Listening vs Reading: Audiobooks

AudibleIn our house, we’re well-versed in the world of audiobooks as they are the reason why our family holidays are successful.

I love to read books (well, duh) but my husband doesn’t.  It’s not the books themselves mind you, it’s just the physical act of reading sentence after sentence for three hundred pages – his boredom threshold falls around the size of the average business newspaper article, which he reads in abundance.  I can completely understand this as he didn’t grow up with a love of books as I did, so his modern day digital brain can’t cope with having to deal with 100,000 words before finding out the ‘point’.

My favourite thing to do on holiday is to find a beautiful view and a comfy seat and settle in for the long-haul with a great book.  On our first holiday together I found myself unable to get past a single paragraph without being asked how it was going / did I see the kid with the ball / was I too hot.

And so we discovered that day many years ago that this was a problem that we would have to overcome or I was possibly going to drown him in his holiday beer.

The solution? Audiobooks.  I downloaded books I thought he would like (Wolf of Wall Street was a big hit, followed by biographies of Warren Buffet, Steve Jobs and Richard Branson), charged up his Iphone and let him off.

The only problem is that audiobooks are rather expensive.  Roughly €20-30 each, which is understandable when you consider the book’s value in itself, with added production and narration costs.  Enter Audible.com, which sounds rather convoluted but is in effect, a subscription service.  You pay a monthly fee and depending on which tier you’re on, you get at least one book a month.  I currently pay €7.99 per month which buys me one credit. One credit = one book.  So you can see it’s good value.

The only downside for me is the lack of learning.  As I’ve barely a toe on the first rung of a writing career, I like to read great writing so that I can learn from it and hopefully imbue a tiny droplet of those writers’ talents into what comes from my pen to my paper.  I do feel that listening rather than reading impacts this, as I can’t fully appreciate each line, the structure, the language, the sheer skill.  This was the case with The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, which I may actually go out and buy in hard copy (when the price has come down!) as I so thoroughly admired her writing.

stuffThere are also Podcasts, of which I’m a huge fan.  As a closet history geek, I usually subscribe to the likes of ‘Stuff You Missed in History Class’.  These are great for short bursts of entertainment which don’t require too much concentration, unlike audiobooks which you can’t really continually dip in and out of.  Ideal for housework, or a quick walk to the shops.

I find I most value audiobooks / podcasts when travelling.  I get terribly car-sick so have never been able to read in the car or on a bus, which annoys me hugely.  Now, however, a journey to Dublin equals at least six or seven chapters.  And, when flying, they’re good to block out at least 90% of the ear-torture re scratchcards, perfumes and car hire adverts.  Which is always a good thing.

So for now, I think I’ll stick to mixing it up, listening and reading. What about you, have you given audio-books a try?

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