Audiobooks are convenient. Listening to an audiobook on my commute to and from work is the reason I’ve been able to “read” more. And with a reading goal, it makes me feel less guilty choosing not to pick up a book later at night.
But language isn’t transferred the same way. When you read a beautiful sentence you’re more likely to remember it, underline it, come back to it later. And as a writer, it’s important to see the way sentences are structured and how plots are developed (on the page.)
For the most part I do think this is just me–but I have a hard time listening to fiction. I tend to zone out while driving (not dangerously) for a moment and when that moment is lost it’s always a scramble to catch up with fiction. Whereas with nonfiction, I can get distracted and come back easily into the narrative. But again, I think it’s because I can’t concentrate on a plot line and drive at the same time! With nonfiction I have a general idea of what happens because I mostly listen to historical novels.
(I recently finished listening to The Wright Brothers by [and narrated by] David McCullough and I’m tempted to choose another of his for my next book.)
And so to answer my own question, yes they do count, but I don’t think you should try to listen to the classics (I say that as I talk about McCullough, but again–nonfiction seems different to me). Because you get the story by listening, but when it comes to most novels you’ll learn, understand, and appreciate more by reading the words on the page.
Do you like audiobooks? Tell me why or why not. (And any recommendations?)