Reading versus Listening
In grad school, I took a course on reading and listening in a second language. In order to understand how one reads and listens in a foreign language, it was important to learn how one reads and listens in her native language. As you might guess, there are plenty of differences between comprehending a text that you are reading versus one that you are listening to. Here are some general comparisons*:
|Printed text||No text|
|The ability to reread||Rare to have the chance to rewind|
|Spelling is uniform||How words are pronounced varies|
|You cannot multi-task||You can multi-task (with limitations)|
|Can skip around||Cannot skip around|
*These are in no way hard and fast rules; there are obviously exceptions to most of these.
My journey to audiobooks began with receiving Hexed and Hammered by Kevin Hearne (narrated by Luke Daniels) as a RAK last year. I generally suck at listening (especially when compared to reading), so I was hesitant to try audiobooks. But a RAK is a RAK, and both Missie and Felicia had listened to the series on audiobook and had said that these are good ones to start on. A few months after I received the audiobooks, I decided to give them a try. They were on CD, so I popped them into my computer (the only CD player I have) and started listening… only to find that I am TERRIBLE at focusing on listening when I am on the computer. Or rather, I am really good at blocking out sounds. Any time I try to do ANYTHING that involves reading printed words, I focus on that, and not whatever I am listening to.
This left me with a problem: WHEN and HOW do I listen to audiobooks?
I obviously cannot listen to audiobooks on my computer. Just being around my computer proves to be an extreme distraction from whatever I am doing. Because my only CD player is my computer, that means I have to listen on my mp3 player (and no, my car does not have a CD player, because that would be the perfect solution). I tried going on walks (no reading to distract me there!) but those are short and I never got into the book enough before the walk was over, which meant I wasn’t really motivated to take daily walks to listen to it. For me, listening to an audiobook works best when I have a good chunk of time to devote to listening. At that point, I was stumped about when to listen to audiobooks, so I gave up.
In March, I went with my parents to my grandma’s (about a two hour drive one way) for her birthday, and since I wasn’t driving and can’t read in the car (I get terribly motion sick), I decided to try out an audiobook again. At this point, I had started and stopped listening to the same book about three different times, so it took some time before I finally got into the story, but I surprised myself by really liking the experience. I decided that audiobooks were something I could do.
At the same time, I was teaching and commuting two hours every day. That left me with 10 hours per week in the car (more if you include walking into campus). The obvious solution: listen to audiobooks in the car. See, being in the car that much is incredibly draining, especially after a long day (or week) of work. Teaching took up the vast majority of my time, and I had little time for reading. Getting to listen to a book and being able to DO something with all that time spent in the car was awesome. Not only was I able to feel like I was accomplishing something (rather than wasting time), but I was able to keep up [somewhat] with reading. Normally it takes me an hour or so after I get home to wind down after my day, but listening to a book helped me to wind down and escape before I even got home. Listening to a book keeps me from mulling over the day and getting caught up in all those things (I think too much). Listening to a book also helps me to be patient. If I get stuck behind someone driving slow, it’s more time to spend with the book rather than an impediment to getting home as fast as I can.
For me, there are definite advantages and disadvantages to listening to audiobooks as I will summarize in a table. (tables are fun!)
|I can listen AND drive! Or walk.||It’s still relatively easy to get distracted|
|It’s relaxing.||No rewind button|
|Experiencing books in a new (and fun) way||Sometimes harder to track story lines|
|Some scenes are more vivid||Can only listen in certain situations|
I wanted to include many of these thoughts in my review of Hexed (coming on Monday) but decided they were best in their own post. This way, people can understand how I approach listening to audiobooks before I post any reviews, and this post can easily be referenced for any future audiobook reviews or discussion. There are definitely positives and negatives to audiobooks, but they work really well for me in certain situations. Some disadvantages are canceled out by advantages (I sometimes forget about plot lines for a while, but scenes are more vivid) and I think that audiobooks are an incredibly personal experience.
So what has YOUR experience with audiobooks been like?