How many of you enjoy listening to an audiobook from time to time instead of actually reading a book? I can recall having listened to a few audiobooks and feel as though I was still able to take away the same message from the story. New York Times writer Andrew Newman recently posted an interesting article on how some individuals consider the idea to be a form of literary cheating.

Your Cheatin’ Listenin’ Ways

JANICE RASPEN, a librarian at an elementary school in Fredericksburg, Va., came clean with her book club a couple years ago. They were discussing “A Fine Balance,” a novel set in India in the 1970s by Rohinton Mistry and an Oprah’s Book Club pick, when she told the group — all fellow teachers — that rather than read the book, she had listened to an audio version.

“My statement was met with stunned silence,” said Ms. Raspen, 38.

Finally Catherine Altman, an art teacher, spoke up.

“I said that I felt like listening to a book was a copout,” Ms. Altman said. “I’m not like a hardcore book group person — a lot of times I don’t even finish the book. But my point was that she is a librarian and I thought it was pretty ridiculous. I’m a painter and it would be like me painting by numbers.”

The perennial disagreement in book groups has been over authors, with the single-malt drinkers arguing for F. Scott Fitzgerald and the chardonnay drinkers for Anita Shreve. But the latest schism in the living room lit-fests is not over whom they read, but if they read.

Is it acceptable, they debate within and among themselves, to listen to that month’s book rather than read it? Or is that cheating, like watching the movie instead of reading the book?

Because audio enthusiasts generally listen aloud in a private space like their cars or with headphones, they are spared having to publicly defend the format. When they join reading groups, however, they enter what can be enemy territory, where dyed-in-the-wool bibliophiles want to hear nothing of a book but the crack of its spine.

Dain Frisby-Dart, 40, an avid audio book listener from Trempealeau, Wis., told her book group a few years ago that she was listening to the current selection. One of the members, a man in his 70s, reacted as if she had been reading CliffsNotes.

“He said, ‘It doesn’t count if you listened to it. That’s cheating,’ ” Ms. Frisby-Dart said. “I was so floored by the comment that I just kind of laughed it off.”

But Ms. Frisby-Dart was not laughing when she thought about it later, and she decided against audio for the group’s next selection, and the one after that.

Now she listens to only about 10 percent of her book group’s titles. “Perhaps I should stick up for audio books a little bit more,” she said, “but I do feel like there’s a bit of a stigma listening to them.”

Plenty of book club members listen unabashedly. But others cringe at the thought of facing the hairy eyeball from those with whom they share sofas. After all, the settings ideally should be relaxed, courteous and erudite, even when the selection is a James Patterson thriller. Some don’t even admit that they listen. Read more…

Happy reading ya’ll.

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