Listening vs Reading: The Rise of Audiobooks

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In our house, we’re well-versed in the world of audiobooks as they saved our family holidays.

I love to read books (well, duh) but my husband doesn’t.  He just never really got into it – his boredom threshold falls around the size of the average newspaper article, which he reads in abundance.  Essentially, his digitally-trained brain can’t cope having to read 100,000 words before finding out ‘the point’.

My favourite thing to do on holiday is to find a beautiful view and a comfortable seat and settle down 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 many years ago that this was a problem we would have to overcome or I was 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 and Steve Jobs), 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.

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 my own work.  I do feel that listening rather than reading impacts this, as I can’t fully appreciate the structure, the language, the skill.

I find I most value audiobooks when travelling.  I get terribly car-sick so have never been able to read in the car or on a bus.  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 inflicted by the relentless purveyors of scratchcards, perfumes and bus tickets. 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?

~RM Kealy

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