List #14: The Pros and Cons of Audio Books

9 March, 2012

I recently completed, for the first time, an audio book. I had started to listen to one before, but fairly soon afterwards I stopped doing architectural drafting (as part of a summer program), and didn’t need to have something to listen to any more while my hands were busy cutting, or drawing, or ruling. So, when my girlfriend and I started listening to The Magicians (by Lev Grossman) on the way back down from San Francisco (a drive of about 6 hours), it was my second try. And, this time, I ended up finishing it. It took about a month or so, but I finally heard the last sentence of the book.

It was a strange experience. I really enjoyed it (though of course that would depend on the book, too), but it was also slightly frustrating, in various ways. But the list will let you know that. Without further ado…

  • Pro: Gives you something interesting to do while driving. Not that I don’t enjoy singing along to my iPod, but it’s nice to have a little change. And at the gym, too — it certainly beats watching Closed-Captioned episodes of Keeping Up With the Kardashians or The Real Housewives of… (which are inevitably on whenever I go).
  • Con: Doesn’t make getting out of the car after arriving at work any more enticing.
  • Con: You have no sense of how things are spelled, if they’re anything other than ordinary. I remember this from the first book, The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, when it took me a minute or two to adjust to the names once I shifted to the print version. This one too; when I saw my friend’s fan cast of the book, I had no idea who Professor Van der Weghe was, until I sounded it out (van der veye).
  • Pro: You don’t feel rushed, or too slow. This could be a con, I suppose. The book just flows at its own pace, and it has nothing to do with how fast or slow you read, or what else is going on. Sure, you can speed up the audio (a convenient feature of the Audible iPhone app), and there are times when you really want to know what’s going to happen next, but in the end it goes the way it should.
  • Pro: You can’t skip ahead to find out a secret. Well, you can. But it’s much more difficult, and I always find myself doing this almost accidentally in print books; flipping to the wrong section of the book, or quickly flicking my eyes to the end of the next page or chapter, if it’s on the open two pages.
  • Pro/Con: It goes much more directly into your brain. This is really the key point that made it such a peculiar experience for me. And it could be different for different people, I don’t know. But something about listening to it, like the stories your parents tell you when you’re a kid, made me get so into the story, so involved, so attached, more so than I often do. Again, I’m sure this is in part because of the book (sort of the college/20-something’s Harry Potter, but more upsetting, in a mostly good way), but I felt so strongly for the characters, thinking that the protagonist is a horrible person when he gets to be one in the middle of the book, feeling the pain and anguish at various events, and just feeling upset in general about the unfairness of life (in the story, of course. Mostly. Though I still think it’s unfair I didn’t go to magic school.) I have no idea how much of this is the writing, and how much is the listening. Because if I’m driving, or running at the gym, there is nothing else really to distract me (perhaps that shouldn’t be true for driving, but when you’re stuck in traffic it’s acceptable), and I am fully in the world of the story. The reason this could be a con, though, is because I didn’t want to leave my car at the end of wherever I was going, I just wanted to stay in the driver’s seat, and listen. And things hit me more, emotionally, than they might, affecting my mood for the whole day, even, sometimes (as my girlfriend will tell you).

But I’m interested in trying another title. I’ll have to find a book I think is worth the experience, and also one that is available. This was my free trial book on Audible, and I’m not currently paying for the service, so I’ll have to look into other options.

Have you ever read any audiobooks? What do you recommend, and what was your experience?


One comment

  1. Maybe I’ll give audio books a try.

    I have to cover the last sentence of the chapter with my fingers, because I physically can’t stop my eyes from jumping down and ruining it for me.

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