I just finished listening to The Fellowship of the Ring on audiobook. This was, somehow, an odd experience, because it's a book that I've read in print perhaps a dozen times over the years but never listened to as an audiobook before. (I did, however, used to listen to the BBC radio dramatization of LotR constantly as a child.)
I've known people who consider listening to an audiobook as somehow "cheating", as not being real reading. I certainly can't come to that, in that some of the most formative reads of my life were books that I heard my father read aloud when I was a child. However, listening to a book does feel a bit different than reading one.
For one thing, even listening along in a car, there's a sense of not being utterly alone with the book. Some website I was on the other day was advertising the audiobook of 50 Shades of Grey, and I thought: How could you possibly want to listen to a porn book? You'd feel like someone was right there with you all the time.
I suppose listening also takes away a certain kind of focus and difficulty which can, at times, accompany reading. When I'm commuting and listening to a book, I'm hardly going to set it aside and pick up another. I only have the one book loaded on my iPhone at a time, and so I tend to always finish. If a book might not be totally involving in print, I can still get through it on audio because I have nothing else to do. By the same token, I don't know if I pay quite as much attention when listening rather than reading, though I try to. This is why, as a parent and educator, it annoys me a bit when the kids insist that they'd rather listen to a book I like on audiobook than read it themselves. Although I give myself full credit for "reading" a book that I listen to, I worry that if they only want to listen to a book that they aren't sufficiently developing their reading skills.
How would you relate the experiences of reading and listening to a book? Do you let your kids listen to books or do you insist on them reading them on paper?