Audiobooks are books, too! You get pretty much the same thing out of listening to a book read as by reading it! Stop the presses! wait... stop the audio feed?
As usually, the Times doesn't ask the right people: the blind have been listening to books on tape for three decades, now, and on disks (there's even a special 17rpm speed for books) for decades before that.
Yes, it's really reading. It's kind of fun, honestly, the explosion of commercial audiobooks. The blind have benefited greatly from the new technologies. But that's just paving the cowpath, not exploring uncharted territory.