I am currently listening to an audiobook on my drive to and from work. This morning though, a thought occurred to me: when the audiobook is done, can I be said to have "read" the book? What is the depth of comprehension and retention one has in listening to a book being read compared to reading it? I've always my experience in listening has been comparable to the reading experience. However, some researchers would offer argument.
An interesting blog piece on the Fast Company website recounts a study by the University of Waterloo in Ontario. According to the piece, the study was published in Frontiers of Psychology and alleges that people listening to audiobooks may get the gist of what is being read, but tend to be forgetful of the material and easily distracted from the text. Some other pieces I've read contradict this university's study, but my bet is that this issue is one which will be revisited over time in further research.
Some writers I know have pointed to audiobooks and other media as a way of broadening the reading experience. They argue that a book can be an immersive experience combining video, audio,and graphics. They point to the changing ways in which people read due to electronic media and the internet. And the discussion broadens as how a writer should adapt expression to accommodate these diverse elements.
So, what is reading? Can we said we've read a book if we listen to an audio version? Is it enough to receive the intent of the author? Is there a degree of internalization which must be met? If that's the case, what's the criteria?