I Hear You, Proust! Classic Lit in Your Headphones

Books on tape aren’t exactly new, but as e-books become more and more popular, it seems that audiobooks are following suit: Audible.com, a gigantic purveyor of audiobooks, saw a rise in popularity last year if its Alexa ranking is to be believed, and a new partnership with New York City’s public transit system allows commuters to download a book for free.

That in mind, a new Salon article may not seem so surprising in premise. Writer Laura Miller has long wanted to read Marcel Proust’s intimidating sequence of seven novels, “The Remembrance of Things Past,” but doesn’t quite have the time to go through page after page of a work she describes here: “One moment the narrator is shading in an enchanting character study of the relationship between his invalid great-aunt and her prickly maid, and the next he’s going on and on (and on!) about a bunch of hawthorne blossoms.” So, to make the project more manageable, she’s turning to a critically acclaimed set of audiobooks—clocking in at 153 hours over 120 discs.

It begs the question: Is “listening” to a book the same as reading it? Literary purists might say no, but the rest of us might be happy pushing the hard questions aside and catching up, finally, on A Song of Ice and Fire while doing the dishes. What do you think?

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