As a kid, whenever my family and I went on long road trips, we would read books aloud to pass the time. When I say “we,” I mean “I.” I would read for hours until my mouth got dry and my vocal cords were exhausted while my mom drove and my younger brother listened.
Whenever I needed a break, my brother would protest with, “Just one more chapter!” Just one more chapter would turn into another hour of reading until he finally showed mercy or until we reached our destination. Whichever came first.
Then, we were introduced to audiobooks. Though audiobooks have been around since the 1930s when the American Foundation for the Blind started recording books on vinyl records, we had never really thought about the audiobook format. When each of us finally got a smartphone, we started diving into audiobooks, and they replaced my reading on those long car rides. At this point, I have listened to thousands of hours of audiobooks and podcasts. They have become a part of my everyday life and are great for my attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). I still love to collect books, but I don’t often have the time or even the attention span to sit down and read for extended periods. With audiobooks, I can multitask. If I’m cleaning, doing laundry, cooking, or doing just about anything else, there’s most likely an audiobook running in the background to keep my mind occupied so I can stay focused. Even if I’m just playing puzzle games on my phone, having an audiobook to listen to is one of my favorite ways to relax.
Maybe you think that listening to audiobooks is “cheating.” I felt that way, too, at first. Having someone read to you instead of reading yourself? That doesn’t count as having read the book, right? According to a study at the University of California, Berkeley published by the Journal of Neuroscience, researchers found that the same cognitive and emotional areas in the brain were activated regardless of whether the participants listened to or read a book.
So really, there’s no difference! You’re absorbing the same story and obtaining the same information either way. Plus, for people with vision impairments or neurological disorders like ADHD and dyslexia, audiobooks make reading more accessible.
There are also cases where the narrator adds to the experience! For example, I’m listening to the most recent book in “The Stormlight Archive” series by Brandon Sanderson. The narrators for these books, Michael Kramer and Kate Reading, are fantastic. This book series was already my favorite, but it becomes elevated with the way this couple reads and the effort they put into their voice acting. There’s even discussion about whether audiobooks could be considered an art form, which isn’t surprising considering the time and energy that go into creating them.
If you couldn’t tell, I love audiobooks, and June is Audiobook Appreciation Month! It was created to bring awareness to the audiobook format and recognize its potential as an accessible, fun, and legitimate form of reading. This year will be its 25th anniversary, and what better way to celebrate than by listening to an audiobook?