I recently posted that, due to podcasts becoming mainstream, people aren’t as snooty about audiobooks as they used to be.
But, according to this article in the NYT, many people in book clubs (bastions of literary pretension) disagree.
Apparently, listening to the book is cheating.
I feel sorry for anyone who thinks that reading letters on a page is so demanding that listening to someone read the exact same letters is somehow cheating. And anyway, cheating what? Cheating who? Is it cheating because listening is easier than reading? That makes no sense.
Cheating in school is watching the movie when you’re supposed to read the book. It’s not cheating because it’s easier. It’s cheating because the goal of the exercise includes actually reading the book.
I assume that the goal of a book club is to enjoy a story, including the manner of writing, word choice, metaphors, style, and tone. You can’t get that from a movie, but you can certainly get it from listening to someone read it to you.
I don’t happen to listen to audiobooks, but I do read to my wife. A lot. Is she cheating? Is she somehow not getting the language, the art, the style, the plot, the character that I’m getting? If not, why not? How is she missing it?
And anyway, is it easier to listen than to read? Maybe you have to concentrate more to really get what’s happening when you listen. I often find that when someone reads to me, I have trouble following the details unless I really concentrate. Maybe people who read the book are cheating.
Because really, reading isn’t hard. Some books are hard because the words are unusual, or the allusions are obscure. They’re not hard due to having to look at the letters on the page and translate them into words in your head.
Listening to those books isn’t any easier than reading them.
[On a similar, but side, note, back when I had some money, I looked into buying a “recumbent” bicycle. These are constructed in a way that let you recline while pedaling. You’re still traveling on your own power, and you’re still on two wheels. It’s a bicycle, but it’s not as painful to ride, because all your weight isn’t on a tiny saddle-shaped seat.
But lots of people call the recumbent bikes “toys.” They say that riding one is cheating. Ridiculous.]