Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Are audiobooks cheating?

When my mind wanders, it tends to go to strange places. In this recent case, it went to old episodes of Home Improvement. Specifically I was thinking about one episode where Tim listens to some books on tape. It's from the episode "Her Cheatin' Mind"*. Jill has joined a book club and Tim is afraid she's falling for one of the guys in the group, so he decides he's going to join. But instead of reading the book he listens to them on tape. At the end of the episode Randy decides instead of reading A Tale of Two Cities he'll just listen to it. And we get this exchange:

Randy: After I've finished my homework.
Tim: You need any help?
Randy: No. Just got a little book to read. [Randy waves a cassette tape to Tim] Tale of Two Cities.
Tim: Don't play a tape. Read the book will you, Randy.
Randy: I got the idea from you.
Tim: Well, don't tell your Mom you got the idea from me.
Randy: Don't worry Dad. She's not going to find out. [Randy puts the tape into the player and turns it on]
Tape: A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
Jill's voice from the tape: It's going to be the worst of times for you if you don't turn this off and go read the book. Oh, and I don't care what your father told you.

Ahaha hilarity as Jill gets the better of her son and husband and makes them do the real work and actually read a book.

Except wait, what? Why is it such a big deal that he actually reads the book? It's not like he was trying to watch the movie instead. There's a big difference between watching the movie and reading the book. But is having someone read the book to you such a problem. How is this different than actually reading the book?

OK fine, you can argue that if someone is reading the book to you then there are certain things the reader decides for you, like the tone of certain lines or even the characters' voice. But that's not the same as having the entire look and feel of a story decided by a movie. And I certainly don't see how listening to an audiobook would count as cheating on your homework if the assignment was read the book. Actually, this is something I wish I had thought of in college. It would have been nice to be able to do my homework and get some cleaning or gym time or whathaveyou done. And I don't see how this would have been any less than actually looking at the words on a piece of paper.

So what do you think? Is there any validity to this? Is listening to an audiobook akin to cheating on homework? Is it less than actual reading? Or have I just spent way too much time remembering Home Improvement plots instead of more important facts?

*Wikipedia didn't have a good enough description to tell me this was indeed the episode I was thinking of. HOWEVER I managed to find a full script of the episode online because that's what the internet is for.