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Why Audiobooks matter: The Definitive Answer if Listening is Lazy

One of the most popular Google questions in regard to audiobooks is: Is listening to audiobooks lazy or cheating?

But there’s a big problem with that question. It dismisses people who can only read audiobooks. Disabled people are being marginalized too often already. There’s simply no excuse for being an elitist about audiobooks.

Audiobooks are popular… and needed!

In 2018, 18% of US consumers listened to audiobooks. 74% are readers of any kind. Of these, 67% are print readers and 26% are ebook readers.

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There are two defining factors in the audio success story.

The first is technological development. Prior to the LP we already had radio plays. But a talking book that you could consume on your own schedule was an impossible thing. As technology has become cheaper and more convenient, audiobooks could gain popularity.

The other crucial aspect was the big number of disabled readers. In 2015, 10.5% of 18- to 65-year-old US citizens had a disability. And over one-third of people aged 65 or older.

Of course, many able-bodied people love audiobooks, too. But the inclusiveness is an important, defining factor of audiobooks that we shouldn’t ignore. It’s a feature that deserves appreciation, no matter whether you are a listener yourself or not.

Audiobooks are a very accessible form of literature. Click to Tweet

Audiobook listeners aren’t lazy!

Actually, they’re usually the opposite.

Related article: The Science behind it and other things you didn’t know about Audiobooks

Many avid audiobook fans like to listen to books during their commutes or while doing chores (neither of which indicates laziness). While others are not able to hold or read print or ebooks due to disabilities or cognitive impairments.

There are a lot of articles out there that talk about the convenience of audiobooks. But only a few mention the importance of audiobooks for disabled people. Sadly, as it is so often, the not fully able-bodied remain mostly invisible.

I went through some bad flares with my chronic condition. And sometimes, I couldn’t hold a book. It was ugly and scary and a time during which I really needed escapism and stories that would captivate me.

Ashley and Alisha shared their experiences. Please read them to understand why it might hurt people to be dismissive of audiobooks.

Now, imagine my surprise when I was told that audiobooks aren’t reading and they exist for people too lazy to read an actual book. I would like to note that this person wasn’t aware of my struggles. That being said, it hit me hard.

https://themighty.com/2018/01/ableism-and-reading/

Many community members rely on non-traditional formats in order to enjoy the same stories, discover the same worlds, and experience the same characters, friendships, loves, heartbreaks, and adventures as the next reader.

https://jenniely.com/the-day-audiobooks-forever-changed-my-life/

Did you know that…

… audiobooks were invented for blind and disabled people?

… the standard size for Braille books is 11 x 11.5 in (28 x 29.21 cm), making them very big and inconvenient to hold?

… some diseases like MS can make it difficult to hold a book or an e-reader?

… brain injuries and brain fog can make it difficult to read?

… audiobooks help dyslexic people become better readers and turn reading into a positive experience?

Why listening to Audiobooks has nothing to do with being Lazy

Audiobooks are not for people who are too lazy to read “a real book”.

Audiobooks are for people who can’t read the words or who can’t hold up a book. And they’re also for people who are so crazy about books that they couldn’t bear not having them in their lives anymore because they work long hours.

There is a big number of avid readers among the blind and disabled. And, as readers, we are all well aware: Books are uniquely able to transport the emotions necessary to let us experience something that we cannot experience in reality.

Books help us experience what we can't do in real life. And audiobooks have a particularly important job in this! Click to Tweet
A timeline of the history of audiobooks

A Brief History of Audiobooks

1930s to 1980s

In 1931, the American Foundation for the Blind and the Library of Congress Book for the Blind Project cooperated on the “Talking Book Program” which developed the audiobook. At this time, the number of books that were recorded was limited. And the distribution was difficult. The Bible, the constitution, and only a few fiction pieces were available through postal service.

In 1948, Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic was formed. “Learning Ally” started to provide textbooks for blinded WWll veterans to support their college education. LP records were invented in the same year.

In 1952, Caedmon was the first publisher to bring out an LP recording of poems and a story. The author read them himself. The LP became unexpectedly popular and turned the publisher into a household name.  

The invention of the cassette in 1963 was a game-changer. Before, only a small number of libraries offered recordings. But this quickly changed and in the 1970s all libraries were carrying audiobooks.

Thanks to cassette tapes, audiobooks became more and more popular. In 1985, 21 publishers offered audiobooks. Recorded books were now more easily available and an accepted form of entertainment.

1990’s to now

In the 1990s, audiobooks quickly grew into an industry of their own. The Audie Awards were presented for the first time and AudioFile Magazine was launched.

In 1997, Audible presented the first digital audio player.

In 2003, Audible made audiobooks available on Apple’s iTunes. CD’s replaced cassette tapes as the most popular format. This changed again in 2008 when digital downloads became the most common way to obtain and listen to audiobooks.

The programs that first distributed audiobooks to disabled people are still active. Learning Ally is now the largest provider of audio textbooks.

(Sources: A History of Audiobooks, Wikipedia)

Don’t even Ask whether Listening to Audiobooks is Lazy

Just like you don’t joke about someone being lazy for using a mobility aid, you don’t claim it’s lazy to listen to audiobooks.

Many disabilities and diseases are invisible. Never make assumptions on the struggles someone might have to deal with!

And you never know how important audiobooks can be for someone who might otherwise feel isolated and depressed.

The info in this post is also part of my web story on why audiobooks are awesome!

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22 thoughts on “Why Audiobooks matter: The Definitive Answer if Listening is Lazy”

  1. Great article – I wonder what the future holds ?!?!

    People will still want books to hold, but on-demand listening will definitely increase. I know technology has gone right into classrooms, so children of today, wont have that love-link to real books to hold.

    I don’t think books like cassette tapes will cease, but maybe the amount / range of new titles will be greatly reduced ?!?!

    Fascinating.

  2. Bookworms corner blog spot

    I love this article. I am such a huge fan of audiobooks and how they make books more accessible.

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