PDA

View Full Version : Are audio-books still books?



robeiae
05-07-2007, 05:33 PM
Suggested by this thread (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?p=1316970#post1316970).

If you listen to someone else read a book on a cd/tape/ipod, can you claim to have read that book?

Does the fact that you are no longer techinically the reader mean that you are subject to an interpretation of the original, even if it's the author who reads his/her own work?

If the same book is recorded by two different readers and you listen to both, have you "read" two different books?

Will Batman and Robin escape the giant clam?

Well?

Storyteller5
05-07-2007, 06:42 PM
Technically, audiobooks are still books because they contain all of the words from the book.

However, if I listen to an audiobook, I can say I listened to it and know the book. Reading is reading. Listening is listening. Listening is only reading if you are four and can't read. ;)

Husker@Heart
05-07-2007, 06:45 PM
I've listened to plenty of audio books in the past few month (I travel for a living! And something has to pass the hours...) But I would NEVER say I've read those books... I've heard them; and I know what they are about... but I have not read them.

However, I am currently READING "For Whom the Bell Tolls" after I listened to it. I can honestly say that I am getting so much more from my reading than I did from my listening.

robeiae
05-07-2007, 06:50 PM
Technically, audiobooks are still books because they contain all of the words from the book.
But not in written form.

Is a screenplay technically a movie because it depicts all the scenes and dialogue from the movie?

Kate Thornton
05-07-2007, 09:10 PM
I have to disagree.

If you are blind and cannot "read" with your eyes, can you not say you have read books that have been either spoken to you or that you have "read" using your fingers (Braille)??

I am unable to read the printed word for very long due to an eye problem related to my stroke. I listen to unabridged books on tape or CD and feel I have read those books. Or does the complete exposure to the words of the author not count as having read something because it was not accomplished with the eyes?

ChunkyC
05-07-2007, 09:11 PM
Technically speaking, a book is a set of pages bound together. It is a physical thing, a format in which to present printed words and images to a reader. So by that definition, an audiobook is not a book. However, an audiobook is (or should be) an accurate-as-possible presentation of the contents of a book.

It can never be exact, naturally, since your experience of hearing the story will be different than reading it. The reader in an audiobook may put emphasis on syllables or phrases differently than you would when reading the same passage, and so on.

As far as using the word "read" to indicate that you have experienced the story in audio as opposed to printed form, that's a nit I'd rather leave to others to pick. Audio or printed, the story has (hopefully) been told to you using the same words.

robeiae
05-07-2007, 09:19 PM
I have to disagree.

If you are blind and cannot "read" with your eyes, can you not say you have read books that have been either spoken to you or that you have "read" using your fingers (Braille)??

I am unable to read the printed word for very long due to an eye problem related to my stroke. I listen to unabridged books on tape or CD and feel I have read those books. Or does the complete exposure to the words of the author not count as having read something because it was not accomplished with the eyes?But when a blind person reads braille, they are, in fact, reading the book as written, without an intermediary, no?



As far as using the word "read" to indicate that you have experienced the story in audio as opposed to printed form, that's a nit I'd rather leave to others to pick. Audio or printed, the story has (hopefully) been told to you using the same words.
But I want you to pick it, too.

When you listen to another tell it, there is the manner in which it is told--inflection, tone, changes in volume, etc. Is that qualitatively the same as reading it from the printed page?

ChunkyC
05-07-2007, 10:56 PM
No, I don't think it is the same as reading it from the page, which I said in my earlier post. :)

You said intermediary in your post, rob -- I think that's a good point about audiobooks. The person reading it is between you and the printed word. Even if they speak every word exactly as it was written -- which they should -- you have their voice which isn't there on the printed page.

As for a person saying "I read Moby Dick" when they actually listened to the audiobook; technically they're wrong, but I'm okay with that as long as they're talking about a reading of exactly the same words as in the printed version. The minute you start adding things, as you would if you were to put in sound effects, for example, then it's no longer a pure reading of the story. It starts moving into the area of a performance of the story.

Mind you, you could say that even the most pure reading of a text is a performance of sorts, which goes back to the person doing the reading being between you and the printed original.

Someone reading braille is reading the words from a page at their own pace and with their own internal voice 'saying' the words, which is the same as a sighted person reading a book. It's just a different way of putting the letters on the page. Braille or English, the word "dog" is still the word "dog", spelled out one letter at a time on a piece of paper.

With an audiobook, you could have a really crappy reading by someone who gets all the inflections in weird places, or who reads in a monotone so devoid of emotion that he makes HAL from 2001 sound like a manic depressive on speed. That can't happen with the printed word, no matter what 'language' it's printed in.

johnrobison
05-07-2007, 11:09 PM
As an author and reader, I'd feel you (the listener) got more from the audiobook because you got to hear all the original inflection and nuance that does not come across on the printed page.

Audio book readers alone know how all the words are pronounced, and you know how the people sound.

ChunkyC
05-07-2007, 11:13 PM
Oh sure, I agree that the audiobook done well can be a great way to experience a book. But it cannot be the same as reading it for yourself. Therefore, I think the original question posited by rob has to be answered with a no. If you listen to an audiobook, it really isn't accurate to say you've therefore read the book. You've had it read to you, which is a different thing.

And sometimes, as you pointed out John, having it read to you can be a richer experience. :)

benbradley
05-07-2007, 11:30 PM
But when a blind person reads braille, they are, in fact, reading the book as written, without an intermediary, no?


But I want you to pick it, too.

When you listen to another tell it, there is the manner in which it is told--inflection, tone, changes in volume, etc. Is that qualitatively the same as reading it from the printed page?
It does get the same words across, though it may be 'colored' by the speaker's intonations and emphases.

I'd say that Braille is closer to reading with the eyes than it is to hearing the words spoken, because the reader controls (up to his or her max ability) the speed of the reading, rather than the speaker.

I don't often listen to audio books or podcasts, I'd rather read the words. I can control the speed I read, and start skimming when I'm reading something that's 'easy' or that describes something I already know. With audio, I'm stuck at the pace of the speaker (yes, there are gadgets and software to do faster playback without "munchkinization" but that seems more trouble than it's worth). I feel more "in control" when reading than when listening.

An "audio book" isn't technically a book because it isn't printed sheets between covers, though it does have the same information (the same words in the same order) in a different form. Perhaps it could be called an "audio novel."

Storyteller5
05-07-2007, 11:50 PM
As an author and reader, I'd feel you (the listener) got more from the audiobook because you got to hear all the original inflection and nuance that does not come across on the printed page.

Audio book readers alone know how all the words ar epronounced, and you know how the people sound.

Now it's my turn to disagree. When you read a book, you have the freedom to stop and pause to think about a plot point that moves you or a well turned phrase/paragraph. You aren't as likely to stop an audio book; there's not the same ease to stop and consider it at your own pace.

You talk about the original inflection and nuance. This suggests that we need the same one to understand and I think it's impossible for anyone view a tale the exact same way.

I don't get what you mean by "you know how the people sound". Most audiobooks I've seen are not read by the author. I don't need to hear Stephen King talk to enjoy his work. I don't think hearing him talk makes an audio book speaker any better at reciting it. I don't need to hear it spoken to know how the words sound; I knew what Shakespeare soliloqueys sounded like before I attended live theatre.

RumpleTumbler
05-07-2007, 11:53 PM
If audio books are books then phone sex is sex.

johnrobison
05-07-2007, 11:54 PM
If I may make one other important point:

You mentioned blind or deaf people and braille books or books on tape. In our society, we "read" books. That's the term. My book, Look Me in the Eye, is a book no matter what form you buy it in. eBook, iPod download, hardback, paperback, CD, cassette tape . . . all are "books" to the general public and to me.

If someone read my book by listening to the CDs, and you suggested they had not really "read" it, many readers would find your suggestion demeaning and insulting. What if, as the poster above, she could not focus her eyes because of a stroke? What if she was almost blind?

Would you tell those people they can't really read?

Common courtesy suggests that we accept whatever method people choose to absorb the words as "reading" unless they choose to describe it otherwise.

robeiae
05-07-2007, 11:56 PM
And sometimes, as you pointed out John, having it read to you can be a richer experience. :)
Particularly when it has big words that you don't know how to pronounce, not that that ever happens to me...

And this idea that the author doing the reading lends the intended inflections and what not...here's an experiment:

Read some of your own work out loud and tape it. Wait a few months and read the same thing out loud again, taping it again. Then listen to both tapes. I wonder if they would sound the same and if a listener would get the same sense from both versions. I pose this as a true hypothetical; I have no idea what the results would be.

Storyteller5
05-08-2007, 12:11 AM
If someone read my book by listening to the CDs, and you suggested they had not really "read" it, many readers would find your suggestion demeaning and insulting. What if, as the poster above, she could not focus her eyes because of a stroke? What if she was almost blind?

Would you tell those people they can't really read?

Common courtesy suggests that we accept whatever method people choose to absorb the words as "reading" unless they choose to describe it otherwise.

First of all, this isn't a question most non-writers are going around asking.

And why do we have to be so politically correct and tiptoe around things? If someone can not read because they have poor eyesight and don't understand braille, I don't think it's offensive to say they can't read. To me, reading involves seeing the words with your eyes or fingertips in the case of Braille. They can't open any random paperback in a bookstore and tell me what it says. Is it offensive to say that someone in a wheelchair with a spinal cord injury can't walk? No, it's stating fact - one can't walk and the other can't see/feel the words on the page. It's nothing to do with trying to minimalize someone or demean them. That's not my intention and it doesn't take much time talking to someone to get their intentions.

I'm not saying they can't enjoy books in whatever form they can access, be it audio or Braille or books. That's great. But I don't consider audiobooks reading.

johnrobison
05-08-2007, 12:29 AM
Now it's my turn to disagree. When you read a book, you have the freedom to stop and pause to think about a plot point that moves you or a well turned phrase/paragraph. You aren't as likely to stop an audio book; there's not the same ease to stop and consider it at your own pace.

You talk about the original inflection and nuance. This suggests that we need the same one to understand and I think it's impossible for anyone view a tale the exact same way.

I don't get what you mean by "you know how the people sound". Most audiobooks I've seen are not read by the author. I don't need to hear Stephen King talk to enjoy his work. I don't think hearing him talk makes an audio book speaker any better at reciting it. I don't need to hear it spoken to know how the words sound; I knew what Shakespeare soliloqueys sounded like before I attended live theatre.

I say you hear the original inflection and nuance because there are occasionally sentences that can be read different ways. Consider the "Eats shoots and leaves" phrase. Hearing me say the words might make the sequence of events clear in a way that the four words alone do not.

With respect to knowing how the people sound . . . I would rather hear the author read a book than hear some third party read the same story. But I'm sure there are plenty of people who don't care.

I guess, as the author, I don't agree with your statement that "you don't need to hear it spoken to know how it sounded." As the creator of the work, I know how I meant it to sound, and everyone else's reading is their interpretation of my work.

It's all a moot point until you sell a book that someone wants to publish as an audio book. When that happens, you have to think these things through and do what you feel is right.

Some authors believe they alone should read their audio books, others believe a professional reader should do it, while others opt for teams to read the dialogue.

robeiae
05-08-2007, 12:34 AM
I say you hear the original inflection and nuance because there are occasionally sentences that can be read different ways. Consider the "Eats shoots and leaves" phrase. Hearing me say the words might make the sequence of events clear in a way that the four words alone do not.
Actually, that seems to be a good example of why reading/seeing the written word might be preferable to hearing it, with regard to avoiding confusion on what the intended meaning is.

Higgins
05-08-2007, 12:36 AM
First of all, this isn't a question most non-writers are going around asking.

And why do we have to be so politically correct and tiptoe around things? If someone can not read because they have poor eyesight and don't understand braille, I don't think it's offensive to say they can't read. To me, reading involves seeing the words with your eyes or fingertips in the case of Braille. They can't open any random paperback in a bookstore and tell me what it says. Is it offensive to say that someone in a wheelchair with a spinal cord injury can't walk? No, it's stating fact - one can't walk and the other can't see/feel the words on the page. It's nothing to do with trying to minimalize someone or demean them. That's not my intention and it doesn't take much time talking to someone to get their intentions.

I'm not saying they can't enjoy books in whatever form they can access, be it audio or Braille or books. That's great. But I don't consider audiobooks reading.

Books are just degrading in any form. You aren't really reading unless you record your eyeball tremors in your sleep and then send the results out in Morse Code
automatically to be recorded and returned to you just before bed the next night when you listen to the code and write down what it says and read that as inspiration for your next night of rapid eye movements. It takes a lot of practice, but the mental training is superb and you don't have to be PC about it at all.
I'm not sure how much the experience would be altered by having somebody else read the primary decode aloud to you, but I'm going to have my friend the HAM radio operator try it out and see if he gets better (purely theoretical) results than others have. This is all a true hypothetical, of course.

johnrobison
05-08-2007, 12:42 AM
First of all, this isn't a question most non-writers are going around asking.

And why do we have to be so politically correct and tiptoe around things? If someone can not read because they have poor eyesight and don't understand braille, I don't think it's offensive to say they can't read. To me, reading involves seeing the words with your eyes or fingertips in the case of Braille. They can't open any random paperback in a bookstore and tell me what it says. Is it offensive to say that someone in a wheelchair with a spinal cord injury can't walk? No, it's stating fact - one can't walk and the other can't see/feel the words on the page. It's nothing to do with trying to minimalize someone or demean them. That's not my intention and it doesn't take much time talking to someone to get their intentions.

I'm not saying they can't enjoy books in whatever form they can access, be it audio or Braille or books. That's great. But I don't consider audiobooks reading.


In reading my answer, please don't think I'm trying to be insulting or arrogant, because I'm not . . .

Six months ago, I would have agreed with what you say. Who cares, I'd think.

Now, I have a book that's about to go into print all around the world, and I get letters and notes about that from every continent, every single day. The tales I now respond to have considerably broadened my perspective.

I've written a memoir about life with Asperger's, and to my great surprise, there are millions of families touched by this condition all over the world. With their personal involvement, my words mean more than I'd previously guessed to some.

I now know from personal experience that a person saying "I read that book" could be blind. And a person who says, "I saw that opera" may be deaf. Having seen that, I also know how those people might be deeply hurt if I were to say, "No, you didn't. You didn't really read it."

It does not matter what my intent is, or how benign it may be. What purpose would it serve, arguing semantics?

If you write for the public, and you claim (as I do) that you want to benefit society, you should be sensitive to the feelings of your audience.

I could not possibly gain anything by arguing with a blind person 2,000 miles away about whether he did or didn't read a book. So I don't.

ChunkyC
05-08-2007, 01:06 AM
I agree with you there, John. In here it's an interesting discussion, but out in real life when dealing with your average joe who's just trying to tell you he enjoyed your novel, it's a distinction that really isn't necessary to make.

Storyteller5
05-08-2007, 01:28 AM
it's a distinction that really isn't necessary to make.

Exactly!

robeiae
05-08-2007, 02:18 AM
I agree with you there, John. In here it's an interesting discussion, but out in real life when dealing with your average joe who's just trying to tell you he enjoyed your novel, it's a distinction that really isn't necessary to make.


Exactly!
Oh. Does that mean CG has to give up his mod lapel pin?

I do agree that from the standpoint of simply enjoying a book, it does not matter a whit. However, would it matter if someone didn't enjoy a particular experience?

If someone tells you, as the author, "I got the audio version of your novel on my ipod and I didn't like it all," would it be a valid counter to claim "well, you really have to READ my book to properly appreciate it"?

Just askin.

johnrobison
05-08-2007, 03:10 AM
Oh. Does that mean CG has to give up his mod lapel pin?

I do agree that from the standpoint of simply enjoying a book, it does not matter a whit. However, would it matter if someone didn't enjoy a particular experience?

If someone tells you, as the author, "I got the audio version of your novel on my ipod and I didn't like it all," would it be a valid counter to claim "well, you really have to READ my book to properly appreciate it"?

Just askin.

If someone did not like my audio book, I would not have any reason to think they'd like the print version better. For me, one try per reader is enough.

So I would not make the "you really have to READ it" claim. Other writers may feel differently.

UKREVIEWER
06-22-2007, 02:58 PM
I have to disagree.

I am unable to read the printed word for very long due to an eye problem related to my stroke. I listen to unabridged books on tape or CD and feel I have read those books.

I tend to agree with you Kate! On one hand we cannot say I've read that book on tape, but then again saying that it is 'reading' doesn't sound quite right either, but what else can we call it? - Even if it is a little distant from the usual dictionary definitions we have listened to the book, which is more or less the same as the content in the actual print or ebook.

9 definitions - The American HeritageŽ Dictionary


reading(n.)The act or activity of one that reads.
reading(n.)The act or practice of rendering aloud written or printed matter: skilled at forensic reading.

Cath
06-22-2007, 05:12 PM
... I wonder if they would sound the same and if a listener would get the same sense from both versions. I pose this as a true hypothetical; I have no idea what the results would be.
It strikes me that this isn't so much about whether someone who listens to a book has read it (or not), as it is about the difference in reader experience between reading the physical words on the page or listening to someone else's interpretation of them.

I agree there's a difference, in the same way that two people reading (or listening) to the same book will experience it differently.

Ziljon
06-22-2007, 05:52 PM
In fact, I believe listening to an audio book is the best way to absorb a book.

My studio is thirty-five miles from my home (one hour commute each way!). Without audio books I wouldn't have read 3/4 of the books I have.

I've read the same book on in both forms, audio and paper, in fact, I've read the complete Aubrey/Maturin series by Patrick O'Brian (20 books) both ways, and I prefer the audio.

The reason is, because you can't skim when things are boring or rush ahead when they get exciting, you achieved the purest immersion into the author's voice (not to mention hearing the proper way to say fo'c'sle!).

Is a symphony a symphony if you just read the score? Yes.
Is a play a play if you just read it? Yes.
Is a screenplay a screenplay...Yes.

And I know these are all examples of the opposite, of having something meant to be performed simply ingested by the mind. But I would posit that a book is just a long story, and so falls into the same category, because stories are meant to be told.

cooltouch
06-22-2007, 10:36 PM
As for audio vs. printed books, I suspect that 'reading' is not the same as 'listening.' Even if the information is identical, the process in which it is absorbed is different.

If we were to take a willing subject and wire him up to an encephalograph, I'll wager that we would see a lot more frontal and occipital lobe activity when he was reading and much more temporal lobe activity when he was listening. The subject is using different areas of the brain to process the same information, so my argument is that the two processes are fundamentally different.

Distinctions without a difference? I don't think so. Memory retention tests would likely be different between the two. Imagery that occurs with each would likely not be the same. Etc.

Best,

Michael