Tag: audiobooks

What It Means to Read a Book

black corded headphones with colorful books in between
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A troll on Reddit1 had a post in r/books that berated anyone who considered listening to an audiobook “reading.” Their post has since been deleted (possibly they realized how silly they sounded) but part of their claim was that it wasn’t reading unless you were doing it with your own eyes and brain.

I posted a brief, mild objection to that claim, but I figured I could elaborate at length here by asking what it means to read a book.

I have previously written that when I listen to an audiobook, I colloquially refer to “reading” the book. My reasoning is that how I consumed the book is less important than the discussion of the book itself. Also, if I say, “I recently listened to…” it inevitably leads to a discussion about the mechanics of audiobooks, which further digresses from the point of the conversation.

For anyone who is still learning to read, the act of reading words from a page is important to build the skill. There is no doubt about that. But at some point, at least based on my own experience, the skill plateaus. At least, I’ve gotten to a point where I don’t feel like my abiliity to read is getting noticably better, even though I read more than ever before.

Once the skill has been established, however, what matters most to me is the content. Let’s use a real example. I am currently reading The Rising Sun by John Toland. And when I say “reading” I mean mostly listening to the audiobook. That said, I frequently take notes when I read so I also have an old paperback edition of the book that I follow along with.

Now, if I listen to the audiobook and you read the paperback, we can both still have a detailed and in-depth discussion of the book and will recognize what the other person is talking about. I didn’t use my eyes and you didn’t use your ears, but we both consumed the same content and ended up at the same place. That seems to be the most important thing.

And besides, the idea that reading has to be done with one’s eyes must be incredibly insulting to blind and otherwise visually impaired people who read using their fingers. Add my old college pal Rusty (who was blind) to our little reading group and let him read a Braille edition of The Rising Sun and he, too, can discuss the decline and fall of the Japanese empire along with us. We are all on the same page, so to speak.

Content is what matters. I’m reminded of a passage from Isaac Asimov’s memoir In Memory Yet Green, when he describes the oral exams for his Ph.D in biochemistry. He was asked by one of his examiners how he knew the potassium iodide he used was indeed potatssium iodide. Asimov responded, “Well, sir, it disolves as potassium iodide does, and yields iodine as potassium iodide does, and it gives me my end point as potassium iodide would, so it doesn’t matter what it really is, does it?” The same can be said for reading The Rising Sun on paper, on audiobook, or in Braille. The words are in the same order, so what does it matter?

Indeed, content is so much the key to this that I find myself getting annoyed when the content doesn’t quite line up. While the audiobook version matches the main body of text in the paper edition, the footnotes in the audiobook are sometimes truncated. That annoys me and I find myself pausing the audiobook at every footnote I come across in paper edition so that I don’t miss any.

Reading in its broadest sense, which encompasses consuming written content in different forms, is one way that we learn new things and improve ourselves. It should be accessible to everyone, and yet there are people who struggle with it and potentially miss out on its benefits. Moreover, before young children have the ability to read we read to them. Audiobooks are a great tool for bridging this gap, bringing content and knowledge to people who might not otherwise get it.

For me, reading a book is to consume its content. The method of consumption may go through your eyes, your ears, or your fingers, but they are just conduits to your brain which is where the magic happens.

When I say I read a book, it means I may have listened to the audiobook, or read the paper or e-book edition, or any combination thereof. How I consumed it shouldn’t matter. What matters is what I got out of it.

Written on March 12, 2022.

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  1. Can you believe such a thing?

Audiobook Economics

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Recently, Audible had a site-wide sale where everything on the site was up-to 85% off. I love sales like these because they are a feeding-frenzy for buying books. But to make the most effective use of such a sale requires a bit of skill. I picked up more than a dozen audiobooks in the latest sale, and I thought I’d use that as an example of audibook economics that I have picked up in the 9+ years I have been using Audible.

The first thing to understand is my subscription to the Audible service: I have the Audible Premium Plus subscription. This subscription entitles me to 2 credits each month, a 30% discount of the prices of Audiobooks, access to anything in the “Plus” catalog, special discounts like the Daily Deal, and other features. For this I pay about $25/month.

At $25/month my credits are worth $12.50 each. So when I am browsing books to buy, if the book in question costs less than $12.50, I won’t use a credit for it. Instead, I’ll pay separately. Moreover, I can buy an additional 3-pack of credits for $35, which amounts to $11.60/credit. So in practice, my rule is that if an audiobook costs more than $12 I’ll use a credit; if it costs less than $12 I’ll pay separately for it. This is just common sense.

There are always exceptions, however. For instance, especially with nonfiction books (the bulk of what I listen to) I will frequently also buy the Kindle version. Often times, if you look at the Kindle page for a book, you will see an option to add the Audible audiobook version for a fraction of the normal price. For instance, the Kindle edition might cost $12.99 and there will be an option to add on the audiobook for an additional $7.99. That is a grand total of $21, which is more than the cost of a credit. However, because the audiobook add-on is only $7.99, which is less than my $12 threshold. In these cases, I generally don’t use a credit to pay for the editions. I justify this because I get more than I would for buying the audiobook alone. And besides, often times the audiobook alone wouldn’t be $7.99, but more like $20. It is only bundled with the e-book that is becomes discounted.

There are other deals I look out for. I always check out the Daily Deal, which usually offers an audiobook at a deep discount each day, normally in the range of $2-6. In these cases, I never use credits to pay for the book because the credits are worth more than the book. I’ll just pay normally for these.

Then there are the 2-for-1 deals that popup now and then. In these deal, you can use a single credit to get 2 audiobooks. These can be tricky. If I see books that I want, I have to weigh the cost of getting 2-for-1, over the paying separately for the Kindle edition, if I want it. In other words, I will look to see if the Kindle edition offers a discounted add-on for the audiobook and then weight the difference over the use a single credit. Sometimes it is worth spending the credit, other times, I pay without the credit to get the bundle with the Kindle edition.

At the time of the recent site-wide sale, I think I had 4 credits stored up. Here is how I ended up aqcuiring 16 books from that sale using the method detailed above (and using just one credit):

BookList PriceSale PriceI Paid
Gotham by Edwin G. Borrows and Mike Wallace$39.95$5.99$5.99
The Relentless Moon by Mary Robinette Kowal$29.95$4.49$4.49
Collosus by Mike Hiltzik$29.95$4.49$4.49
Fallout by Lesley M. M. Blume$17.00$8.49$8.49
Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White$18.90$9.46$9.46
Point to Point Navigation by Gore Vidal$24.49$3.67$3.67
Index, A History of The by Dennis Duncan$17.49$8.74$8.74
The Man From the Future by Ananyo Bhattacharya$31.50$20.331 Credit
The Gulf by Jack E. Davis$24.49$3.67$3.67
The Death of a President by William Manchester$39.95$5.99$5.99
The Hawk’s Way by Sy Montgomery (pre-order)$14.17$7.08$7.08
Cuba by Ada Ferrer$33.07$5.95$5.95
Fairy Tale by Stephen King (pre-order)$33.07$16.54$16.54
A Man of Iron by Troy Senik$22.67$11.34$11.34
Analogia by George Dyson$24.49$12.24$12.24
Einstein’s Fridge by Paul Sen$18.89$9.44$9.44

For the 14 books I ordered, I paid just 28% of the list price. Note that I used a credit for the most expensive of the books on sale (The Man From the Future). Techically, that credit cost me about $11 so I saved $13 by using it, which means I should add the $7 to the price I paid. That brings my total to $124.58, which is still only 29% of the list price. I think that is a pretty good bargain.

That, good readers, is my theory of audiobook economics. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some reading to do.

Written on March 7, 2022.

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Alternate Audiobook Narrators

black corded headphones with colorful books in between
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A while back I wrote about my favorite audiobook narrators. Today, I want to talk about narrators that don’t work as well for me. Let me be clear from the start that while sometimes an audiobook narrator’s performance is lacking, often a narration that turns me off has less to do with the narrator and more to do with the quality of the recording.

The first audiobook performance I remember being disappointed by was John Lee’s performance of Shōgun by James Clavell. I’d read the book years before I attempted to listen to the audiobook. It was a wonderful read, and once I began listening to audiobooks, I thought I could experience the book again, this time in audio format. I don’t know if it was the recording, or the delivery, but it was awful. I couldn’t make through more than a few minutes.

Sometimes, however, audiobook are rerecorded, and the first time I bought a second version of an audiobook, after already buying one, was when a new version of Shōgun was released with Ralph Lister narrating. It was a night and day difference in performance. Lister’s performance was mesormizing, and like the best audiobook performances, enhanced the book.

I have encountered other examples of alternate audiobook narrators over the years. The first audiobook version of The Hunt for Red October that I got was narrated by J Charles and was pretty awful. Later, when the Jack Ryan series premiered on Amazon Prime, a new edition of the audiobook was released with the always-reliable Scott Brick narrating. Again, it was a night and day difference. Scott Brick went on to perform Patriot Games and The Sum of All Fears as well. However, Michael Prichard narrates several of the audiobooks in the Jack Ryan series. He’s not bad, but the recordings aren’t very good–they probably came from tape. I wish that the rest of the series would be re-recorded using someone like Scott Brick.

The first of the Harry Bosche novels, The Black Echo was originally narrated by Dick Hill, who is a reliable narrator, and who for a long time was the voice of Jack Reacher in Lee Child’s Reacher series. A few years ago, however, a new edition was released, narrated by Titus Welliver, who played Bosch in the TV series. That was great narration.

But what if you could choose your own narrator?

I picture a future in which Audible and similar services will have a premium offering where a listener can select from a diverse list of narrators to read them any book they want. The premium fee will be used to pay for the “voice likeness” rights, and it will be AI that actually emulated the voice the voice actor in question. The performances will be entirely computer generated. It seems like the stuff of science fiction (after all, Connie Willis did write a book along these lines, Remake) but I think eventually this will be fairly common. Want Bing Crosby to read you The Hunt For Red October, pay the fee and collect your prize. Want Morgan Freeman to read Will Durant’s The Story of Civilization? An AI will take care of it for you, just as soon as you pay the fee.

So long as the actors and/or their estates are willing and getting paid for their likeness, I think this could be an novelty in the audiobook industry. Whether or not it would take is anyone’s guess. I also think it would encourage more new voice actors, if they knew they could sell the likeness of their voice the way many celebrities sell the right to use their likeness in video games.

I’d probably stick with the chosen narrator for a given book, the way I do today. But there would definitely be some books that I’d be will to pay for a “custom” narration generated by an AI.

Written on February 16, 2022.

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Dear Audible, How About a Device for Distraction-Free Listening?

unrecognizable female audiobook narrator recording audiobook
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First, let me say I’m a big fan. It wasn’t always that way. I used to think that audiobooks just weren’t for me. But once I tried them, I quickly saw the error of my ways. I became an Audible subscriber in February 2013. Since then I have happily added more than 1,100 books to my Audible library. I love audiobooks. I love that they allow me to read while doing mundane things around the house, or while commuting. I love the dimension they add to a book with the narrator’s performance. I love their convenience, and the simplicity of the app. What bothers me today is all of the other distractions I find on my phone when I try to listen to audiobooks.

Remember when MP3 players first came out? They were these tiny, devices that could fit in the palm of your hand. They could hold maybe a dozen songs. They had a simple interface to select a song, play a song, move between tracks, and randomize the tracks. And control volume. That was it. When iPods first came out, they improved upon this. The interface was better. And you could download music, which was a game changer. But otherwise, all they did was play music. The iPhone is great, but these days, it does way too much. There is too much to distract me on my phone. Here is what I would love to see in the future:

I’d like a device like similar to the early iPods, except instead of music, you can download audiobooks from Audible. There are no other apps on this device. The device can hold a decent number of audiobooks, and has a good battery life, mainly because all it is doing is playing audiobooks. The interface for the device can essentially be what the Audible app is on the iPhone today. I can see my stats, browse my wishlist, buy books with credits, but mostly, I can listen to my audiobooks. The device should allow me to connect via bluetooth to the headset of my choosing. It should be a small device, like an old iPod. If you want it to come in different colors, I’m okay with that. It could run the Audible OS.

I think a device like this would be popular. It would allow me to listen to my audiobooks without having to have my phone nearby. These days, I take my phone to bed usually because I am listening to a book before I fall asleep. But if my phone is there, I will inevitably start browsing something and get distracted. An Audible device would prevent this. I could leave my phone in the office and still listen to my book. Granted, I could play my audiobook through Alexa and not be distracted, but then everyone else would have to listen along while Grover Gardner read Will Durant’s The Age of Reason Begins at 1.7x speed. The family already thinks I’m a little nutty. This might push them over.

Having a little device that would allow for distraction-free listening would be a perfect holiday gift. Think of all of the possibilities in such a device. You could have specially branded editions, like a black Neil Gaiman edition, or perhaps one in the shape of a dagger, the special Michael J. Sullivan edition. I don’t know that I’d want an author to sign my iPhone, but I could imagine having them sign my device. You could call it the “Narrator.” I think I’d use my Narrator a lot and use my iPhone a lot less. Just imagining it, I can see those distractions melting away.

Anyway, I humbly submit this idea to you, good people of Audible. Feel free to use the idea and build the device. I don’t even need to get one for free for coming up with the idea. I’d be more than happy to pay for such a device, if it existed.

Thanks for listening (see what I did there?).

Yours truly,

Jamie Todd Rubin

(Your #1 fan)

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Audio, Paper, Ebook, Shoot! (Or, My Book Format Preferences)

For most of my life, if I wanted to read a book, I had to have the book in my hands. There had to be enough light to see by, and I couldn’t really do anything else while I was reading. Even a TV in the background was too distracting for me. Then, in 2009, I got my first Kindle device and my first ebook, which happened to be Jack McDevitt’s Polaris. It was so convenient to be able to get the book instantly and not have it take up any space on the shelves, especially considering the size of the apartment we were living in, with a baby due to arrive any day. In the months that followed, I accumulated and read more ebooks that paper books. Then in February 2013, I set aside my perceptions of audio books, and gave my first one a try. I loved it. From that point right down to today, audio books are my primary format for reading books1.

Given that today, I can get most books in any of three formats (audio, paper, and ebook), how do I go about choosing which to get? There are two ways to answer that question: my ideal book format preferences, and practical book format preferences. Below from left to right is a paper, ebook and audio book I’ve really enjoyed so far in 2021.

My ideal book format preferences

  1. Paper books. Anyone who loves reading and loves books knows that there is something about the tactile nature of holding a paper book in your hands that makes it a full sensory experience. There is the heft of the book. The feeling of the pages. The scent that the pages give off when you riffle them. Some books are beautiful to look at. Big books make a satisfying thud when you close them, and the sound of pages softly turning provides a pleasant heartbeat rhythm to read by. My ideal book format is paper for all of these reasons. And ideally, I am sitting in some quiet place, an enclosed porch looking out over a lake while rain patters on the roof; a beach, with the sound of my kids playing in the sand. The chair in my office while a snow storm brews outside. The book transports me and leaves me where I am all at once.
  2. Audio books. In the absence of a paper book, an audio book serves as a nice substitute. Audio books don’t have the same tactile qualities of paper books, but they have an added dimension that paper books lack: a narrator who gives a performance while reading the book. A good narrator can make a mediocre book tolerable. A great narrator can make a poor book enjoyable, and what they can do to a great book is really remarkable.
  3. Ebooks. Ebooks take no physical space, so I can accumulate a lot of them without worrying about filling my office and the rest of the house with books. Ebooks also allow me to get books instantly. Unlike paper books, there is no practical way to get an ebook signed. There is also no practical way to display ebooks on your bookshelves, so unlike paper books, they serve a strictly utilitarian purpose, and ideally, I would use them only as a last resort, when paper or audiobook editions were unavailable.

My practical book format preferences

1. Audio books

Years ago I had a realization that I would never be able to read all of the books I wanted to read. I decided that it was worth finding was to read as much as I could manage. Up to that point, I’d been reading between 30-50 books a year, but beginning in 2018, I stepped things up. I read 130 books that year, and 110 the next. The numbers have continued to stay high, and a large part of this is due to audio books.

Audio books allow me to read when I am doing other tasks that don’t take much brain power. Prior to audio books, I could not read while on long drives, or while doing chores around the house, or while exercising or out for my morning walks. Since I started listening to audio books, I have filled these moments in addition to the time I’d normally spend reading. I have also worked my way up from listening to audio books at 1x speed to listening to nonfiction at 1.8x – 2.0x (depending on the narrator), and fiction at 1.5x.

In every sense, audio books are the most practical format to allow me to read as much as I possible can in the available time. They are my first choice when it comes to reading a book these days.

2. Audio books in combination with ebooks or paper books

If audio books have a downside, it is that there is not yet a good method for taking notes in them. There is no practical way of highlighting passages or jotting comments in the margins. There are no margins! What I will often do with a book for which I think I will want to take notes, therefore, is listen to the audiobook in combination with either the ebook or the paper edition. What determines this secondary edition is typically (a) do I already own the paper edition, and (b) price. Often, you can get the ebook edition and then “add on” the audio book edition at a reduced price. If the reduced price is less than the cost of an audio book credit, I’ll usually just get the audio add-on with the ebook.

When I am listening to the audio book, I follow along in the ebook or paper book so that I can highlight relevant passages, or make notes. If I happen to be doing something else like walking, exercising, driving, or doing chores, I try to remember the places where I want to highlight or note, and then come back to them in the ebook or paper editions when I have the chance. This isn’t ideal, so I am interested in ways that audio books can be more interactive in terms of highlights and notes. Maybe a voice-activated system can control this better, e.g. “Highlight that last paragraph and add note to highlight: See also xyzzy,”

3. Ebooks

If an audio book edition is not available (increasingly rare these days for newer books, and getting rarer even for older books), then I’ll resort to an ebook edition. I’ll often resort to the ebook edition even if a paper edition is available out of practical concerns for cost and space. (Ebooks are usually, but not always, less expensive than their paper counterparts.)

It is easier to pull notes and highlights from ebooks, but even there, the system of highlighting and taking notes still feels clunky to me. I like scribbling in the margins, arguing with the author there, or noting something that made me laugh. I like making my own index of my notes in on the blank pages at the front of the paper editions–something I can’t do with an ebook because there are no blank front pages. My use of ebooks here is entirely practical.

4. Paper books

These days, paper books are a kind collector’s item for me. With limited shelf space in my office, and with a kind of collection of books established, I am picky about what I add to the collection. It needs to be worthy. Most often, I will buy new hard cover editions of books from authors I admire in order to add them to an existing collection of their books. Also, rare used books fall into this category. Or any used book that catches my eye in a book shop. Since I don’t get to book shops frequently, and I try only to buy books outside the chain book shops, adding these books doesn’t happen often. I will order paper books from Amazon. But I also order special editions of books I like. For instance, many of the beautiful editions of Stephen King books I own come from Cemetery Dance publications. They make works of art.

The problem with paper is more than one of space, it is one of time. There is no way I could read as much as I do with paper books alone, not while I still hold a full time job, am helping to raise three kids, writing here every day, and doing everything else I have to do. It just wouldn’t be possible. And so, as much as paper books are my ideal form for reading, from a practical standpoint, they don’t align as well with my goal of reading as much as I possibly can in the time I have available.

Do you have a favorite format you like for reading? If so, I’d love to hear about what it is and why in the comments.

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  1. Given that the underlying text is the same, I use the term “reading” interchangeably for paper, audio and ebooks.

Audible Deals

Every now and then Audible has these deals on audio books. I always look forward to these as there is usually at least one good find in them. Often these are lucky finds, as more often than not, the theme is only tangentially interesting to me.

Today, however, I discovered something remarkable. Audible came out with a “True Stories Sale” with the books on the list offered at $6 each. But it wasn’t the price that I find remarkable. It was the books on the list. It was like walking into a bookstore in which the books were selected with me in mind.

Ironically, I already owned many of the audio books. Indeed, after getting halfway through the 700 or so books on sale, I found that I already owned 32 of them! I have never encountered one of these sales where I owned so many of the books on the list.

Of course, I combed through the list to see if there was anything interesting that I didn’t own, and managed to find several books that I can pick up for $6 a pop (a bargain when you consider a credit typically costs about $11). Among those books that piqued my interest are:

  • Easy Company Soldier: The Legendary Battles of a Sergeant from WW IIs Band of Brothers by Don Malarkey and Bob Welch
  • The Soul of a New Machine by Tracy Kidder
  • Significant Figures: The Lives and Works of Great Mathematicians by Ian Stewart
  • The Pleasure of Finding Things Out by Richard P. Feynman
  • Of Dice and Men: The Story of Dungeons and Dragons and the People Who Play It by David M. Ewalt

This is one Audible deal that really impressed me.

1,000 Audio Books

On Saturday, I obtained my 1,000th audio book from Audible. It was Alan Lightman’s The Accidental Universe. On the one hand, for someone who once wrote here that audio books were not his thing, this is pretty remarkable. On the other hand, as a bibliophile, this is just an example of catching up.

I picked up my first audio book on February 12, 2013 so it took me about 8 years and 1 month to manage to collect 1,000 of them. I did a little math. There are 2,951 days between the day I acquired my first audio book and yesterday when I got my most recent one. That means I’ve added one audio book to my collection about every 3 days or so over the course of the last 8 years.

I’ve got a little over 1,000 books on the bookshelves in my office, and about 500 e-books in my Kindle library. That means I now have almost as many audio books as I have physical books on my book shelves.

Keep in mind that I haven’t yet read 1,000 of them. Many of them I pick up during Audible sales and when they have special deals, knowing that I won’t read them now but will get to them eventually. I’d estimate that I’ve read about 60% of what I have in my library.

Audio books have undeniably helped me read more than I might otherwise have had time to read from the printed page alone. The chart below, which I maintain in a notebook along with the list of all of the books I’ve read illustrates this pretty well. The dotted line down the page represents the time at which I began listening to audio books. You can see how the slopes of the other lines change after crossing that boundary. Of course, not every book I’ve read since has been an audio book, but the majority have.

Handwritten charts of my reading since 1996
Books per year and cumulative book count

These days, especially for nonfiction, I often get the e-book along with the audio book. This allows me to keep notes and highlights as I read. When I am not engaged in another activity, I’ll follow along in the e-book, marking passages and making notes, which eventually get transferred into Obsidian.

Today I’ll finish one audio book–The Code Breaker by Walter Isaacson. I keep the audio books that I want to listen to next downloaded on my phone just in case I find myself somewhere with no Internet access. There are currently 7 downloaded books, not counting The Code Breaker. They are:

  • The Accidental Universe: The World You Thought You Knew by Alan Lightman
  • A Sense of the Mysterious: Science and the Human Spirit by Alan Lightman
  • The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr
  • The Unreasonable Virtual of Fly Fishing by Mark Kurlansky
  • The Mosquito Coast by Paul Theroux
  • Roughing It by Mark Twain
  • The Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain

Here’s to the next thousand!

The Long Road Home

View from our hotel room on the last full day of our vacation.

We departed our resort at Walt Disney World yesterday morning at 8:15 am and arrived home just before 11 pm, 860 miles of driving. We have driven too and from Florida more than a dozen times, but this is the first time we attempted to drive all the way home in a single day.

The first time we drove to Florida, in 2012, we made the trip over 3 days, spending nights in places like Florence, South Carolina, and Kingland, Georgia. We’d do the same on the reverse run, stopping in places like Savannah and Charleston. After several years of these trips, we slimmed them down to just one night on the road, stopping at a roughly midway point in South Carolina. We’ve done that for years, and indeed, that is what we did driving down in December.

But we visited Walt Disney World at the end of our trip this time, instead of the beginning. We are normally in southern Florida, and being three hours closer to home made it tricky to decide where to stop for the night. I suggested we try to make the run all the way through. So we left Orlando at 8:15 am, drove through some rush hour traffic on I-4, and then onto I-95 where we encountered no traffic for the entire drive.

It wasn’t that hard. It might seem like a small thing, but I am always impressed by the good state of the roads, the quality of the rest stops, and the friendliness of the people at gas stations and restaurants along the way. We stopped in Walterboro, South Carolina for a late lunch, but other than a couple of pit stops, I drove and drove and drove.

I finished 3 audiobooks on the drive: I was almost finished with Ted Chaing’s Exhilation before the drive, and finished it while we were still in Florida. Next, I turned to Chuck Palahniuk’s new book, Consider This: Moments in My Life After Which Everything Was Different. Having finished that, I was still craving more on the writing life, so I re-read John McPhee’s Draft No. 4. That audiobook came to an end as we pulled into our driveway, right around 10:50 pm.

Listening to the audiobooks made the time fly by. So did the lull of the road. I remember when we stopped for lunch, around 2 pm, thinking that it didn’t seem like we’d been driving for nearly 6 hours already.

860 miles is the most I have driven in a single day. I think the runner up is in the 500 mile range. It made sense to do this, coming home, because it gives us the entire weekend to get the house back in order, do laundry (we were gone for 21 days) and settle back into our routines before we are back to work and school on Monday. I’m not sure I’d do this driving down to Florida.

The photo is a view from our hotel room on the last full day at Walt Disney World. We stayed in two different resorts this time, but I’ll have more to say about that in a future post.

After being gone for 3 weeks, it feels good to be home. It does not feel like we just left on the trip, or that the trip flew by. 21 days is a long time by any measure. It’s nice to be back in my office surrounded by my books. It’s nice to have 2 days to settle back in before work starts again.

1,000 Hours of Audiobooks in 2019

Given all of the reading that I keep track of, one thing I haven’t managed to track is how many hours of audiobooks I actually listen to in a given year. The Audible app shows only the last 5 months worth of listening metrics, and several days ago, I found myself wondering how much it might be. Today, I found out, thanks to an email from Audible. It turns out that through yesterday, I’ve listened to 936 hours of audiobooks this year.

This turns out to be about 2-1/2 hours each day on average. But the number is a bit understated for a few reasons. First, given that it has to be through yesterday, it doesn’t count today or tomorrow, which, based on the last several days, will add another 10 hours to that figure. So we have 946 hours.

Then, too, it has been a long time since I have listened to any book at normal speed. Indeed, listening to a book a normal speed makes the narrator sound drugged. I typically listen at 1.5x normal speed, with some books (depending on the narrator) at 1.75x normal speed. Call it an average of 1.6x for the year. In that case, in my 946 hours of audiobook listening this year, I’ve listened to 1,514 hours worth of audiobooks. That’s an average of 4.1 hours/day compressed down to 2-1/2 hours a day thanks to the faster listening speed.

I am currently reading (listening to) Anything You Can Imagine: Peter Jackson and the Making of Middle-Earth by Ian Nathan. I expect to finish this book tomorrow, and that will give me 114 books read this year. Of those, the vast majority, 105, are audiobooks.

I’m often chagrined thinking about how much more I might have read if I’d embraced audiobooks sooner. I friend of mine has been using Audible since the late 1990s, while I only got started with Audible in 2013. Indeed, I am on the record claiming I could never listen to an audiobook–which just goes to illustrate the folly of being closed-minded.

Some of the time I spent listening to books this year did not go into completing a book. I give up on quite a few books each year, and if I give up on a book, it doesn’t make it to my list of books I’ve read. I’ve never kept track of the books I give up on so I don’t know how many or how often it happens. I’m considering keeping track in 2020.

I’ll have more to say on the books I read this year later in the week, after the year is over. I plan on posting a list of my 12 favorite books of the year, as well as a separate post on the 10 best books I read this decade. Stay-tuned.