I listen to a lot of audiobooks. Sometimes people ask me “Have you read this book?”, and my overly literal mind wants to reply “No, but I’ve listened to it.”
I know what they really want to know: do you know what’s in this book? They probably don’t care whether I listened to it any more than they care whether I read it in a paper book, or on my Kindle, my phone, or my computer. Though they may care if I think watching a film adaptation is the same as listening to the unabridged audiobook.
If I’ve listened to it, I should probably just say “Yes, I’ve read it”. But still, it doesn’t feel right saying that I read it when I didn’t. What I really need is a new word. Something that could cover both reading a book and listening to it.
- Have you experienced this book?
- Have you interacted with this book?
- Have you consumed this book?
But each of those have their own connotations, some of them unpleasant. I recognise that language is imprecise, and this is often a good thing. But it is hard to break free from considering every possible shade of meaning in a conversation, even when I know it shouldn’t be taken literally.