I’ve always been a little slow into the uptake of new technology and audio books were not an exception on this attitude.
I’ve got my first Kindle reader pushed upon me by my spouse when I was wrestling with my resolution to read all the books in the top 100 of the world literature. Since then, almost all my leisure reading is stored there. I still think sometimes with a shake of my head why it took me such a long time to make the switch. Right now, the only books that decorate my walls are either reference works or some of the great classics: i.e. books that I return to on a regular base. I’ve dismissed the rest as dust collecting pulp.
My main motivation to turn to audio books was that I’m spending so much time of the day staring at a screen, that in the evening my eyes are too tired to read any further.
I was slow in picking up audio books because they’re relatively expensive compared to eBooks. This argument was outbalanced by my growing awareness that I was losing touch with the latest literary developments.
Silly enough, I also believed that audio books were some kind of superficial surrogate for reading, just to discover that audio books require a higher degree of focus than a text. All those who proclaim that audio books are allowing multitasking are either having a larger attention span than I have or just don’t pay much attention. Or they’re doing something like driving a car on an almost deserted highway.
When I read a text, and my wife wants to tell me something, it’s easier to stop reading, answer the question and return to my lecture. It greatly annoys me when someone interrupts me while I’m listening to an audio book. First of all their voices interfere with the narrative, it breaks my focus and it’s more difficult to return to the fragment I was listening at.
I also have this habit of making notes while reading, which became also more difficult while listening to an audio book. You can’t copy a sentence or word that struck you since rewinding is not easily done. Names of protagonists can also sometimes be difficult to visualize, but I’ve learned that this can be remediated by reading carefully some reviews or the synopsis of the book before starting listening. And afterwards I just make some summary remarks in my literary diary.
To resume: to me audio books are a great tool for leisure reading but not apt for nonfictional study material that requires me to make notes, cross referencing them and carefully processing some ideas. Audio books also take up more time than a written novel, because you can’t skip any text and are bound to follow the narrative at a rhythm that is dictated by the audio book’s narrator. However, if the choice is between going a little slower through a book or having to ignore it, I prefer to take it a little slower. Audio books are definitively here to stay.