Sunday, December 12, 2010

Audiobooks - Cheating or not?

I keep a "Read Book List," a sort of challenge against myself, listing all the books I've read each year, classified by genre and medium:
      Princess Academy by Shannon Hale - YA - Audiobook.

I reviewed my list preemptively this year and discovered I beat my total for 2009! Then I noticed that a great number of this year's books were audiobooks, and the question arose:
      Is reading audiobooks "cheating"?

I don't know why it would be any more than playing soccer for exercise is cheating when one might be running laps instead. It's working different muscles - ears vs. eyes - but the brain is still engaged, albeit somewhat differently. We're still soaking up stories, falling in love with characters, reveling in beautiful language and well turned phrases, and learning new words. Aren't we?

Yet it still seems my gut reaction is to think of listening to audiobooks as cheating. Perhaps I'm remembering high school English class when if you didn't read Romeo and Juliet for Friday's test, you'd simply pick up the video or DVD from Blockbuster the night before. That was cheating. Because you were SUPPOSED to read the text.

But is listening for pleasure cheating? Maybe, and maybe thinking that way is a bit of literary uppityness - only reading is reading. Even though Shakespeare's plays were originally performed. As were Homer's epics. Etc.

Maybe listening isn't a substitute for reading - i.e. If our literary diets consist mainly or only of audiobooks, it might be a good idea to add variety. We need to stretch and grow all our muscles. But cheating? Nah... I don't think so, anyway.

So, yay for 2010 - And may 2011 be an even more story-filled year!