Audiobooks, really? (Part 2/3)

In my last blog post (Audiobooks, Really? Part 1) I gave the advantages and disadvantages to audiobook listening. Here, I’m going to go into a bit of detail about active listening, and why I sometimes prefer audiobooks to hard copies.

Active Listening

Listening requires one to listen actively, so as to make sense of what is happening. And while reading also requires a certain amount of attention, hearing is transmitted to the brain more directly (since input through the ears is received by the brain faster than input from the eyes). Maybe that’s why it seems easier to pay attention to something heard than something read. After all, most of us learn to speak more naturally than we learn to read or to write.

Paying Attention & The Subconscious

On the other hand, because it is easier to hear, it might also be easier to stop paying attention.
Our brain is a curious thing; we get input from all our senses, whether it is conscious or subconscious.  As far as I know, subconscious listening, like those ‘learn while you sleep’ tapes, don’t work. I can’t program my subconscious to understand. First, I need to consciously understand and, perhaps later, my subconscious can make sense or make links that I didn’t make while conscious. That’s exactly when the ‘eureka’ part of the cogitative process happens. In my case, those ‘eureka’ moments don’t happen when I’m thinking or trying to puzzle something out, but they happen when I’m digesting the information. It’s also where moments of inspiration come from, as the information I have been storing in my subconscious finally makes sense without the need of reason, these thoughts have been building connections while I do something else, for example, painting a wall or cleaning the house.

Reading on the Train

So, while I’m listening to audiobooks, my subconscious might be at work, but it’s still not the same as paying conscious attention to what I’m listening to. The only thing I can do at the same time as reading a book is to sit (or lie down), whether at home, outdoors or in a moving vehicle. I like reading on the train, even though I love audiobooks, too. However, the problem with reading on the train is that the train cabin has to be relatively quiet, in order to concentrate. If it’s noisy or someone is having a particularly loud conversation, either on the phone, or with another fellow passenger, then I just can’t read.

If, on the other hand, I have my iPod on, and I’m listening to a book while the people behind me decide that the song they just downloaded is incredibly cool and the rest of the people in the cabin have to listen to it, too, I can simply turn up the volume of my audiobook and drown out the noise (except when I happen to agree that the song is cool! Then I mentally agree with the person who decided to share and I listen in, which also applies to very loud conversations).  (Continued in Part 3)



4 thoughts on “Audiobooks, really? (Part 2/3)

  1. I have to admit, I’ve only ever listened to one audio book. But, just like with reading, I no longer really see what’s happening before my eyeballs, but I see the story unfolding, just like on a mental picture screen. This is great when doing house hold chores. I can do that and listen to an audio book – so what if I miss one crumb. But with driving I actually found it rather dangerous. When sitting down, I’d still much rather read.

  2. I have to say that it’s quite hard for me to rely on absorbing auditory information, which is why I haven’t really explored the option of audiobooks. I guess it’s more or less what you say though, one needs to listen actively and that’s difficult for me. Reading, on the other hand, works well. I do which I could rely more on my hearing because I’d love nothing more that to listen to the books I want to read while still being able to do other things… the amount of time I’d be able to save!

    I do recognize the ‘eureka’ moment too… it’s lovely isn’t it? When all those thought fermenting in the brain coalesce together and Shazam!

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