When I was young, I was convinced that audio books were for bone heads. I had all these prejudices and beliefs around what made a “respectable reader” (never mind the fact that I never could get through a paragraph alive without spellcheck). You had to hold a physical, paper book in your hand or it didn’t count as reading. The books had to be from certain beloved authors or they were of little to no merit and were thus to be hidden in shame.
I had a lot of other really stupid ideas, too. I was a kid, what the hell do you want from me? Kids are dumbasses.
Even so, one of the conceits of my youth that held on a lot longer than it should have was this idea that listening to an audio book does not equal reading. Okay, technically, it’s not reading, I get that. But outside of the fact that you are not using your eyeballs to read and interpret letters from a page, there isn’t a whole hell of a lot of difference.
When you read a book, are you consciously aware of the act of reading or has it become an autonomic activity that you don’t have to think about? Are you able to just focus on the story?
Using your little socket peepers to consume a book should be the last damned thing that gets in the way of you enjoying a good story; it’s actually the dumbest reason I can think of to discount a book. What are you going to tell blind people? Do they not read?
Or so I should have been screaming at myself, years ago. I was forced to turn to audio books by necessity. I spend about three hours in the car every day (100 mile round trip) commuting to and from work. I work really, really hard. At night, there is a literal stack of books on my bedside table, but I can only read them for fifteen minutes at a time before I pass out. My adult professional life was jacking up my ability to read, which I used to do voraciously.
Aside from all that, I detest drive time radio. I hate the music stations, the talk radio, the commercials, the endless cacophony of mindless, wall-to-wall noise that vomits out of the speakers no matter what station you select. My wife, who had been listening to audio books for a very long time (evidently, she was born with her head in the right place, whereas I had to undergo years of painful extraction to remove mine from my anus), suggested I try them for my daily drive.
I thought, “Oh, fine. How bad could it be?”
A well performed audio book can be every bit as enjoyable as the original print form; it can surpass the original with a gifted narrator, elevating the experience to some hybrid of reading and movie-going.
I downloaded The Martian to my phone from Audible, plugged the phone into my car’s stereo system (yay, AUX!), and hit the play button.
And was instantly shown by one of the best performances the platform has to offer just what a weapons grade moron I had been.
Audio books have been a lifesaver for me over these last short years. They have allowed me to get my book intake back up to an acceptable level (acceptable for me, anyway), they give me the ability to multitask (I can actually be getting something done in traffic), and they’ve opened me up to a new world of entertainment possibilities. A well performed audio book can be every bit as enjoyable as the original print form; it can surpass the original with a gifted narrator, elevating the experience to some hybrid of reading and movie-going.
If you have limited your literary intake to print exclusively, I highly recommend that you expand your horizons.