Thanks to audiobooks, reading's popularity still strong in America

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But… listening…isn’t…reading…


I wonder if these stats include people who buy the book (in whatever medium) and never read it or listen to it? How about people who buy multiple copies in different formats?

yeah I agree but listening to an audiobook can be magical, and it has all the same words, so thinking back, sometimes I can’t remember if I read or listened to a book - either way I got all the good stuff and remember it.


I get nearly all of my audiobooks and ebooks from the library. My local library has wonderful collections. So now I can read/listen to over 100 books per year (covering for a few of us who can’t do 12 a year right now).


“Thanks to audiobooks” kind of implies that reading traditional print books is less popular than it used to be, which isn’t the case. Really by almost any measure reading is as popular or more popular in America than it’s ever been, despite the fearmongering about how TV and videogames and internet are destroying everyone’s attention spans.


It may not be using the same mechanism, but you are getting the same information.

Your brain still receives the same words, story, metaphor, puns and can extract the same meanings.

Depending on what type of learner you are, you may remember more or less.

It’s not a direct one-to-one, sure. Some things – like puns – might be easier to understand in audio form. A reader’s influence might change meaning slightly from what it would if you simply read the text.

But a writer still wrote that story. You still took that story into your brain. “Reading” is just a convenient shorthand for all the ways that story is being consumed. Audiobooks aren’t the only method covered in the article; they are merely growing in popularity as an alternative.


The only audiobook I’ve ever listened to more than once was World War Z, and that one is truly amazing for the vast cast of readers and the method of presentation.

The only other audiobooks I’ve listened to were those that had specific names attached as readers. Redshirts read by Wil Wheaton for instance.

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If you’re in the market for DRM free audiobooks, keep an eye out for sales in Humble Bundle. That’s how I’ve got the majority of my audiobooks.

Also, I can’t recommend enough Stephen Fry’s reading of the Harry Potter series. He does a fantastic job with it.


It also implies that most people are “reading” audiobooks. 18% is not most.


Call me old fashioned, but I only read ebooks.


The audiobook version of As I Lay Dying by Faulkner was better than I could have read it in my own minds voice. Narrator Robertson Dean and company really made those characters their own. Also BEE’s The Rules of Attraction audiobook, again the readers greatly enriched the text.

I like audio books for road trips but they don’t work for me otherwise.

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Studies have shown that the parts of a brain triggered by listening to a book and reading a book are identical. So they may not use the same physical methods of experiencing the data, but the result is functionally equivalent.


Before writing and books, people told stories to each other by speaking directly to the listener.

So in a way, audiobooks are closer to the origins of storytelling than traditional books.


I walk a couple of miles every day for my exercise, and among the things I listen to are audiobooks.

I don’t really get the point of denigrating one form of knowledge consumption method over another. Some kind of geeky gatekeeper dynamic, I suppose.


I read ebooks almost exclusively now, as a side effect of trying to keep my dead-tree book collection under control. It’s an adjustment – I do find myself missing the tactile sensation that comes from flipping the pages and the glorious scent of a new book.

Same here. Some of the narrators are wonderful, but I need a long stretch of free time to really enjoy a full audiobook. Podcasts are better for walks and working out.

That said, I hear that slightly sped-up non-fiction audiobooks are an efficient way to absorb their contents. Does anyone here have experience with that?

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Yep. I tend to do most of my reading in bed. If I fall asleep reading an ebook I can pick up where I remember what I read. If that happens with an audio book I’m basically screwed.

If I had a longer commute and didn’t listen to podcasts I might listen to more audio books. But if I’m not doing something else while listening I tend to start actually reading something else.

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Me, too. And this makes me worried that the percentage is shrinking. When searching for new titles in the library service I use, the results are overwhelmingly audiobooks. Since I don’t use them, it won’t be long before I cannot find any content through that service.

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Neurological studies notwithstanding, there are significant logistical differences across the means-of-presentation. I find it more work to review a book in e-format, since all the logistical parts of the process–flagging passages, taking notes, flipping back to check a reference–take longer. Even with a decently-featured reader application, it’s just not as quick and convenient as working with paper. Some of those issues apply to personal/recreational reading as well–for example, checking the endnotes or index on non-fiction.

I’ve been a fan of audio books for a long time, though mostly for situations where reading is not possible–driving long distances especially. And there I’ve found readers who made the experience better–the late Patrick Tull and David Case were particularly lucid presenters of Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey-Maturin books, and Case did a really nice job on the Flashman novels. But at home or in a plane, I much prefer eyeball reading. (And a mediocre performer will put me right off a book.)