You’ve probably heard this issue debated on more than one occasion, so I’ve decided to throw my hat into the ring and give you my two cents. I’m not looking to offend anyone. This is just my view of things and not an objective truth, so I am heavily biased. Let’s dive in.
The Argument against Audiobooks
The main point usually made against audiobooks is that listening to audiobooks shouldn’t “count”, since you are not actively reading, analyzing, and backtracking to find the references to a previous few chapters. Self-proclaimed book lovers tend to argue that a person is not really dedicated to a book if they don’t have a quiet place to enjoy it in peace and that walking, running, or doing chores shift focus away from the important parts.
The only part of this I can get behind is that books that you need to analyze for a course or a book club might not be suitable for the audio format since it is more difficult to visualize the text and actively be aware of your surroundings. It is difficult, or even impossible, to study math or a language via audiobooks. Then again, if a person has no trouble focusing, it might be okay.
Personally, I enjoy books that are read in a dramatic way by people who know their craft. For example, Stephen Briggs brings Terry Pratchett’s characters to life, while Stephen Fry absolutely killed it with the Harry Potter series and the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
The point I’m trying to make is that a well-read book can be even more engaging than a hardback. However, in pretty much the same way, a book read badly or with a mismatched cast can be ruined for the readers/listeners. The good folks at librivox.org are volunteers with different levels of recording equipment, often within the same audiobook, and, well… it shows.
The Practical Aspect
While some people treat audiobooks as a mere convenience and a way to be lazy while bragging about literature and culture, let us not forget that there are those that are not fortunate enough to be able to enjoy books, at least not in the same way. If you have a family member with impaired vision, as I do, you will definitely appreciate their newfound ability to enjoy SF, crime, history, and fantasy novels that you love and wish to share.
There is also the problem of modern life and the speed with which it goes on without leaving much time for enjoyment. Parents, workers who do overtime, people who get drowned in daily tasks, and those that are any combination of the three may view audiobooks as a way to not miss out on literature. Long story short – audiobooks rule.