Audiobooks: Using Every Moment of Time Productively

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From my Overdrive account. These are all books I’ve borrowed from the library.

I came across an interesting article the other day: America’s unhealthy obsession with productivity is driving its biggest new reading trend.

In the article, the author asserts that audiobook sales have increased in a way that can’t be accounted for just by their ease of use. The author states that Americans hate downtime, and that’s why we rush to fill those silences with something.

The author concludes that creativity comes out of those silences, and that we don’t know what we’re missing when we rush to fill them. But “there are far worse addictions.”

*sigh*

I’m not going to pretend that I’m not addicted to books. I can (and have) gone days without reading. Well… books. In the days I haven’t read books, I’ve read articles online, cruise ship news (on a cruise ship, obviously), the back of cereal boxes, etc.

But if you told me I had to go a week without reading a book, I honestly don’t think I could do it. I don’t want to. That’s like telling me I should go without breathing for awhile to see how I like it.

I didn’t jump on the audiobook bandwagon until about 6 months ago. Mostly because I’ve tried reading audiobooks in the past, and I just couldn’t understand them. About two years ago, I got my first set of hearing aids. My audiologist told me that my audio center (probably the wrong term, but this is how I remember it) was probably somewhat atrophied because I’m used to relying on other ways to understand conversations. She also said that the more I used them, the more I’d be able to better understand spoken language.

So, it’s possible that my liking audiobooks now is because I’ve exercised my brain enough that the words make sense. The more I listen and hear, the better I can understand. In my case, listening to audiobooks is actually a form of exercise!

Though honestly, I’ve heard other people say that they had to get used to listening to audiobooks, so it’s probably a skill like any other. It requires practice to improve.

Anyway… I love quiet time. When I walk my dog on our local greenbelt, I never listen to books or music. The sounds of the creek rushing by, the birds singing, and the little animals scampering around the underbrush help soothe me, like a form of meditation. Often it’s when I have my best ideas.

But sitting in traffic, painting my garage trim, or cleaning up around the house (for example) are not made better by quiet time (for me). When I’m engaged in a frustrating activity, or one I just don’t like, why wouldn’t I make it a little better by listening to a book?

I love to read; it makes me happy. It’s a form of escape, like a mini-vacation. I don’t do it because I want to increase the number of books I’ve read. I do it because I want to read more books. I want to read all the books! (But unfortunately… adulting… ugh.)

And audiobooks are so easy to get now. When I was attempting to read them, like 10- 15 years ago, it was either use Audible or get CDs from the library. Both ways took time, and I’m pretty sure that downloading books from Audible was kind of a pain.

Nowadays, I log onto my library’s webpage, select the audiobook I want, and tell it to download to an app on my phone. It takes longer to pick the book than to download it. The ease of access has to be a major factor driving up audiobook consumption.

I get it. I’m sure there are people out there who are using audiobooks to increase productivity. But to call it an obsession is an oversimplification. We do live in a faster world. There’s so much available to do and see and listen to! Why wouldn’t we want to enjoy as much as possible?

Related posts: Can I Really Say I Read An Audiobook?

I Promise These 4 Tips Will Get You Hooked On Audiobooks, over at While I Was Reading

Can I Really Say I “Read” An Audiobook?

img_7913Up until the last few years, I never listened to audiobooks. There are a lot of reasons that don’t have anything to do with snobbery: I retain more when I read vs. listen, my mind wanders more when I listen, it’s harder to go back and re-read passages, I can’t highlight, etc.

But the bigger reason, for me, is that listening to audiobooks seemed kind of passive to me. I don’t love TV, primarily because I know that my brain isn’t doing much if I’m just consuming a show. I worried that audiobooks had that same passivity.

It’s silly, because if I think about it, listening to audiobooks is actually harder work for me than reading a book the traditional way. It requires me to direct my concentration in a way that’s much more automatic for me in traditional reading.

I decided to look it up, to see how audiobooks are consumed by the brain. Rather than wondering and worrying about it, I looked to the science. Here’s a good article on it, but the bottom line is that your brain sees them essentially the same way.

I’m not the only one asking this question. When I did an internet search about audiobooks vs. traditional reading, apparently many people struggle with this issue.

I keep a list of how many books I read each year, and two or three of them for the past two years have been audiobooks. I’ve actually struggled with whether or not to “count” them.

What’s the point of reading a book? For me, it’s about enjoyment. In some cases, it’s about learning. It’s also to synthesize information and be able to discuss it meaningfully with others. I can do all that with audiobooks.

I recently reread On Writing, by Stephen King. (Great book, incidentally, even if you’re not a writer.) He reads tons of books, and casually mentioned that he also reads audiobooks. If it’s good enough for Stephen King, it’s good enough for me. Once I gave myself permission to look at audiobooks as reading, I started seeing chunks in my day where I could be reading: doing yard work, in the car, cleaning up the kitchen… the list goes on.

Do you listen to audiobooks? Where do you stand on audiobooks vs. traditional books?