For many years an old friend has been urging me to try listening to audiobooks while driving. I had always opted for satellite radio instead, but this year when the subscription renewal seemed too expensive I discontinued Sirius and headed to the library instead.
I checked out Ray Bradbury's The Illustrated Man because I had read it decades ago and thought the short story format would lend itself to short trips and the familiarity of the material wouldn't distract me while driving.
My disappointment became evident while listening to The Veldt, which seemed to drag on interminably. By the time I got to The Long Rain I was pushing the fast-forward button to skip ahead to the conclusion.
To define the problem I loaded the CD onto my computer and checked the runtimes of the segments. The Veldt covered 12 tracks, and required 32:14 to listen to. I then went back to the library and checked out a book of Bradbury short stories and sat down to read The Veldt at a normal pace (not skimming or skipping anything). It was 14 pages long and took almost exactly 14 minutes to read.
Listening to the audiobook required twice as much time as reading the text myself.
I certainly can't complain about the production values of the audiobook; the reading was excellent, reasonably paced, and professionally done. But somehow I can't see myself setting aside 12 hours to have someone read a novel to me. It's also true that when I'm watching a movie on a DVD I sometimes play it at 1.4X to speed over the boring parts. And when I'm heating a sandwich in the microwave I'll punch in "12 seconds" and then stand there saying "c'mon, cmon..." I can't watch just one TV channel if ads appear, and I switch radio stations immediately when commercials intervene.
I suppose I've become some kind of post-modern media consumer who demands quick consumption and rapid satisfaction. It's only when I get out in the natural world that I can wind down and spend unlimited time wandering fields and woods and setting up for photos and pondering the lives of little critters.
I have a close friend who has aphasia and has no choice but to use audio books. He hates then heavily abridged audio books that were often the norm 20 years ago. You, on the other hand, might want to look for those on e-may or Amazon used.ReplyDelete
My dad used to fast forward through VHS movies back when VHS movies were a thing. My oldest brother and I still chuckle about it.ReplyDelete
I don't know whether I'd like an abridged book or not. When I was a child our house used to have a bunch of those Reader's Digest abridged books compilations. But if I read something good, I'd then get the full book version to read. The abridged ones were only good to weed out what not to read.ReplyDelete
I used to hate audiobooks for the same reason (especially since I read very very fast) until I discovered an exception... For a book that I have already read many times and really love, it's sometimes nice to put on the audio version while I do chores or to listen to on the subway. You sort of sit back and let the words wash over you, but you don't have to pay too much attention because you already know what happens.ReplyDelete
It sounds weird but it's an enjoyable alternative to my usual habit of rereading favorite books over and over. Right now I'm listening to the Temeraire series by Naomi Novik.
My grandfather was blind and listened to the excellent collection of books that the Institute for the Blind and Dyslexic offered. The differences was that his player allowed you to speed it up to at least double if not triple speed. It sounded funny at first, but after a couple minutes regular speed would have been intolerably slow.ReplyDelete
When I listen to some podcasts on my ipod touch it has a "2x" speed button (under the time remaining). Very handy for slow narrations. I don't know if other music players have this feature, it's worth looking into.ReplyDelete
I think one's love/hate of audiobooks, podcasts, etc depends largely on whether you read faster than the spoken word or not. There's only a few series that I enjoy on audiobook, and I like to listen to the flow of the prose. I try to treat it more like aural poetry than like reading a book. Still, I only bother for road trips.ReplyDelete
I've listened to about three audio books, all of them read by the author and all non-fiction. I found them enjoyable and interesting. I suppose hearing fiction would be different but autobiography's on audio book are interesting.ReplyDelete
I've found two places where audiobooks fit well. The first is in the car. This allows me to regain time that would otherwise be lost. Particularly on the 4 hour drives that my job sometimes requires.ReplyDelete
The second is at night before bed. My wife and can share a book, be at the same place in it and wind down with the lights off before drifting off. I've found a player that has a sleep timer and I moved an old set of computer speakers into the bedroom.
Wow, I find this very interesting. I love audiobooks. And, perhaps surprisingly, it has to do with valuing time, like yourself - but in a different way.ReplyDelete
I don't feel I have the time to just *sit and read*. That's a luxury that is a rarity for me and one that I reserve for flipping through a print copy of The Economist.
I commute to work and listen to audiobooks. I listen while I clean my loft. I listen on the rare occasions I am in my car. But I never just sit there and listen. I'm always able to do something else even if it is just get to the office, walk the dog,wash some dishes or put away laundry. It allows me to have 'read' the latest and greatest and still be incredibly productive. And when I read a print book, that's all I'm doing. Mind you - I think there is tremendous value in that and I love sitting and reading a great book. It's just that that is a luxury of time I do not have very often.
So I suppose I'd rather take the 32 minutes and listen to a book while doing something I have to do anyway than tack another 14 minutes to my day to devote purely to reading it (again, I realize the value in that activity).
I'm a huge fan of audible.com. If you ever give it a try, I think Lonesome Dove is a fantastic audiobook. I would never have picked up a Western but it was truly one of the best listens I've had.
I agree with Funder that your reading speed could be a major determining factor regarding your enjoyment of audio books. I also think that the comprehension level required could play a part. Civil Government by John Locke could require you to chew over some things in your mind. However, a light novel would require much less attention to comprehension. I personally just like to have a "flesh and blood" book in my hands.ReplyDelete
Audiobooks: 1) There a good, bad, great, and awful readers--the reader/performer makes a huge difference. I prefer to listen to audiobooks on cassette although they are disappearing fast, being replaced by CD's and Playaways [http://speedchange.blogspot.com/2006/09/playaway.html]. Cassettes are easy to stop at any point and then restart at the same point. The Playaways I've tried from our library have all malfunctioned and/or been "cranky." Some of my favorite readers are Barbara Rosenblatt, George Guidall, and Patrick Tull, inter alia.ReplyDelete
Great source for public domain audio books. As they are read by volunteers make sure you download a partial title first to see if you can easily understand the style and voice inflection that the speaker used.
Around the World in 80 days by Jules Verne is a great start!
If you have the time listen...
If you have more time volunteer!
We started to listen to audiobooks as a way to fall asleep at night. Shelby Foote reading excepts from The Civil War, Richard Briers reading Winnie the Pooh, Le Carre reading his books.ReplyDelete
After time, hearing them in bits while we drift off, we have picked up details we both missed despite repeated readings. (I am pretty sure I know when Bill Hayden knew Karla.)
We both read very fast, but since we weren't listening for initial reading, rather as a story at bedtime, these worked very well. We've added most of the Pratchett books, read by Stephen Briggs, via Audible. We get quite a few radio programs now as well.
It'll never replace reading books, but it is it's own thing.
(those who have not read the George Smiley novels, but plan to in the future, are advised to ignore or forget the Hayden-Karla comment in the comment above...)ReplyDelete
I am a visual person, and I love to read. I also read very rapidly, and never consider time spent reading as a waste of time. When I was teaching AP Spanish, my students, most of whom were also primarily visual, and I had to train ourselves to listen carefully to recorded passages. It was difficult for all of us, but every one of them passed the AP test with flying colors. I see it as something necessary for a specific purpose, but not something I would ever do for enjoyment.ReplyDelete
I prefer to read books--it's easier to reread a paragraph or flip back a chapter than it is to rewind or find an earlier position--but on a couple occasions I've found audio books quite useful. I had tremendous trouble maintaining interest the first couple times I picked up The Silmarillion or Atlas Shrugged, but after listening to the first couple hundred pages worth of each audio book I was keen enough on them to download them to my phone and read them more efficiently. The audio books also helped me with many proper noun pronunciations in the books.ReplyDelete
Audio books don't always work to raise my interest, but if you've an interest in a book more than you can suffer reading of it, audio books are a great way to go!
If you use audible.com and an iPod, you can play the spoken word at a faster rate of speed. This can reduce the time by about 25%.ReplyDelete
The best way of playing an audiobook is on a car, on the on-board cd/mp3 player. This makes it start and stop automatically when you start and stop the car, making it very little effort to get through a book, including those short 5-10 minute trips to the store.
I worship audiobooks these days, but only because I commute to work.ReplyDelete
One great resource:
Many local libraries have digital sections with audiobooks -- good way to cut down on cost of buying new/used or library availability of physical copies.
I'm retired now, so I'm not listening to audio books as much as when I was working and driving for 60 to 90 minutes each day. I found that I was much more relaxed and drove less aggressively when listening to a good book than when I listened to the radio. I also was more tolerant of idiots on the road. It gave me something to look forward to on my drives.ReplyDelete
I'm one of those readers who likes to "hear" the voice of the story when I'm reading. I think that is why I like audio books. I also like to listen to a good book when I'm doing household chores or sewing. And although I own about sixty audio books, I'm a big user of my local library for audio and e books.
Over the years, I've spent about 30 hours slogging through a few audiobooks. I've also spent thousands of hours listening to old time radio. It's made driving, shopping and various other chores much more enjoyable. Unlike audiobooks, these are stories that were originally created for listening.ReplyDelete
Archive.org is a great, free source of public domain radio series. Much like TV, most series are awful. Some, on the other hand, like X-Minus-1, The Adventures of Phillip Marlowe, The Jack Benny Show and dozens of others are generally excellent (with the occasional clunker). Audio quality can vary from episode to episode.
Playing audio books at 1.4 with pitch correction might just be the ticket for you. Especially if you are in the car or whatever...ReplyDelete
Have you considered The Great Courses?ReplyDelete
My problem with audiobooks is being repeatedly distracted from what I'm listening to by whatever's going on around me and missing big chunks of it. Never seems to work the other way around; I don't get so absorbed in what I'm hearing that I lose track of what I'm doing.ReplyDelete
I love to be read to "live," but in that case I'm doing nothing but listening, and there's emotional interaction going on with the person reading. I could just sit and do nothing but listen to an audiobook, but I might as well sit and read on my own and cover more territory (I'm a fast reader).
i don't understand this. Can't you listen to one thing while doing another? Why not? It's a skill that takes practice, but surely it's one worth practicing.ReplyDelete
@lokey--no, because I get distracted. (I think that's what I said, isn't it? Yes, by gum, it is.) With regard to its being worth practicing, well, you know, we all have our priorities. This isn't one of mine.ReplyDelete
I'm with Frankenduke - the car is the place for this.ReplyDelete
I can't drive to music - I find the rhythm tends to drive me, which really isn't good.
We've just got back from a week's holiday, during which we finished the Hyperion quartet and ran through a few Pratchett's as infill, then had Gerald Durrell's My Family and Other Animals.
Both kids have mp3 players, but neither use them much for music, prefering to borrow story CDs from the library and rip them to mp3.
I've posted about this before...but I might as well weigh in again.ReplyDelete
I'm mildly-moderately dyslexic. I loved reading when I was a kid, but paradoxically as my reading speed increased it led to more difficulty. I have to pace myself and go really slowly or I read words out of order, insert words that aren't there at all, mistake things like "can" and "can't" and it becomes a mess. Audiobooks are wonderful for me. I can get through a couple of them a week sometimes, instead of a few weeks or more to read a single book. I also listen to some of my favorites repeatedly. Since I almost exclusively listen to science and medicine non-fiction, this means I really take the ideas in. Tough for me to do sometimes, since I have other learning disabilities as well.
I wonder how your preferential receiving of information aurally rather than visually affects your spelling skills. When I was a teacher I thought I could detect a difference in my students in that regard; when tested on material they had encountered in a lecture, their spelling errors tended to be homonyms or improper double letters etc. When tested on material acquired through reading, I thought there were fewer errors in their exam written answers. In your personal case the dyslexia may be the dominant factor, but I think the principal involved is true; I don't know that it's ever been properly tested.ReplyDelete
I'm a busy broadcast radio producer and I've recently rediscovered audio books as I have no time to sit down and read for pleasure anymore, and they are wonderful when I'm doing chores around the house and on the road. I only listen to the unabridged books though.ReplyDelete