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Books on CD: Cheating?

Posted by ChocolateFrogs , Nov 26 2012 · 216 views

books lord of the rings lotr
Is listening to a book on CD versus reading the actual book cheating?

Basically, it took me 5 or 6 years to read The Fellowship of the Ring. I didn't pick up The Two Towers for about 3 years later, and I'm still reading it off and on a year and a half later.
I'm a big believer in reading the book before seeing the movie, but my roommates had other plans. (But boy are the extended editions awesome.)

I figure I can spend about $35 on the trilogy on CD and take about 13 hours listening to the books. Though I realized this is the BBC dramatic reading for the radio and not the word-for-word unabridged edition (which is 50 hours and $70). But I like this idea because what is taking me so long are the long descriptions.

But a little bit of me dies at the thought of not actually reading the books. But at this rate I won't finish The Return of the King for a decade.

Thoughts?

-CF :kakama:

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It's not cheating if you retain reading comprehension, which is generally done by actually reading.

My only problem with books on CDs is that it's so ridiculously slow compared to my own reading pace.
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Well, if you have any long trips coming up, that's another plus for the Audiobook. I personally like them, and in this case, read speed through the books and then listen to the BBC version. That way, if you don't understand stuff in the books, the dramatization clears it up.
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Hahli Husky
Nov 26 2012 10:03 PM
I think they're both pretty even. I really enjoy good audiobooks, since I get very restless when I sit and read. So in some cases I think audiobooks can improve comprehension!
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Yes, it's cheating.

I have no problem doing it if it's a book you probably weren't going to read or a book you've already read, but I think you need to really read it to get the full enjoyment.
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No because I would not have survived driving to North Dakota and back without Harry Potter on CD.
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Tyler is Love
Nov 27 2012 01:34 AM
Audiobooks are great for car trips, or other places and times where reading the book is impossible/ inconvenient. Personally, while I wouldn't call it "cheating", per se, the purist in me insists that you won't get the full experience you'll get by reading the book.

If you're having trouble reading the books, I recommend setting yourself up with a reading plan (I know it sounds dumb but just wait). At the moment, I'm slowly working my way through Les Misérables, and I've found that the size of the book can overwhelm me if I let it. Along with that, it's easy for me to forget about reading for awhile, and then have to play catch-up a few weeks later because I forget what's happened in the chapters previous.

So I just make a rule that, by the time I go to bed every night, I have to have read at least ten pages. Depending on what's going on that day, those pages can take me anywhere from fifteen minutes in total to a good forty-five, but that way I'm always working at the book. Keeping up momentum is the hardest part; once you've got that down, you're golden.
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Pff, forget Two Towers or Return of the King. You have less than a month before The Hobbit comes out, so you'd better read that if you haven't already. ;) (Or rather, the first third of it?)

Having never listened to an audio book, I can't really comment on it, because I can see its usefulness (getting through a book while you're driving, for example) but a story delivered via speech comes across differently than when you read the actual words. But in your case, since it takes you so long to read em, might as well go for the audio. :P

:music:
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When I first read the title I thought you were talking about books about CDs, before my mind realized the more obvious meaning.

Anyway.

Audiobooks are a great way for someone who doesn't have a lot of time to get through a book (especially a long one like every book in The Lord of the Rings). My mom, for instance, rarely has time to actually read through books I recommend to her, so a great deal of my childhood favorites were conveyed to her either on books-on-tape, or by me actually reading them aloud to her (an activity I loved which unfortunately ground to a halt when I went off to college).

However, there are a lot of benefits to actively reading through a book instead of having it read to you. The main advantage I can think of is that if you get confused at any point in the story, it's easier to flip back a few pages for some context than it is to guess how far to rewind an audiobook. Also, when intending to see a movie of the book you're reading, audiobooks can potentially set up even more of a preconceived notion of how the characters sound, which could affect your enjoyment of the movie.

And finally, don't discount the possibility that you may have become a better reader over the course of the five-or-six years it took you to read The Fellowship of the Ring.
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ChocolateFrogs
Nov 27 2012 01:50 PM

Audiobooks are great for car trips, or other places and times where reading the book is impossible/ inconvenient. Personally, while I wouldn't call it "cheating", per se, the purist in me insists that you won't get the full experience you'll get by reading the book.

If you're having trouble reading the books, I recommend setting yourself up with a reading plan (I know it sounds dumb but just wait). At the moment, I'm slowly working my way through Les Misérables, and I've found that the size of the book can overwhelm me if I let it. Along with that, it's easy for me to forget about reading for awhile, and then have to play catch-up a few weeks later because I forget what's happened in the chapters previous.

So I just make a rule that, by the time I go to bed every night, I have to have read at least ten pages. Depending on what's going on that day, those pages can take me anywhere from fifteen minutes in total to a good forty-five, but that way I'm always working at the book. Keeping up momentum is the hardest part; once you've got that down, you're golden.

That's a good idea. Just so long as I read a little bit each day, I'll eventually get it done pain-free! Thanks.

Pff, forget Two Towers or Return of the King. You have less than a month before The Hobbit comes out, so you'd better read that if you haven't already. ;) (Or rather, the first third of it?)

Having never listened to an audio book, I can't really comment on it, because I can see its usefulness (getting through a book while you're driving, for example) but a story delivered via speech comes across differently than when you read the actual words. But in your case, since it takes you so long to read em, might as well go for the audio. :P

:music:

Yeah, I read The Hobbit for 9th grade. I might try to read it again sometime between these three movies. But since I've read it (even if I've forgotten most of it), I'm totally seeing the movie worry-free of my read-it-first mentality!

-CF
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Obsessionist
Nov 27 2012 04:40 PM
Yes it's cheating. Not that it's wrong, but just having the voices takes away some of mystery of the book. It lessons the imagination and adds a level that Tolkien didn't intend to be there. And, on a personal note, I just prefer to have the physical book with me.
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If your general rate when you read is your issue, then work at improving your pace. If need be, speed-read (i.e., run your eyes down the middle of the page for as long as that doesn't hurt comprehension). Community and recreation centers often hold entire classes on speed-reading (which encompasses a lot of other techniques and is really a learned skill set).

And, yes, it is detrimental to your understanding of the book--not necessarily from a plot or character perspective, but with respect for your appreciation of the prose and such. I mean, to take the extreme, consider listening to The Sound and the Fury rather than reading it. How would the massive, rambling sentences sound? Certainly not as good as on paper, as words alone. In the ears, for some reason, words take on a completely different life. There's also the point that Eyru raises about skipping back and forth. Imagine trying to check the reliability of a narrator when you have to rewind and listen to an entire chapter all over!
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Wow, surprised to see so many people say that listening to a book-on-tape/CD is cheating. Really, it's true that there's a certain extent to which listening to a book limits your ability to interpret how the book should be read. But let's have a little thought experiment here. Suppose you were to have a book-on-tape read by the author. Would this still be cheating? Sure, it'd lessen your ability to interpret the book for yourself... but wouldn't it also be enriching to hear the interpretation of the characters that the author intended?

This gets into a theory popularly called "Death of the Author" after a essay by the same name. I am not at all a fan of this theory. "Death of the Author" posits that an author's right to interpret the text for readers begins and ends with the written word. Essentially, once a book is published, the author's intent becomes null and void and the book will no longer mean anything other than what readers want it to mean.

There are some positive aspects to this theory, of course, such as that it encourages writers to be clearer with their writing if they want to have any control over how it is read. And it means that readers aren't obligated to keep up with everything the author is saying about the work, which can be quite a lot to follow as any readers of the Ask Greg here on BZPower know all too well.

But on the other hand, this theory distances written works from the humanity of the people creating them. It ignores the possibility of certain aspects of a written work that an author would have liked to include, but for whatever reason was unable to (for instance, an author writing for an intellectual property they don't own might face an executive veto for being too clear about certain concepts, and historically some publishers have exercised veto power on controversial elements on books themselves). It also gives authors no room for mistakes in their work-- if something is accidentally left open to interpretation, then it could be considered un-scholarly to let one's understanding of it be shaped by later corrections by the author-- arguably, even corrections published in newer editions of the book!

While I think people are perfectly welcome to interpret a text for themselves, there's no reason why listening to somebody else's interpretation is a bad thing. If anything, it can lead one to think about a book in ways they might not have thought about it naturally. Saying that listening to somebody else's interpretation of the text on an audio book is "cheating" is like saying that modifying a LEGO set based on instructions somebody posts online is "cheating"-- after all, the point of modifying a LEGO set is coming up with ideal builds by yourself, not letting your view of an ideal build be shaped by what other people show you! [/sarcasm]

To those arguing that your appreciation of prose is hampered by listening to it read to you, I think that's nonsense. What would that mean about works that were originally meant to be read aloud? A lot of poetry is written with the sound of the words in mind. So, obviously, is drama like the plays of William Shakespeare. And in fact, in a lot of cases, if something is extremely cumbersome when read aloud, and it's not a deliberate stylistic choice by the author, then it's a symptom of bad writing. Oral language is the foundation on which written language has almost always been based, and at least in cases where a character is speaking aloud, it's foolish to argue that their words are meant to be understood only in a visual and syntactical sense.

Also, what about works like Don Quixote that were written in another language, and cannot be fully understood in English without footnotes by the translator explaining what certain turns of phrase meant in the author's language and historical context? In these cases, I'd argue that your appreciation of the prose is handicapped by reading them without someone interpreting them for you.

This isn't to say that there isn't a different experience listening to an audiobook and reading the book yourself. But I wouldn't say that either of the two experiences is less valid than the other. They're just two different yet equally enriching ways of enjoying a book. And to be honest there are a lot of books I've read over the years that I wish I had the time to listen to on tape, if only to broaden my understanding of the stories themselves.
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