Audible CEO Katz on Why Audiobooks Boost Literacy

Donald Katz, founder and CEO of audiobook pioneer Audible, can go on at length about why listening to books is a virtue for readers and society. That’s not surprising, since his company (now owned by Amazon) effectively created the mass listening phenomenon, and dominates it in the U.S. Katz says that by listening to literature, “a lot of people who just don’t have enough time to read now effectively read and ingest beautifully-arranged words.” We spoke with him at the recent Venture for America Summer Celebration in NYC. He argues that audiobooks aren’t just a supplement for adults who are short on time. “A lot of kids are turned on to reading itself or the concept of long, immersive experiences” through audiobooks, he said.

Donald Katz, founder and CEO of audiobook pioneer Audible, can go on at length about why listening to books is a virtue for readers and society. That’s not surprising, since his company (now owned by Amazon) effectively created the mass listening phenomenon, and dominates it in the U.S. Katz says that by listening to literature, “a lot of people who just don’t have enough time to read now effectively read and ingest beautifully arranged words.” We spoke with him at the recent Venture for America Summer Celebration in NYC. He argues that audiobooks aren’t just a supplement for adults who are short on time. “A lot of kids are turned on to reading itself or the concept of long, immersive experiences” through audiobooks, he said. He describes Immersion Reading, an Audible invention that synchronizes text and audio, as “a fantastic accelerator of reading fluency.” “We’ve actually done research on the neuronal activity around listening compared to reading,” said Katz. “The effect of listening lights up the emotive lobes of the brain in a way reading doesn’t.” But Katz does concede that audio makes some reading tasks easier. He notes that people are more inclined to tackle complex literary works—like Russian novels with hard-to-pronounce names—by listening to them.

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