Can you read an audiobook?
Nobody would ever say "I listened to that book" if he were talking about a bundle of printed sheets, but it is common to hear people claiming to have read a book when the "reading" was done with the ears, not the eyes. A literalist would call such declarations either mistaken or disingenuous. Is she wrong?
On the one hand, why should it matter how the words get into your head if they do get there? If you're digesting the message, why does the form matter?
On the other hand, though, a modern proverb tells us that the medium is the message. While I'm not sure that that is always true, it is true that the delivery of the message changes, or at least affects, the message. So if you read an audiobook, you are probably not having the same experience as the average reader of the book. The message is changed, even if slightly. But how far can this logic work? If I read a translation of Les Miserables have I actually read Les Miserables? The medium is changed, so have I actually read the book, or have I only read an adaptation of it?
But even if the medium changes the message, it isn't clear that it's a bad change. Maybe some books are better heard than read. Some things will be easier to see on a page, others will be easier to hear. Rhythms, sarcastic nuances, inflected subtlties are better heard than read. Structural patterns are usually better when you can flip back to examine them. On the whole, I think the sentence is better heard, but the paragraph is better read.
Which is a conundrum. Which is a better way to experience a text?
I guess for me it depends on the genre. A lyrical, poetic work narrative-driven work focuses on images, and is better heard, where the imagination can give them the breath of life. But an academic, logic driven work focuses on abstractions, and is better read, where the relationships can be concretely seen.
Or am I wrong? Should books be read, plays be seen, and speeches heard, or does it not matter?