In the left corner, weighing in at a few ounces (or several pounds if it’s a Tolstoy), we have the traditional, the classic, the ever-so-tactile… Physical Book! And in the right corner, weighing, well, virtually nothing, and often accompanied by the soothing tones of Stephen Fry or the entrancing voice of Scarlett Johansson, we have the modern marvel… Audio Book!

Now, I’ve been to a few dinner parties—okay, maybe they were more like Thai Food takeout sprawled out in front of the glow of international soccer on the TV, but let’s not get bogged down in details. At these “soirees,” the topic of books often comes up. And by “often,” I mean whenever I steer the conversation that way after a few Piscolas have made their way into the mix.

“I just finished reading ‘War and Peace,'” someone might say, puffing out their chest with pride.

“Oh? I just listened to it,” another responds, a tad defensively, earbuds dangling from their pocket.

A hush falls over the room. The guacamole goes uneaten. The tension is palpable. Does listening to a book “count” as reading it?

Let’s get one thing straight: Of course it does, you literary snob.

Imagine telling Beethoven—yes, the deaf one—that he didn’t really “experience” music. Or telling your grandmother that her audiobook romance novels (you know, the ones with the shirtless cowboys) aren’t “real” books. The horror!

The beauty of stories is that they can be consumed in myriad ways. Some like the feel of paper, the rustle of pages, the old book smell that’s probably just mildew but we romanticize anyway. Others prefer to multitask, soaking in tales while jogging, cooking, or pretending to listen to their partner’s day.

And let’s be honest, there’s something magical about having Meryl Streep whisper a mystery into your ear during a long drive. It’s like she’s in the backseat, but without the need to share your snacks.

So, whether you’re a page-turner or an earbud-tangler, let’s celebrate the stories and the myriad ways we devour them. After all, in the end, it’s the tale, not the medium, that truly matters.

And if anyone tries to book-shame you? Just tell them you’re too busy enjoying your story to listen.

Stephen Boudreau serves as VP of Brand & Community at Virtuous Software. For over two decades, he has helped nonprofits leverage the digital space to grow their impact. To that end, Stephen co-founded RaiseDonors, a platform that provides nonprofits with technology and experiences that remove barriers to successful online fundraising. He is an avid (but aging) soccer player, audiobook enthusiast, and the heavily-disputed UNO champion of his household.

Copyright ©2024 Stephen Boudreau.