Sunday, January 06, 2008

Reading Vs Listening

Over the years, I have received numerous comments and questions from a variety of people in several different venues on "listening to books". My thoughts posted on this subject, as all other posts on this blog, are purely my own.

There are reasons galore to listen or not to listen to audio-books, so instead of listing the pros and cons of both, I'm going to share why I do like to listen by using the comments and questions I have been asked as a springboard. I'm not trying to convince anybody of anything. I'm just sharing what has worked for me.

Why do you like to listen to audio-books instead of reading?

I don't. I love reading, that's why I listen. As odd as that sounds, it's true. I enjoy reading so much that whenever I can . . . I do; however, life requires much more from me than sitting with a book in hand. It's at some of those times that I resort to listening. More audio-books means I've spent more time multi-tasking, which from my point of view is a very good thing!

Where do you get your audio-books?

I do not reread or relisten to books, so I do not purchase audio-books. I receive all my audio-books from the public library. There is a wide variety and it costs me nothing.

How do you choose your audio-books?

Unfortunately, I can't be too picky here. Many of my choices, especially in the past, have been based on availability from the library system. The system I belong to is very large, but still limited in audio-books in comparison to books.

I have discovered that for myself, I prefer to listen to books that are NOT thrillers. Virtually every other genre works, but there's just something about turning the pages as fast as I can read them during a chilling thriller. I would totally miss out on that fun, if listening to the audio version. Also, on occasion, I've run across a non-fiction book that I'm really interested in and have had to go back to relisten for clarification. It's not as easy as rereading, but it works.

In general, if I had to choose between light or heavy books for an audio-book, then I would choose the lighter books; however, I have thoroughly enjoyed some deep books while listening, so that is certainly not a rule. Choosing a specific audio-book for a specific reason can actually turn out to be a dud and not necessarily because of the book's content, but because of the narrator. Narrators can make or break a book.

For the most part, I do not like theatrical narrators and/or music playing in the background. I like someone to read it like I would read it - with emotion and inflection, but not a lot of drama. I'm not watching a play . . . I'm listening to a book.

And, I try to avoid listening to a book in a series after I have read the first. The narrator has their own "voice" for the characters that do not necessarily match mine. Listening to the first, then reading the second works out fine though.

What do you use to listen to them?

A long time ago, I used a portable CD player, but for the past several years I have had an iPod. I LOVE my iPod! I download the CDs into iTunes, then I upload them onto my iPod. Here's a site that I have found to be very helpful: Aldoblog

Do you consider listening to a book the same as reading it?

No. It's not the same. One you read with your own eyes and the other you listen with your ears. :) They are different. Although, I don't believe that reading a book makes you a better consumer of books and I don't believe that listening to a book is considered "cheating". By reading or listening, ultimately the story resides in my brain . . . either way works for me.

Although, my experience of a book can be affected by the mode in which I choose; however, that's just an added piece to the puzzle like time, mood, circumstances, etc. And in my experience it has gone both ways.

Is it faster to listen to a book?

Everybody reads at different speeds, but for me, listening to an audio-book often takes much longer than if I were to read it. It's not about saving time. It's about using the time I have effectively.

How do you get your mind to stay focused?

I'm a visual learner, so learning to become a listener took some time. I began listening to CDs on a CD player that I would carry around with me on my 3-mile outdoor morning walks. Much of the first book was missed due to my wandering mind of thoughts or the viewing of my surroundings. One time, I actually had to relisten to the full 45 minutes that I supposedly listened to during my walk. That annoyed me. I tried a lot harder to concentrate after that. I admit, it was VERY difficult, but I wanted to succeed. I wanted to succeed at being able to use that time as exercising AND getting in another book. Also, I wanted to succeed at stretching my mind and increasing my abilities as an auditory learner. With time and perseverance, I trained myself to get back on track as soon as I found my mind trailing off. The time off task got less and less and, now, it is a very rare occasion that I find myself spacing out. I succeeded. I taught myself to listen and I love it!


  1. Thanks for taking the time to answer those questions, I might just try an audio book sometime.

  2. I tried one book on CD and just didn't like it. The narrator read so much slower than I would have read it. I kept thinking - turn the page already! So I'll just stick to the written word.

  3. Callista ~ Now my answers are in one place. It's always worth a try, you might like it. :)

    Lynne ~ Audio-books are definitely not for everybody. For some, it takes time (like me). I have heard a few narrators that made me crazy, while others have been fantastic.

  4. I identify with just about everything you said - I listen to audiobooks while in my car, running errands, waiting on lines, and doing household chores (if they can't be avoided LOL). I too do not like listening to thrillers or mysteries on audio - I don't want to have to stop at a particularly suspenseful place. Sometimes when there is a book I feel I should read but don't think I'll get through I listen to it on audio - oldies like Little Women or Cannery Row. And I also have to train my mind not to wander - it is harder for me to "pay attention" when I listen than when I read. For now, I love both.

  5. I thought I'd love audio books when they came out, and surprise! I didn't. Didn't like the background music. Didn't like the way the author would ham it up by changing his voice. Didn't like the pacing. Only one worked for me: Thinner, by Richard Bachman. Forgot who read it, but he did a good job.

    Anyway, all of that was nearly 20 years ago & I'd be willing to try another one. Thanks for your informative and interesting Q&A!

  6. Thanks so much for this post! I'm one who has tried them before but have not been able to concentrate on the story. However, I am trying to get back into using the treadmill and decided to bring home a couple of audio books from the library just the other day. So your post is very timely! And I am going to try and train myself to listen just like you say!

    I hate exercising but if I could 'read' a book while doing it I think I'd be much more happier about it! LOL

  7. What a great post, Joy! I was just thinking about audiobooks on the way to work this morning. I'm fussier about them than I am other books - the narrator, the story, but they are just a boon to fitting in a book when otherwise there would be no physical way to do it.

  8. Joy: You know I listen to everything as BOT and BOCD in the car while on errands and on my daily commute (50 mile RT). I have yet to actually handhold a Harry Potter book to read, only listened to them as I am enamoured of Jim Dale's voice.
    Narrators make or break even the best or worst book.
    I still belong to Recordedbooks as my library bites for selection.
    Listening to audiobooks expedites my reading.

  9. Fern ~ We sound very similar. :) As long as nobody else is home (for some reason, people feel ignored if I'm listening to a book when they are trying to talk to me - lol), you will find me listening as I do everything. It makes any task seem "not so bad". :)

    Bybee ~ Don't be surprised if they haven't changed...unfortunately. I don't understand why they think they need to "ham it up". Just read it! Anyway, my thought is not to give up. There are some excellent narrators and believe it or not, sometimes "hamming" is appropriate or acceptable for certain books or characters. It's such a fine line they walk. It's hard to please all of us. Also, each company has it's own agenda - some love the idea of theatrical performances. UGH!

    As for exercising - it's the only way to go! I will be so engrossed in a book that 15 minutes will have gone by and I thought it was maybe 2! Also, this is a good time to train your mind. It's better to focus on the words, than the pain!

    Please keep me posted on your audio-book adventure.

  10. Nicola ~ Oh yes! Listening and exercising are a great combo! Sometimes (actually often) I can't wait to exercise just so I can listen to my book. :)

    Please let me know how it goes.

    Carrie K ~ Absolutely! I'm very thankful for books on CD. Sometimes I "give in" to the narrator and just go with the flow because I wouldn't be able to "read" the book otherwise (for whatever reason).

    I haven't heard or read the word "boon" in a long time. Thanks for the reminder. :)

  11. Vickie ~ Yep, you and me both are addicted audio-book listeners!

    Do you still stop for your "foo-foo" coffee? :) I miss hearing your stories.

  12. Joy: I am trying to get back to Booklovers.
    I do stop for foo-foo's every once in a while. Not as often as when I was on shift, but I try to make it for some 'me time'. Not much better than sitting in a comfy chair with a hot foo-foo coffee and a good book. = )

  13. Vickie ~ I haven't been to Booklovers in months, except to tell them I was on Goodreads. Hopefully I'll keep in contact with them on there. I wasn't aware that you weren't at Booklovers.

    The scenario you described sounds wonderful! :)

  14. This was a great post, Joy! I think I could really like audio books if I gave them a real shot. I think I just picked the wrong choice for my first try. And like you, I'm a visual learner, so I know it will take some work on my part to "get the hang" of listening. But I have to say, I'm all of a sudden really excited to give it another go. And anything to make scrubbing toilets more pleasant just has to be a good thing, right?

  15. Joy- Thanks so much for writing this post. It has inspired me to give audiobooks another try. I am very much a visual learner too but maybe I can train myself to focus as well. There are so many great books out there that I need to find a way to fit more in...LOL

  16. Debi ~ I'm telling you . . . audio-books are a magic pill for reducing the stress of chores. Due to listening, sometimes they even get done well! :) And, yes, it does take some time to get used to, especially narrators.

    Amy ~ I was actually walking first, then decided I could use that time to fit in more books. Since then, that's been my main motivation . . . fitting in more books anytime I can. There's just so many books I want to read and not enough hours in a day. Don't give up if it's something you really want to accomplish, just try another book. :)

  17. Joy - I really appreciate you taking the time to write out your thoughts. I know you know that I've been very interested in this--particularly when I got a new job and gained a 2 hour commute every day (both ways, not each way).

    The thing that is holding me back, though, is the time that I can give myself to get away from everything, curl up on the coach or the bed and snuggled in with my book--which lately doesn't happen quite as often. I think I read more in the car (before work and sometimes during lunch) than in the comforts of home.

    And then there is the sensation you described while reading a good crime book. I don't read those types of books because they give me nightmares (ha ha!), but I LOVE a good page turner. I LOVE when I have to make myself cover the bottom of the page with my hand so my eyes don't wander to find keywords and clues.

    Oh, and I still haven't found my public library. :) I'll get there. I even know where I want to start when I get there (Shopaholic series).

    Wow, sorry for the novel. :)

    And one more questions--what is your listen/read ratio? Just out of curiosity!

  18. I began listening to audio-books out of safety concerns. I am a serious roadtripper, mostly due to financial constraints, but I have a tendency to get bored on the road. Boredom for me leads to drowsiness. Drowsiness leads to not so safe driving.

    My aunt also drives a lot to get from Duluth, MN to our hometown in South Dakota. She passed down an audio-book and it's made a huge difference. Opposite of you though, I do prefer the thrillers when I'm driving. They perk my attention span and keep me going...I'm less likely to need to pull over and take a nap if I'm wrapped up in a good story that I just HAVE to hear the end of. One of the best audio-book roadtrips, contrary to what one might expect, was when I listened to Cross during the 11 hour drive to get to the nursing home when my mom was dying this past fall. It kept me going, literally, and prevented me from thinking about the worst upon my arrival.

    I will ALWAYS love the feel and smell of turning pages in a real book though. Purist at heart

  19. Trish ~ "I LOVE when I have to make myself cover the bottom of the page with my hand so my eyes don't wander to find keywords and clues."

    OH MY GOSH! I do that ALL THE TIME! I hate when my eyes disobey and skim down the page, so my hand must save me.

    Without doing exact stats, I believe my ratio of listens to reads was 1:3. Since probably June, it's been more like 1:2. problem regarding the length of your comment, I like novels. :)

  20. Moosekahl ~ Oh I totally understand the need for thrillers in a traveling situation. I'm with you there! If I were on the road like that, I'd listen to them, too. Otherwise, I'd rather read them in the handheld version.

    Sorry to hear about your mom.

    Thanks for commenting. I haven't seen you around for a while.

  21. The major reason I dont listen to audio books is that I am partially deaf, so I would miss some of the experience. When I am watching a movie on DVD - I absolutely must have the subtitles on - it makes my enjoyment of the movie that much better. If there are no subtitles, then the sound is turned up loud, but I still miss some words and my enjoyment is not so good. I actually do prefer to read.

  22. Historia ~ Oh I definitely prefer reading, too, but I'm thrilled that I can listen as well to add more books into a month. I understand that reading has even more value to you with some hearing loss. Thank goodness for the written word! :)

  23. Joy - thanks for a great post. I am curious though - which iPod do you have - been looking at them for myself and wondered which one you used. Thanks!!

  24. Kara ~ I actually have two (one for the car and one for the house). They are both 4GB. The one in the car is my oldest iPod, called the "Mini" and the one for house use is called the "Nano". I don't think either of them are available anymore. The "Mini" is chunkier (in comparison to today's versions) and I use a "Monster" adapter to play it through the radio. The "Nano" I have is about 1" wide and 3.5" long, the newest version is almost a square. Before iPods I had a Creative brand MP3 player and it was blobbed in comparison. I'm sure other brands including Creative are much better now. That was when they first started coming out. I LOVE MY IPODS!!!

    OH! To give you an idea of how much 4GB holds - I have 23 books on my iPod now, with an average of 9CDs per book and I have used 3.23GB. Also, I don't think the iPods really have exactly 4GB, maybe more like 3.97GB. :)

    Hope this was helpful. If you have any more questions, feel free to ask. :)

  25. Joy, this is such a perfect post about it...I think I'll answer this question on my site too.

    Some people say listening is not reading, but then I'd have missed out on half of the great books to chores.

    BTW, I'd like to share This Book For Free. It's just like the name says, book for free. Both new and old and all free.

  26. Just Say ~ Yep! I love to read a handheld version, but I also love to listen to books when sitting down and holding a book is not possible. Happy Reading and Listening to you! :)


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