Friday, August 3, 2007

Do you "Cheat"?

The New York Times featured an interesting article yesterday that sparked lively debate and discussion amongst the Reference librarians here at GPL. The article, entitled Your Cheatin', Listenin' Ways, asks the question whether it is considered "cheating" if you listen to the audio version of a book, rather than read it.

I don't want to speak for the others, but though we were of differing opinions on the matter, we agreed that anything that exposes people to books, offers an option for those with sight problems, and supports the oral/aural tradition of storytelling, is a good thing. "Equal rights for audio books!" cried one librarian--perhaps a bit facetiously, but passionately, nonetheless.

What do you think? Are you a closeted audio book listener? Are there any audio books you've expecially enjoyed/hated? We'd love to hear your thoughts.


Lyda said...

Let me just say, that despite it being a rather short book, I NEVER would’ve read The Great Gatsby if not for audio books. Not to mention White Oleander, most of the Harry Potter series, and numerous others. I’m thinking I should’ve got the latest Harry Potter in audio format – do you know how heavy that thing is?!?!

In fact, I plan on reading all the Classics via audio format, because I find them much more palatable.

Having worked at the Braille Institute Library over five years, I can only express to you the overwhelming value an audio book has for those that read all their lives, only to be heart-broken at the thought of never turning another page due to macular degeneration or other visual deterioration. Audio books save lives, IMHO. Ultimately, an audio book is just like watching a movie with your eyes wide shut (pardon the cliché), using your imagination to visualize the action of the story, as would any person “reading” a book.

Why not start an audio-only book group?

Cheating…What a crock!

P.S. As a disclaimer, if you get a bad narrator, it can ruin the whole book. But for the most part, narrators enrich the stories they read. I’ve even come to have a few favorite narrators myself.

Bill, Reference Librarian said...

This parallels what we’ve always experienced about Shakespeare. He didn’t write to be read. He wrote to be heard, his words brought to life by living, breathing actors. The print culture forgets that. People who think the printed word came first are wrong. Writing exists only to preserve what we first say. Even what we think, we write as if we are speaking to someone. In describing writing we say everything is written in a voice. There is a reason for that term. All good literature can be read aloud well. There is no cheating involved.

Orality preceded literacy and it is coming back into wide use. Today’s Shakespeares are writing for the visual, aural screen and nothing is being lost if they are using language well. That’s all that matters. The best novel should be as well heard as read.

kimberly said...

I absolutely LOVE audio books, and am quite the aficionado. The reason I'm so passionate about audiobooks is that I can listen while I am at work or in the car. While I'm droning away at mindless tedium, I can listen to books. I do read traditional books, too, of course, but I'm sure my company's management team would frown on my kicking back in my chair with a book while on the clock. I prefer listening to books rather than music or talk radio.

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