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.