When I’m working the reference desk and someone asks if we have a book I know we have in multiple formats and I ask if they want print or audio I often get rude remarks. This weekend someone said “audio book, the height of laziness! I wouldn’t be caught with one of those”.
I argued that some people who enjoy print also enjoy audio in certain circumstances. I find listening to books while trying to fall asleep or for commute’s common reasons for starting to get into audio books.
The thing is, even if someone ONLY listens to audio books, this doesn’t make them lazy. There are several learning styles and not everyone absorbs information they see as well as what they hear. Auditory learners can read print but may find it to be more work than it is worth to them, if they have to struggle through it they aren’t likely to read for pleasure. Asking an auditory learner to always read print is like asking a lefty to write only with their right hand.
There was a time when left-handed people were considered less skilled, even though after being forced to learn how to use their right hand they had more skill overall than most right-handed people. I think the same is true of learning styles. We used to force everyone to learn the same way or read the same way, but this meant not everyone was getting to their full potential.
By promoting audio books, the library isn’t loosing print readers but gaining people who wouldn’t have been readers or library users (or who would have been minimal users).
I personally prefer print because I find audio books dreadfully slow, and I have a hard time paying attention. This doesn’t mean that audio books are sub-standard. Librarians and teachers are often print learners, because that’s the type of people who are attracted to the professions. This is problematic because it means classrooms and literacy outreach are often bias towards this type of learning. Kids, teens and even adults need to see that all formats are valued by public institutions, so I will continue to ask what format is preferred.
The same goes for graphic novels, I think they extremely undervalued by many educators and parents. I will continue to offer them as an option.