Audiobooks, really? (Part 1/3)

I am an avid audiobook listener, I suppose it’s because it tickles my storyteller bone. It seems to run deep, this passion for stories. Audiobooks are the spoken word, they touch on the origins of writing, on the origins of story telling. There are several disadvantages to audiobooks, but by far there are more advantages.


Audiobooks have a bit of a bad reputation, they are books but they are read out to you so it is easy to assume that listening to them is just plain lazy. That extremely difficult task of holding a book up has been lifted off your shoulders, not to mention all that tedious page turning. Ok, so reading a book is not all that difficult, when you are already able to read, so why would anyone think that listening to an audiobook is? Probably because reading requires constant concentration, there, that’s the big fat effort, seeing a book of 800 pages (or carrying one) is not what a lot of people might find something to look forward to.

How long do you have to concentrate to be able to go through so many pages? (Just in case, this is not seen as a rhetorical question. Assuming you are a slow reader like me or the book to be read is not The Da Vinci Code; it takes about one hour to read 25-30 pages, that means more than 25 hours to read 800 pages, though it took me around 17 hours to read the last Harry Potter with 610 pages, around 35 pages an hour). With an audiobook you don’t have to concentrate on the written word, and here comes a disadvantage, with an audiobook: it isn’t easier to be distracted. There is no dead-tree evidence to guilt you into concentrating; you need will power and certain skills to do so (more on skills in Part 2/3).


An advantage to audiobooks is that I can sit down and relax, close my eyes and just passively take everything in, though passively is not so much an understatement as the fact that I might need to close my eyes in order to shut out visual input in order to concentrate on the listening. Perhaps what happens is that it is more difficult to keep track of the story when you listen to an audiobook.

Another advantage of audiobooks is that you can do other things whilst listening, like driving, cooking, washing dishes, shopping, talking to your spouse or significant other or others. It is here when the ‘skills’ come into the equation. –You have to learn how to concentrate (or not) on two things at the same time. If you master it, no reader however snobbish can ever say that audiobooking is lazy. It requires years of training, like trying to train your mind to not do anything in meditation. I personally am a novice since I haven’t mastered the ‘talking to someone’ while listening to an audiobook. My conversations while listening to them goes like this:

Other person: “Muffle, muffle, muffle,”

Me:                 “What? I’m listening to my iPod,” I say while pointing at my iPod.

Other person:  “Muffle , muffle, muffle,”

Me:                 “What?”

And so on, until I switch off the iPod/audiobook. I try not to combine talking and audiobooking, for obvious reasons. As long as the task is mechanical and does not require me to interact with language – like driving – I can listen to audiobooks, which is more I can say than about dead tree, real life non-electronic books.

(Part 2/3 to follow in a week)



4 thoughts on “Audiobooks, really? (Part 1/3)

  1. I listen to Audio books now and then while working. I suppose we all have similar situations that when we need to concentrate on the task at hand , the audio books becomes secondary and we end up getting blank spots. The advantage is I get to learn something even if I just remember 10% of the 1 hour I spent listening while doing something else.

    1. So true, and you cannot discount passive reading, you might even learn something even though you are not aware of it.

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