can be sure you’ll experience a great reading when you see any of these names attached to the book.

Listening to Audiobooks allow you to read anywhere at anytime

woman driving car listening to audiobook
Listen to audiobooks anywhere at anytime

Audiobooks also make it easy to read whenever and wherever you are. Driving your car? Mowing the lawn? Exercising? With audiobooks, you don’t need to stop reading your book. Just throw on some headphones and continue where you left off. Audiobooks were created to make the reader’s life easier.

We’re all readers.

woman reading with headphones on reading a book
Listening to audiobooks and reading at the same time is the best of both worlds

At the end of the day, we’re all readers. It’s up to you how you will experience the book, whether that be by listening to the audiobook version or reading the physical copy. There’s no need to gatekeep one way or the other. Both are perfectly valid ways of reading. In fact, maybe try both at the same time. You might find yourself enjoying physically reading while also listening to the book at the same time. I know I do.


So back to the initial question. Should listening to audiobooks count as reading? To me, yes, it should. Audiobooks make reading easier to accomplish. They don’t take away anything from the story the author created. If anything, by being narrated by professional voice actors, it actually enhances the book altogether. Audiobooks also help those with visual impairments experience books more easily. True, listening to audiobooks may not conform to the literal definition of the word “read,” but does it really matter? Whether you choose to listen to audiobooks or go the traditional route and read a physical copy of the book, there is no need to look down on anyone. At the end of the day, we are all readers who want to experience a good story. How you choose to do that is all up to you.

Do you think listening to audiobooks should count as reading? Do you prefer one way or another?

Comment below and let me know what you think!

3 thoughts on “Should Listening to Audiobooks Count As Reading?”

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