Would you rather read or listen to a book?
June 18, 2013
It’s not an easy question for me. As I write this, my brain is fried from the day, and I will have an hour or so left in it after I complete this blog.
My default answer to the query until recent months would have been that I prefer reading over listening to books.
The only exception to that rule in days past for me was on a long road trip where I had many hours of windshield time and no one to visit with in the car. In that setting, I occasionally listened to an audio book on my iPod, a CD, or through the robotic read aloud feature of a Kindle.
While I’m thinking about the Kindle deal, I have a bone to pick with Amazon about the Kindle Paper White. I bought one a couple of months ago and didn’t discover until after the fact that it does not support that robotic read aloud feature. Why in the heck would Amazon leave that feature off the Kindle I thought was supposed to be its purest eReader, when it had been included it in all the predecessor Kindles I have owned?
Anyway, I am now crossing some sort of reading shift where listening to books is beginning to appeal to me. I caught myself scanning through Audible.com a couple of nights ago, checking out the current offerings.
I was interested to learn recently that audio books had their genesis fifty years or so ago in a government program for the blind. To this day, a major market for audio books is readers who for one reason or another can no longer read printed words on a page.
Truck drivers also buy a lot of them, motivated I suppose as I was by their long hours behind the wheel.
I understand all that, but I don’t understand why I find myself gravitating now toward audio books. I can still see to read and love the act of reading.
Why, then, am I wanting to listen to a book?
Some say audio books for the able-bodied are simply an example of a perceived growing laziness of people in general.
Maybe that’s true for a handful of folks, but I don’t think it explains the growth of the audio book market.
As I see it, audio books are becoming more popular for two reasons. First they are much more readily available now than in years past. CDs, although still a way to listen, have given way to iPods, iPads, tablets and smart phones as delivery systems for audio books. I have an Audible.com app on my phone and can listen to sample snippets of the books anywhere, any time.
Second, I believe audio books represent a different art form than even an eBook. An audio book brings the narrator into play, adds a dimension not found in text alone. The narration is a performance within the work. Some readers may see a vocal performance of a book as less “pure” than reading the book on a page, while others may think the voice talent brings greater depth to the novel.
I don’t have any argument with either position.
What are your thoughts? Would you rather read or listen to a book?