What is "Real" Reading?

Welcome to the Dear Book Nerd podcast, a bi-weekly show that answers YOUR questions about life, love, and literature! This week, the mighty and powerful Victor LaValle joins me on the show. We discuss issues like: is buying used books bad for authors? Is listening to audiobooks considered “real” reading? And much more. (Also, about 20 minutes in or so, Victor tells an AMAZING story about meeting Harper Lee at a used book store.) Don’t miss it!

Victor LaValle is the award-winning author of short fiction and novels such as The Devil in Silver, as well as many more. Thank you for joining me, Victor! Also be sure to check out Victor’s story in the new collection “Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History.” (It sounds amazing, and Victor discusses it on the show if you’d like more details.)

This episode was brought to you by How to Tell Toledo From the Night Sky by Lydia Netzer and Random House Audio. Thanks, sponsors!


Questions Discussed:

Dear Book Nerd,

First off I’d like to say that your podcast has fast become one of my favorites to listen to. I subscribe to a fair amount of book related podcasts to listen to on the drive to and from work and every time I see that little blue dot next to your name I get giddy inside.

My question is regarding the economics of used books. I am a recent college graduate, so money is fairly tight right now but I can put aside a monthly budget to visit my local book store. It is independently owned and mainly relies on community donations for its selection of books. I know that in the video game industry, when you buy a game used from stores that bought back or accepted donations, game developers get zero of the money spent on used game purchases. Do you have any knowledge if the book industry is similar? On the one hand, I feel good giving my money in support of my local bookshop. But on the other, I don’t want the authors of the books I am buying to not get compensated because I was cheap and prefer to buy books at lower than retail cost. Do you have any recommendations to get me out of this financial quandary?

Much appreciated,


Dear Book Nerd:

Firstly, let me say that I have truly been enjoying your podcast. I find myself getting frustrated at times (in a good way) because I really want to voice a comment while listening, and podcasts just don’t work that way. While listening to your discussion in episode #5 about the reader comment that ebooks are sometimes considered less than physical books, it occurred to me that this phenomenon existed in the book world well before ebooks hit the scene. I have definitely noticed (and, admittedly, even voiced) a prejudice against and disdain for audio books. Are you really “reading” if you’re listening instead? And is the experience really the same if you get an abridged version? The discussion of audiobooks seems to have been going on for decades without resolution, so I doubt we’ll see an end to the debate over ebook validity.

Thanks again for the wonderful podcast.

Erin B.

Dear Book Nerd,

I have a serious problem. I am completely and totally addicted to audiobooks. In the last six years have listened to audiobooks pretty regularly any time that I couldn’t’ actually hold a real book (in the car, at the gym, doing chores, etc.), but since I started my grad school work (in Library Science) I have had no time for actual book because I have been reading so many textbooks. So the only personal book “reading” I get in is in the form of audiobooks. But now I am addicted, I have over 20 audiobooks that I have not yet listened to, and I keep buying more! and I keep getting them through my library. The majority of books read last year were by listening to audiobooks. I think that it’s affecting my other reading! I am having been getting really distracted and can’t seem to concentrate on written works anymore, even my textbooks. Do you have any advice on getting back into reading?

Audio Book Addict

Dear Book Nerd,

I absolutely love audiobooks. It’s how consume at least half of my yearly reading. But I feel silly sometimes calling it reading, on the other hand, it’s so much more than *listening*. I’m almost want a new word to combine the two “listeeading” “reastening” Thoughts?



Links Discussed:

Should Secondhand Book Stores Pay Royalties?” (TeleRead)

Are Audiobooks Worse than Real Books? Let’s Ask Science.” (BookRiot)

Is Listening to Audiobooks Really The Same As Reading?” (Forbes)


Thank you for tuning in to Dear Book Nerd! Listen to past episodes and read past columns here!

And you can subscribe to the podcast via RSS here, or via iTunes here.

The show can also be found on Stitcher here.

And if you like the show or have feedback for us, please take a minute to rate and review it on iTunes. It will help other people find the show, and we really appreciate hearing from you.

Do you have a bookish question about life, love, or literature for Dear Book Nerd? Fill out the form below or email DearBookNerd@bookriot.com. Don’t be shy, ask away!