We Need A New Word For Audiobook Listening

We need a new word, a single word, for this definition: listening to an audiobook.

What do you say when you read a book… but it wasn’t with your eyes? Do you say you listened to it? Probably not, because that sounds slightly ridiculous: “I was listening to this book…” It conjures up an image of someone holding a paperback closed in her hands, head cocked to the side, straining to hear the pages talk.

But if you simply say that you read it, you feel a little guilty, like you’re taking credit for doing the reading when it was the audiobook narrator who did all the work. That’s how I feel, anyway.

And besides the awkward explanation, there’s the fact that reading a book, and listening to it via audiobook, are completely different experiences. 

Reading a book to yourself requires making up an entire world in your head. It brings you deep into the realm of imagination. It’s more interactive and immersive than listening via audiobook.

Listening to a book is like hearing a play acted out just for you. It includes characters ready-made with inflections and attitudes that you may not have imagined for yourself. It has already been interpreted. It’s fun, and takes less effort from you.

There are books that I wouldn’t dream of listening to, and books that I listen to that I know I’d hate if I read them. So why do we have the same word for both?

I’d recommend a word like “audiate,” borrowed from music comprehension. It implies an audience, listening, and semi-passive participation.

Let’s try it in a sentence: “She audiated the Harry Potter book, even though she’d read it for herself, because Jim Dale is such a talented narrator.” 

I think it works. Does anyone else have a suggested term for this?

Does it even bother anyone besides me?


2 Responses to “We Need A New Word For Audiobook Listening”

  1. What a fun — and needed — post! I have all the same hang ups you describe here when I tell someone I’ve “read” or “listened” to a book. From now on, it’s audiated! Thanks.

  2. Leanne Sowul says:

    Charity, thank you for letting me know that I’m not alone in thinking this is a serious oversight of the English language! Of course, people might look at us funny if we use “audiate” (my spell check is even telling me it’s a wrong word) but at least we’ll feel satisfied with our word choice.


  1. November Book Review | Words From The Sowul by Leanne Sowul - […] Hanging Out Without Me? so I almost gave this one a pass too. But I listened to it on…

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