In this world, there are people who don’t read at all, people who read for pleasure, and people who read as voraciously as though words were food, to paraphrase Francis Bacon. As a member of the last group, I firmly believe that the written word has to be one of the greatest things that humanity has produced; you can rarely see me going anywhere without a book. Unfortunately, there are a number of circumstances in which neither of these are either the best option or even an option at all. That’s why in a number of situations, audio books simply make more sense. Under these circumstances, listening to audio books is a wonderful extension of the reading experience.
There are situations when listening to audio books has advantages over reading
Case number one: when your hands are busy and lives can be at stake. I don’t know about the average person, but trying to read while in the driver’s seat just sounds like a poor idea to me. It also makes for some interesting arrangements as far as travel and book choice goes; one of my favorite car rides to Las Vegas was when I had a copy of The Road by McCarthy going. Similarly, I learned Spanish fairly quickly by putting on Michel Thomas’ series on my way to work. It provided a structure that I don’t think reading could have, and learning pronunciation at the same timed I learned vocabulary and grammar that certainly shortened the learning process.
When you’re reading, too often you assign “voices” for the characters in a novel. Although this is one of the better ways to enjoy a book, I find it can be quite interesting to hear how another person voices the cast. For a splendid example of this, take a look at Stephen Fry’s rendition of the Harry Potter series. The way that he gives Peeves a new life (sic) almost adds another layer of dimension to the story above and beyond the original. It’s a fairly common sentiment that the book was better than the movie or vice versa, and it’s a nice touch to be able to get the benefits of both!
Listening to audio books has its advantages
Often, I also make full use of audio books while on my walks. A fair number of people prefer music, but as I take my walks at night being able to hear if cars are coming or if anything else is around me is a great advantage. As has been previously mentioned, being able to get more out of my time and combining activities is most assuredly appreciated, and specifically as opposed to driving, walking through a particular area or scenery corresponding to the current place in the book adds something that even movies can’t touch.
An unexpected use that I find is to use audio books both at my job and while I’m doing household chores. Somehow the drudgery of labor is reduced somewhat when I have something to listen to, and as opposed to straight music it’s not too distracting so as to negate all of my attention. It’s also a benefit if I happen to be listening to something that’s beneficial to whatever I’m working on at the time. It certainly keeps me in the zone, and if my boss happens to think on one particular day that my listening is detrimental to my overall work, it just takes spouting out a sage bit of wisdom that I’ve learned that day to smooth that over.
This is a major point: as opposed to going to a book store, digital audio books allow me to download from a multitude of online vendors immediately, keep these in my possession effectively eternally, and are very generally cheaper when compared to either their physical counterparts or an ebook. Having zero weight, I can carry them anywhere. It’s also trivial in combination with any number of management programs to have an instantly-indexable, automatically sorted library, which is absolutely convenient as I don’t have to worry about digging for anything – it’s always at the front of my pile. This may not sound like a dramatic feature, but when you take into consideration having a library of something of the order of ten thousand volume, indexing is a veritable miracle.
I also find that listening as opposed to reading helps me with books that I’m assigned for class or otherwise forced to read. I believe this is due to the fact that one is passively listening in juxtaposition to actively scanning a page, and thus there is less effort that needs to be put in. I can’t begin to tell you the amount of effort this has saved on droll, dry authors like Dickens! Thus, I believe audio books can be absolutely indispensable for students!
When I’m talking to my friends, what we’re reading is often a common point of conversation. As such, they’re often asking me if they can borrow what I’m reading. Now, if one has a physical book, then you’re forced to go home, remember to pick it up, and give it to the person the next time you see them. The problem is, if you’re in the middle of reading something one doesn’t particularly want to give it up until the end. Above and beyond that, once you’re done with it you can forget to bring it. Also, when you see a friend every couple of months or so, they can get rather impatient, or at least that’s what they’ve expressed to me, in not-so-polite terminology. In come digital audio books! All you have to do is attach to an email and send, and all of the above problems aren’t problems anymore.
In summation, there are a variety of reasons to try audio books for a spin, and few (if any) not to. My personal recommendation would be to try a reading of a book you’ve already read; it’s a lot easier to gauge the differences when you have a control for your experiment. I hope that what I’ve said has hopefully encouraged the reader to try this wonderful technology out for themselves. Happy listening!