My First Audio Book

My ribs are finally feeling better. Good enough for me to get back to regular cardio workouts, which I began this morning. I was up at 4:55 am and did 25 minutes on the elliptical machine (I would have done more but my knee was bothering me a little and I didn’t want to push it). As part of the incentive to get back to these workouts, I decided I’d give audio books a try. The truth is, however, that I am trying audio books out of sheer desperation. I have so much to read and my time is cramped. It seemed to me that if I could read while doing something else I might get in more reading without feeling quite as cramped.

I’ve been wanting to read Stephen King’s Dark Tower series for some time now, so I chose that as my starting point. I got a trial account with Audible and downloaded the first book in the series, The Gunslinger. This morning, at 5 am, as I started my elliptical workout, I started listening to the book.

Going from paper books to e-books was a paradigm shift for me. I shied away from e-books for longer than I might have because I loved the feeling of the book in my hands. After giving a couple of e-books a try, I quickly and willingly gave up that “feeling” in favor of the numerous advantages e-books have over paper books. I’ve always been hesitant to go to audio books as well. I had the impression that listening to an audio book isn’t the same as reading a book. I have my own inner voice that I hear when I read. I wouldn’t want to hear anyone else’s. Nevertheless, I gave it a try this morning. I listened to the first hour of The Gunslinger.

The result: it was not the paradigm shift I experienced with e-books. I wasn’t bothered by the reader’s voice (as opposed to my own) as much as I thought, but I found I had to make an extra effort to concentrate on listening. If my mind drifted for a moment, I lost the narrative entirely, the voice became background noise in my head. When I am actually reading a book, this rarely happens, unless I am unusually tired. The other problem was that the reading seemed slow to me. That is probably because I read faster when I read to myself, and I suspect this is something that I will have to get used to. The images conjured in my head were not quite as vivid as when I read the words on the page. Unlike reading, where the words eventually fade away and the story takes over, listening, I was consciously aware of the reader as a kind of intruder in the narrative.

I suspect this will get better over time. My gut tells me that I’d be better off listening to nonfiction than fiction. But there is a clear advantage to the audio book: I can listen to it while doing just about anything else: working out on the elliptical, eating breakfast, driving into work, sitting at my desk composing emails. And the constancy of it means that I can probably read at least a book a week simply by listening to them. And this in turn allows me to get more done. So for the time being, this is a sacrifice that I am willing to make. I recognize that there are many factors that make up a good audio book–the quality of the story and the quality of the reading being the two primary ones–and I expect to keep giving audio books a shot. But as I suspected, listening to a book is a very different (and somewhat diminished) experience, for me at least, than reading it myself.


  1. I often read eBooks on my ipad while doing cardio. Have you tried it? Hard copies are too difficult because of keeping them open but I find using my ipad it is quite simplistic while doing elliptical.

    1. Pete, I’ve tried it once or twice but the speed with which I read was substantially slower (where I can normally get through 30 pages in 30 minutes, I was getting through 6 or 7). With the audio book I go at the reader’s pace and sacrifice some of the totally active experience of reading it myself. But I do squeeze in more reading, I suppose. I think I need to give it a chance for a few weeks and through a few different books with different readers to see if it will really work for me.

  2. One of the few audio books I’ve tried is the unabridged Steven King 11.22.63 and I find the same as you, it is too slow – The unabridged version is 30 hours long!


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