When listening to a book is better than reading it

Oct 06 2021

Writing in the New York Times, opinion columnist Farhad Manjoo makes the case for audio books:

When the market for audiobooks began to skyrocket in about the past decade, people would sometimes wonder whether they counted — that is, when you listened to the book, could you say that you had read it? It was a mostly silly metaphysical debate (in the vein of Have you really been to a city if you’ve only flown through its airport? or If you replace an ax’s handle and then you replace its blade, do you have the same ax?), but the question illustrated a deep cultural bias. The audio version of a book was often considered a CliffsNotes-type shortcut. It was acceptable in a pinch, but as a matter of cultural value, audio ranked somewhere lower than the real, printed thing.

I rise now to liberate the audiobook from the murky shadow of text. Audiobooks aren’t cheating. They aren’t a just-add-water shortcut to cheap intellectualism. For so many titles in this heyday of audio entertainment, it’s not crazy to ask the opposite: Compared to the depth that can be conveyed via audio, does the flat text version count? …

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