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Audio Books : The Purpose

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Jun 15, 2010, 7:11am Top

I've noticed a rise in people's admiration and use of audio books in recent times, and I cannot help but ponder why they are as popular as they are, except among persons who are blind. Some authors beg to be converted to audio -- this is the best medium to experience Homer and Virgil. But for your average book, why substitute? I hear the general justifications that it's better to listen to audio books on a long car trip, and I can understand that sentiment. But why treat it as an acceptable substitute when not in those types of situations? One is not reading an audio book; it requires a different part of the brain to process auditory than written material.

What is the general feeling here? Are audio books considered legitimate reading? Do you count audio books on your list? Why?

Jun 15, 2010, 10:46am Top

I have just started listening to audiobooks in the last 6 months. I'm hooked. They do not replace my regular reading, but they give me an opportunity to "read" when my hands are busy doing other things. I listen while driving, exercising, cleaning, folding laundry, doing barn chores, etc, etc.

But as I said, this is NOT a substitue of regular reading -- I still do just as much of that. I suppose it is in place of listening to the radio, or listening to my own rambling thoughts.

Jun 15, 2010, 11:39am Top

I agree with SugarCreekRanch. I've been listening to audio books for years and I love having someone read to me while I do the dishes, or quilt, or whatever. It's especially nice in the gym, I find. Nothing like a good murder mystery to distract you from the dreariness of your exercise routine.

Jun 15, 2010, 12:38pm Top

I love audiobooks for any time that I am doing something else that does not require full concentration. They let my mind be entertained while I am exercising or cleaning or driving. It's more of a substitute for music than for reading. But also, I will let myself listen to fluff at periods when I need to be spending my reading time reading serious stuff.

I would also like to put in a plug here for allowing young people to use audiobooks in addition to regular books. Two of my children have fairly serious learning disabilities which made the acquisition of reading skill and speed painfully slow. We had books on tape playing frequently in the house and car, and I think that there were several benefits of this: 1) They developed the patience to follow a novel-length plotline. 2) Their acquisition of a sophisticated adult vocabulary was not hampered by their inability to read large amounts of material. 3) They knew at a gut level that there was interesting material out there to be read. Both boys have graduated from college now, and both read fairly sophisticated material for pleasure (e.g. Nietsche, David Foster Wallace, etc.) Books on tape did not hold them back and I would argue that they helped a great deal.

Jun 15, 2010, 2:06pm Top

Nearly half my reading is via audiobook. I'm not particularly bothered by what part of my brain is being stimulated at any given point; I just want to read stuff.

If I were restricted to reading only when I could use a physical book (or even an ebook reader), I would only have about 10 hours a week to read. With audio, that's more than doubled. Audiobooks are slower than reading books so for the pulpy quick reads (such as the Sookie series) they are almost better in audio 'cause then they last longer than a couple hours!

Jun 15, 2010, 2:26pm Top

I consider audio books to still be reading; even though you aren't technically reading it. I have about a 150 mile daily round-trip commute for work. I don't mind the drive, but I hated having over 2 hours of my day that was completely useless. I have been listening to audio books now for about 3 years. As others have said they are great during drives or while doing chores. In particular I find it a nice way to chew through some of those longer fantasy epics that I always wanted to read but didn't want to make such a lengthy commitment to, such as George R. R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire, J. R. R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time, etc. Granted listening to these series will typically take longer than reading them, but since I have 2 hours a day I might as well use it. I also agree that some of the narrators are not very good, but some are very good, in fact, there have been a few books that I purchased because of the narrator. I also have to throw out a plug for Audible.com; I have only recently joined, but it has probably saved me a couple of hundred dollars just in the last six months.

Jun 16, 2010, 1:42pm Top

I too am one who listens to audio books while cleaning, driving etc.
I am still getting the same content so why should I not consider it reading and count it among my books read?
I really enjoy historical fiction on audio because then all the accents are right and you get a better feel for it than just reading it.
I still am reading my regular books too.
You just have to keep your genres in order don't be reading a mystery and listening to one too.It does get confusing I usually try to be reading and listening to opposite genres.

Jun 16, 2010, 1:49pm Top

I agree with pretty much everything that has been said in posts 2-7. RRHowell, that is an interesting plus I hadn't thought of before, using audios with children who have a hard time reading to help them know that books are still worthwhile and get many of the benefits of reading, so smart! I just started listening to audiobooks in the last 18 months or so, and I adore them.

Actually, the audiobook producer Recorded Books asked me to write a guest post about audiobooks for me, since this is audiobook month, and I wrote about learning to love audiobooks, it actually went up today.

Jun 16, 2010, 1:54pm Top

#8-Jen when is your contest starting??

Edited: Jun 16, 2010, 2:11pm Top

Monday! I'm going to have posts reviews and discussion topics about audiobooks every day next week on my blog http://www.devourerofbooks.com, and I will be choosing a winner from among the people who also write about the discussion topic or link up reviews each day, plus random giveaways for commenters, and maybe even more stuff. Right now I have 39(!!!) audiobooks to giveaway, so I'll be practically throwing them into people's hands, I think.

Edited to add: I'm going to choose my first winner from amongst people who comment on that guest post by Monday morning, I just have to have some way to contact them.

Jun 16, 2010, 2:11pm Top

Well I sure hope one lands in my hands :) I'll have to write some reviews for my audio books next week!

Jun 16, 2010, 8:36pm Top

I always hate to think that somone will listen to a poor audiobook version of a book and not like it, and poorly rate the actual book because of it. Listening and reading are so different, and not every book translates well. =/

My personal preference is to keep away from audiobooks. They just aren't the same. :(

Jun 16, 2010, 9:00pm Top

Like many people here I like to listen to audio books on the road.

#12 I will only agree with you, if you are referring to bad abridged editions. If the book is unabridged and the reader had good speaking ability then the quality is still there.

I think the bias against audio books is just silly. Reminds me of one of my college friends who would not watch classic movies just because they were in black and white. Wasn't "real" enough for him.

Edited: Jun 16, 2010, 9:13pm Top

13: Would you watch a classic movie if all the original audio was removed and replaced by modern voice actors? Sure, it's still enjoyable, but it's not the same. If I watch a 1940's movie, I want to watch the 1940's movie the way it was originally intended The same with books. I want to read books, not listen to them. For me, it's just not the same.

I don't read so I can tell my friends "Hey, I read The Catcher in the Rye." I read because I enjoy the physical act of running my eyes across the words and turning the pages with my fingers. Listening to the story on audiobook is completely different for me, and lessens the experience.

Just my opinions. I'm not judgemental towards audiobook users, it just diappoints me when someone judges a book they've never read by listening to the audiobook version. It just seems unfair to the author.

Jun 16, 2010, 9:17pm Top

so the method with which the words are imparted to their heads means they didn't get the same words into their heads? That they got something different? I can judge anything I've listened to as well as you can for the stuff you've read. Give me a break.

Jun 16, 2010, 9:23pm Top

I'm sure it isn't true for everyone, but I've found I can tell the difference between a good book with a bad narrator/didn't work in audio and a bad book with a good narrator. I've listened to a few books where I knew the story was good, but didn't enjoy the audio. Cutting for Stone, for instance. I could tell the story was fabulous and, actually, the narrator and production were fabulous too. However, I didn't really enjoy the audio at all because I found the jumps in chronology difficult to follow in audio. I wouldn't have given the book a low rating because it didn't work for me in audio, and in my review I wrote that I could tell the book was great, but I wouldn't recommend it in audio, despite the quality of the narrator, because I didn't think the book translated well.

You really have to learn to listen to audiobooks, because it is a different experience than reading. I love it because it lets me read almost 25% more books than I would otherwise, but when I first started listening it would take me a good hour to get into the story enough that I could really pay attention, but after a few tries, I could get as much from a book listening as reading.

Jun 16, 2010, 9:27pm Top

15: so the method with which the words are imparted to their heads means they didn't get the same words into their heads?

Not different words, but different interpretations of the words. When you read words, your read them with your own connotations. You stress certain syllables and words the way you think is best. For example, three people read the following sentence:

"I really don't like pickles!"

And all three might read it a different way, such as:

I REALLY don't like pickles!

I really don't like pickles!


Books are ethereal, they change with the reader. When the book is read to you, you are stuck with the reader's version, not your own. So, "That they got something different?. Yes, absolutely.

Edited: Jun 16, 2010, 9:49pm Top

#14 I'm not judgemental towards audiobook users, it just diappoints me when someone judges a book they've never read by listening to the audiobook version. It just seems unfair to the author.

Is this really a widespread problem? Please give us more credit than that.

I read because I enjoy the physical act of running my eyes across the words and turning the pages with my fingers.

Of course in a few years you will have to defend your tree killing paper copies against the more enlightened e-Book users (with optional text to voice).

Jun 16, 2010, 9:52pm Top

e-Books! *shudders* Don't get me started. :)

Edited: Jun 17, 2010, 12:23am Top

I do not believe audio book listeners should fool themselves into believing they are reading. Audio books have more in common with radio than books; and you would not say you are reading radio. It contributes little to your literacy skills; it probably stifles them more than anything else.

Jun 17, 2010, 12:42am Top

Now you just sound like a troll.

Jun 17, 2010, 12:44am Top

#20 It contributes little to your literacy skills;

Perhaps, but it is great for improving listening skills. Since I use both formats (paper and audio) I feel qualified to say that the enjoyment and intellectual value is about equal. Actually I find autobiographies when read by the author to be an improvement because the proper inflections are there and the story takes on greater meaning.

I really do not get why some people have gripe about how other people enjoy books. Is braille less worthy because one has to touch rather than 'see' the words?

Jun 17, 2010, 5:56am Top

#12 Granted that poorly done audiobooks are problematic, there are not so many of those being made, I think. I am rather amazed at how much better than I am so many of the current readers are. I will agree that I would not by a new book with a reader I was unfamiliar with without checking what they sounded like. I also find that I will sometimes say to myself. "Ooh! They didn't understand that line. They stressed the wrong word there." So I don't think I am entirely bound by their interpretation.

Novels in the 19th century were frequently read out loud to a group. It was an entertaining way of passing the time.

#20 It contributes little to your literacy skills. If my literacy skills are the ability to decode what I read as my eyes pass over the page, then yes, audiobooks do not help. However, I am not at a stage where these need to be honed. However, listening to audiobooks does a great deal to make me a culturally literate and educated person, because I have time to listen to more than I have time to read. I find that what is on the audiobooks is more interesting to me than what is on the radio most of the time. And I spoke before about my sense of what audiobooks did for the literacy skills of my children. I mentioned this to my son, now a college grad and high school teacher, who agreed that audiobooks had been crucial for him in terms of developing the vocabulary and mental skills he needed to handle more advanced material at a time when he was still struggling to pull together the reading skills that came slowly to him because of learning disabilities. I would never recommend total substitution of audiobooks for physical reading (assuming that one can see), but they are a great addition.

Jun 17, 2010, 6:48am Top

For people with forms of dyslexia audio books are a real boon. I have a relative for whom reading through this thread would be an onerous task but who is an avid listener/reader of audio books.

Jun 17, 2010, 6:51am Top

I have to agree that I don't need my literacy skills enhanced at this point in my life.

I've always considered audio books to be like "movies in my head" - and that's why I listen to them. Just now I've just finished listening to Hamilton's Pandora's Star and am currently listening to Judas Unchained audio books... if I could only "read" them in physical form, I'd not have time to read them at all.

Because they are science fiction and I'm not trying to "learn" anything from them, I think it's perfectly acceptable to listen to these books (all 70 hours of them) and enjoy them for what they are: a space opera in my head while I'm on the TM for 3 hours straight. Can't beat that and is much better than watching whatever stupid sitcom/reality show/talk show the gym is showing on their tv at the time.

Hey, I just thought: I could read the subtitles on the TV to make up for the lack of "reading" in my audio books!!

Jun 17, 2010, 7:44am Top

Some people absorb information differently.
I took this test
and found out I am a visual-spatial, aural-auditory, learner so I absorb the information pretty much equally from reading and listening.

#20- I am not "fooling myself" about anything the content is excactly the same so I don't understand your arguement.

Jun 17, 2010, 8:03am Top

Hey #26... that's a very cool link!

but it means that I haven't been understanding my audiobooks!!! All that time wasted!!

Naw... not really... I came out as verbal-solitary... audiobooks count as verbal in my books!

'cause my visual didn't even score!! So maybe that means it's the physically read books I don't understand!

Maybe I *will* have to stick to TV subtitles at this rate - I'm not meant to read or listen to books!!!


Jun 17, 2010, 8:05am Top

I'd say verbal is listening but you have to listen all by yourself LOL

Jun 17, 2010, 9:13am Top

Yes, definitely. Two decades of audio books have certainly negated my ability to read and absorb text. Oh yes. I has a dumb. Oy vey. What balderdash. Why do people have to get all high and mighty because something eludes their understanding or their pleasure center. We get it; you don't like or understand audiobooks. That doesn't mean everyone else is wired that way and it's pretty short-sighted to think so. To devalue something based on lack of experience is also pretty narrow and illogical. Just stow it already.

I choose to expand my horizons in more than just one direction. I choose to fill my intellectual and imaginative capacity when I can't be physically reading with my eyes rather than let it lie fallow for those periods. Both eyes and ears are excellent conduits for information and I don't solely rely on one, but both. I'm sorry non-audiobook people feel their limitations, just don't get on me because I don't share them.

Also, if a person has SO many choices when it comes to interpreting the emphasis in a given line of text, it follow that no two people ever read the same book and have no right to judge it. Conversely, two people who have heard the same audiobook have read the same book precisely and have every right to judge it. I mean who knows what a eyeball reader might have done to the story in her own head? It could be completely different than how the author intended (or even voiced it if they did their own audio narration). Nah, they should just keep their opinions to themselves. Better yet, they should apply to the writer for clarification.

Jun 17, 2010, 10:27am Top

I agree with your last paragraph, Bookmarque. Some people blaze right through books to read them as fast as possible and others read slowly to better understand what they read, some people fully emerse themselves in 1 book while others read many books at the same time, some read for hours on end and others dip into books periodically, some never stop reading and some take breaks to ponder what they've just read. There are so many different ways of reading. However, I think audiobooks are the most alien choice, and distances oneself from the original work. Kind of like watching a movie and then rating/reviewing the book. Even if the dialogue is identical, the descriptions are exact, and the story is perfectly in order exactly as it was in the book, it's not the book, you experience it differently. That's my only gripe.

I choose to expand my horizons in more than just one direction. I choose to fill my intellectual and imaginative capacity when I can't be physically reading with my eyes rather than let it lie fallow for those periods.

Ahh, but you see, that's the thing. I don't read to expand my horizons or fill my intellectual and imaginative capacity. I read because I enjoy the physical act of reading a book. I don't care how enlightening or educational a book is, I want to read it, not listen to it, because that's the hobby I enjoy spending my time with. Listening to a story being told is pointless for me. I don't care about listening to a story, I want to read, because I like to read. When people ask me what my favorite thing to do is, I say 'reading,' not 'listening to stories' or 'expanding my horizons.' If my hands and eyes are too busy, I'll listen to music. What better time to listen to music than when you're hands are full and your eyes are busy?

As I said before, I'm not judgemental towards those who use them. They're easy and convenient, so why not? I'm just saying I don't like to use them, and those are my reasons why. To those who use them, more power to you! But they are just not for me.

Jun 17, 2010, 10:48am Top

That's ok that they're not for you after you've experienced a few, but to dismiss their ability to enlighten, educate or please another person is short-sighted. I am not you and you are not me. To say they are alien only applies to you. If the information resides in both our heads, it is irrelevant as to how it got there given what you say about the subjectivity in eyeball reading. Given the fact that the oral tradition is far older, I'd have to think that our brains might be more experienced in receiving and processing information in that form.

And I'm curious, if you only read to actually facilitate the physical process, does it matter what you read or are stereo manuals and four page advertisements all you require? If you're only nourishing your optic nerves and manual dexterity, why read Tolkien at all? Won't Michael C. Carroll do?

I know several people who would be aghast and insulted by your listening to music while engaged in another activity. Philistine is how they would characterize you and a poseur who doesn't actually know anything about music enough to appreciate it. I disagree, but have argued the point with them before, always coming back to the same position; their brains are not my brain.

Edited: Jun 17, 2010, 10:55am Top

And I'm curious, if you only read to actually facilitate the physical process, does it matter what you read or are stereo manuals and four page advertisements all you require?

Well, I'm planning on reading a reference book cover to cover in the near future. :)

You have a point with the music. But then, if a music lover jumped down my throat and said I wasn't listening to music "properly" I would shrug and concede the point, because music isn't a major hobby of mine. So shouldn't you expect book lovers to jump down your throat for not reading books "properly?" ;)

Jun 17, 2010, 11:00am Top

There is something in that Ape man, but since I'm what I would characterize as highly literate (if not traditionally well read) and a book lover I think it's my place to disagree with you. As long as the information gets into both our heads, it doesn't matter if we read it, listened to it or ran our fingers across some dots on a page; the information resides.

Oh and it was musicians (really serious ones, some who hate rock and roll, some in heavy metal bands) who said I and others like me who don't devote our every synapse when to listening to music are poseurs. Funny bunch, musicians.

Jun 17, 2010, 11:35am Top

I "read" because I want to devour the story. If I could plug them right into my head without the intermediary step of reading or listening... SIGN ME UP!

Jun 17, 2010, 12:32pm Top

Crazybatcow #25, on reading subtitles as another form of reading. Since I have been an avid consumer of Indian cinema in the last couple of years, I find that I am doing a lot of my "reading" in that form.

And I too, am not always doing this to grow. I am simply enjoying storyland.

Jun 17, 2010, 6:04pm Top

22: In my first post here I made an exception for the blind. I will not diminish audio books' value for homing in and sharpening listening skills; but they're not reading. Orating may be an older form of processing information in human culture than reading, but if listening and reading are really, to paraphrase the argument here, "the same thing," why should Johannes Gutenberg have bothered?

Jun 17, 2010, 6:17pm Top

Unlike SugarCreekRanch #2, I have virtually NO time to read. If it weren't for audiobooks during an hour of travel per day, my "reading list" would be paltry.

I just don't see most of these distinctions made on this thread. I've no regrets.

Oh, there is one. Audio is painfully slow compared to most reading experiences.

Edited: Jun 17, 2010, 6:25pm Top

36# In my first post here I made an exception for the blind.

Why should you make an exception for the blind? If a work is less valid because it is made of sound waves, then it is equally bad for all.

...but if listening and reading are really, to paraphrase the argument here, "the same thing," why should Johannes Gutenberg have bothered?

If the technology to record voices existed at the time Gutenberg made his press, he might have used it. Of course according to your logic university classes should only consist of reading books and just do away with lectures.

I am starting to think that the audiophobic posters are just jealous of our more highly evolved reading ability. \;>)

Jun 17, 2010, 6:26pm Top

I find that there are books I'd rather listen to and books I'd rather read. The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series has a fantastic narrator and I hear her voice even when I am physically reading a book in this series. I particularly enjoy books based in other countries on audio since the accents help give
a certain atmosphere. Also, I can't imagine gardening in the south w/o aid of an audio book to take me away to cooler climes.

Jun 17, 2010, 6:26pm Top

This message has been deleted by its author.

Jun 17, 2010, 6:34pm Top

#37 awhile ago someone posted the difference in speed (words per minute) between the average "spoken" book and the average "read" book... I wish I could remember but it was a significant difference.

And that's my biggest pet peeve about audiobooks - when I read I (gasp) skim when the author goes off and starts describing the types of trees in the backyard, in audio, that's not really possible 'cause you never know when the author will get off the tangent and back to the story.

Oh, and bad sex scenes in audiobooks are much much worse than the written ones...

Jun 17, 2010, 6:53pm Top

#8 I love Recorded Books and if I could afford it I would have kept up my membership w/them.
Audio books are a godsend when I have a migraine, otherwise I am stuck in a dark room
unable to read. I agree that a bad reader can
make for a bad experience but you should not quit trying to enjoy all the great audio books out there because of one bad apple.

Edited: Jun 17, 2010, 7:00pm Top

Oh, and bad sex scenes in audiobooks are much much worse than the written ones...

Oh dear...are there ever sound effects? :)

I am starting to think that the audiophobic posters are just jealous of our more highly evolved reading ability

You might have a point there. I view books as the perfect technology, so any technological advance in reading is a bad thing for me. Give me pages and printed words or nothing! :)

Jun 17, 2010, 7:02pm Top

38: They're excepted because they do not have much of a choice. For those with good eyesight, they choose whether to listen or read. I would no more blame the deaf for reading closed captions while watching television.

I am unfamiliar with your university, but my professors never read works to us. We read them for homework, on our own time, and then we discussed the works during class. My ancient history professor would have laughed if we asked him to read us anything.

Jun 17, 2010, 7:25pm Top

38# Your professor would have told you to get the audiobook.

I still do not get why this is a controversial subject. Some people like to hear their books. So what? I use both and I really do find them about the same. No one is forcing anyone to listen to books.

Edited: Jun 17, 2010, 7:42pm Top

45: I doubt so, unless it involved us listening to the Greek and Roman poets in their original Greek or Latin, but I suspect he leaves that for the ancient history majors. For the rest of us, he expected us to read; though as I said, Homer and Virgil are better experienced through auditory, because their works are epic poetry, and not books.

I did not intend for this to become controversial, and I do not read this thread suspecting it is. Is a conversation controversial simply because people do not agree? Perhaps it boils down to a semantics argument: you cannot "read" audio (unless you're reading along with the CD). Therefore, it cannot be counted as reading. It is that people insist that it is that I do not understand. What is shameful about admitting that audio books are closer to radio dramas than actual books?

Jun 17, 2010, 7:52pm Top

I love Radio Dramas too!

Edited: Jun 17, 2010, 8:32pm Top

What is shameful about admitting that audio books are closer to radio dramas than actual books?

Not shameful due to the fact that it is not true. I also have audio dramas in my collection and they are not the same. Dramas are interpretations of works much in the same way a movie is an interpretation. Audio books are equivalent to their paper counterparts. ** Your original post implied that one form was superior to the other.

To answer your question- We listen to books because it is enjoyable.

**OK, abridged audio books can be regarded as 'edited' works that are different from the original. Much like the Readers Digest editions my mom used to read.

Jun 17, 2010, 8:37pm Top

bingo OccamsHammer, they're not dramas they're readings. I don't understand why that's so hard for dead tree only people to grasp. If the same information is going into my brain via my ears and not my eyes it's somehow not the same information? Um...in what universe?

Jun 17, 2010, 8:45pm Top

Would everyone please just chill? Somebody was overly dramatic in defending his/her chosen form of information retrieval. Foolish, but ignorable. Somebody else took it a bit too personally and got defensive. Understandable, perhaps but still ignorable. Then everybody started choosing sides and manning the parapets. ARGH!

To some people the two forms are the same. To some people the two forms are not the same. Deal with it.

Edited: Jun 17, 2010, 8:52pm Top

MM, with all due respect, you haven't been part of this discussion and it's not out of hand. this is mild and polite. there are even smilies in some posts. We're done when we say we're done.

Jun 17, 2010, 8:57pm Top

Beg pardon. Out of line. Going elsewhere.

PS: Not posting does not mean not following. I've been here from the beginning.

Jun 17, 2010, 9:03pm Top

Don't worry MerryMary, you can curse Bookmarque out in a few minutes and they won't hear because they'll be busy reading a book with their ears. :P

Seriously though, we're just exchanging opinions. It's not my fault everyone else is wrong. =)

Jun 17, 2010, 9:13pm Top

They? Who is they? Do I have multiple personalities? Is there an echo in here? Where's the beef??

Watch out ApeMan, you might get a paper cut with all those dead trees you got hanging around. ; )

Edited: Jun 17, 2010, 9:21pm Top

We'll bury our dead trees to fertilize the next generation of books. You'd best be buried with your plastic, because those discs will be with you for a while.

/obligatory smiley of your choice

Jun 17, 2010, 9:23pm Top

Sorry, with no name or pictures listed on your profile, I couldn't use he/she. :)

And no, there is no echo in here. What you're hearing is just one of the negative effects of absorbing books with through your ears. :)

I live in Ohio, the trees love me, they would never seek vengeance upon me in such a way. If trees wanted to hurt me, they could just fall on my house. Nope, I'm immune to paper cuts I think.

Jun 17, 2010, 9:24pm Top

Burying is so 20th century. I plan to be composted.

Jun 17, 2010, 9:25pm Top

Cremation's my preferred form of decomposition myself. But yours sounds promising.

Jun 17, 2010, 9:29pm Top

I'm actually sort of semi serious. I heard about it (literally, it was an audiobook - ha ha) in Mary Roach's book Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers. It's a technique starting to gain a foothold in Sweden if I remember correctly. A process breaks you down a bit and you're planted in a facility that basically is a glorified garden and your remains are taken up by the tree or flowering shrub of your choice. Sort of romantically weird, but I like the idea of it.

Jun 17, 2010, 9:30pm Top

59: Haha, I heard about the composting thing when I read Stiff as well.

Jun 17, 2010, 9:35pm Top

And the information is the same and we both recall it. How about that? : )

Jun 17, 2010, 9:35pm Top

>59 Bookmarque:
I'm surprised you remembered that detail, Bookmarque, since you learned that fact with your ears rather than with your eyes.

Jun 17, 2010, 9:37pm Top

It's all in my head, really.

Jun 17, 2010, 9:43pm Top

Yes, but could you cite the page?

Jun 17, 2010, 9:46pm Top

Nope, but it's in there nonetheless.

Jun 17, 2010, 10:18pm Top

Nonfiction composting I know nothing about, but Heinlein used the idea in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (which I have read both on paper and as an audiobook.)

Edited: Jun 18, 2010, 1:29am Top

Hmmm....interesting, this discussion. As you can tell from my name I narrate audio books - not commercially but for the National Library Service's Talking Books Program for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. I also visit an active book discussion group to which users of the service contribute. While occasionally the group will have a thread about narrators, most of the discussions are based on their posted book reviews. These reviews read just like those posted on LT. Most of the time the narrator isn't even mentioned: author, plot and characterization are the common topics of discussion as are recommendations for other books.

I guess my point is that for people who choose audio books over braille (their only other reading recourse) the book is the thing. While some have favorite narrators as well as those they avoid, books are primarily chosen for the writing and subject matter. Despite listening to a story, it is possible to form a picture in your mind about a character just as you do when reading the printed version. Perhaps the voice you hear influences that picture, but it is still your unique idea, unlike anyone else's.

Edited: Jun 18, 2010, 6:58am Top

Of course there are a number of books which cannot be adequately done as audio books.

Stuff like The Raw Shark Texts and City of Saints and Madmen and The Demolished Man can never be properly transformed into an audio book. All of them use textual effects or create images out of text.

Jun 18, 2010, 5:45am Top

I have "read" one audio drama which I have to agree is very very different from an audiobook (though if Scott Brick is narrating, sometimes they're pretty close ;-)

I have also "read" one abridged audiobook and will never do that again. It was like someone had randomly decided which pages they'd tear out of a book - they left in scenes that made no sense and parts were missing to fill in what was going on.

I don't read many audio non-fiction because to me they take too much concentration, but it is going to be how I subject myself to some of the classics that I just won't read in the traditional way because, well... they're classics... eek.

Jun 18, 2010, 6:37am Top

Bookmarqe: a technique starting to gain a foothold in Sweden if I remember correctly.

Maybe you would remember correctly if you would have read the book. :)

Edited: Jun 18, 2010, 7:28am Top

If I may derail this into serious again...I think over time I've sharpened my audio learning skills to be, if not equal with my visual learning skills, very, very close. I retain amazing amounts of data that I've only heard. It would be interesting to know if the difference would show up on brain scan or anything (assuming one could find my brain), but it's too late now since we don't have a before picture. I've been listening to audiobooks almost daily since the early 1990s and I know my acuity is sharper now than it was then. As a serious photographer I value my eyes tremendously, but as a metalhead I also value my ears. I've also had wine tasting room people tell me I'm a "super taster" so it could be I'm wired up with more sensitivity than most. Who knows.

afterthought - I think my retention comes from necessity. I can't turn back easily and find a reference with an audiobook; I have to remember it. So after a while it becomes easier to recall details from hours and hours ago in the story.

Edited: Jun 19, 2010, 2:16pm Top

"I am starting to think that the audiophobic posters are just jealous of our more highly evolved reading ability"

I am starting to think that the audiophobic posters aren't jealous of my LESS evolved reading ability.

I would love to be able to chill, relax, and read for a couple hours. But as they sometimes say in the military strategy or nuclear safety indutry, that's just "not a credible scenario" right now. 'Too busy, too many distractions, etc.

I "read" in the car during the commute and love it, but even that takes a bit of concentration.

I do sometimes, increase my "reading rate" by borrowing a real bona fide cellulose wood pulp version of the book. I'll read the same title, at night, for a few minutes. 'Very enjoyable.

Jun 21, 2010, 5:04pm Top

I've come in late to this conversation as I've been in the studio all day (Disclosure: I work in the audiobook industry) and I've found this thread very interesting. My favorite comment so far has come from NarratorLady who said "the book's the thing." And really, that's what it comes down to. Some people will insist on a physical relationship with the hard copy print; others also happen to be able to process text without.

So far there hasn't been a term coined that encompasses the aural and/or visual consumption of a text and "reading" has been used as a semantic default. If we're arguing over semantics, than print readers "win;" but in the absence of a better term, "reading" will suffice.

Audiobooks aren't for the lazy, stupid or illiterate. Most audiobook listeners also happen to be avid print readers and have found a way to process information and decode abstractions *in an additional way.* But there are people who cannot process the information aurally. They just aren't formatted that way. That's okay too. If in fact, a print reader and an audiobook listener can get together and discuss the same work without knowing how the other consumed the text, it only proves that it's not in the method but in the comprehension that the importance lies. AFter all, "the book's the thing!"

Jun 22, 2010, 9:21pm Top

I prefer print books. Perhaps it's just the music major in me (I doubled in lit and music) but when I have headphones in, I usually will choose music over an audiobook. However, I do find it enjoyable to sometimes "read" a book via my ears. I work at a library so I spend many hours alone, dusting shelves or putting away books, and sometimes an audiobook just hits the spot. I'm a visual learner, though, so when I do choose an audiobook, it's usually what I would classify as a "potato chip" or "empty calorie" book. I listened to most of the Sookie Stackhouse books and now, I'm listening to the second book in Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson series.

I don't listen to serious or nonfiction books though. I don't think I would retain the information as much as if I read it. Plus, I'm notorious for writing in margins. I love leaving behind my thoughts. When I reread books, I find it fun to remember how I felt about a certain passage the last time I read it :)

Edited: Jun 23, 2010, 6:41am Top

when I have headphones in

Oh! I hate headphones you put in your ears. The sound quality is always so bad. I need big, bulky aound-ear headphones that sound good.

Of course, it'd be a lot harder to wear them in public/carry them around...but still! :)

Jun 23, 2010, 9:07am Top

I've never had any problems with sound quality on the ear buds. The only thing I don't like about them is you have to replace them every three or four months because one bud usually goes out. But then again, at $10 a pop, I don't mind so much :P

Of course, I hate the bulkiness of those huge headphones that block out all sound. I've never tried them so I can't say if there's a difference in quality, but I admit for me, it's more of a vanity issue. You don't look very suave in those huge things ;-)

Jun 23, 2010, 12:18pm Top

If you wore a big pair just one time, it'd blow your mind. I used the smaller inner-ear headphoens for a long time when they first became really popular, but boy do they sound bad. I eventually paid $20 for a big pair of around-ear headphones...it was amazing! :)

But I agree, they're big and bulky and look ridiculous. I use them for the computer, when I listen to music/play video games, but I definitely wouldn't want to carry them around every where.

Jun 23, 2010, 1:22pm Top

Hmm...maybe I will try it. I get paid soon and I think I could spare $20. I just hope I don't like them so much that I can never listen to music with my little ear buds again. That would be horrible!

Jun 23, 2010, 1:51pm Top

I use them for the computer, when I listen to music/play video games, but I definitely wouldn't want to carry them around every where. (#77)

That's part of why I don't wear the earmuff variety of headphones. But most of it is that when I'm listening to stuff on headphones, it's because I'm not at home, but somewhere like the subway -- where not being able to hear what's going on around you over your music is generally not good. I keep my music loud enough to hear it, but not so loud as to drown out things like announcements (which, mercifully, have recently begun to get comprehensible).

Jun 23, 2010, 8:05pm Top

I have been listening to audio books since the early 90s when I commuted a longer distance to work. And I am still hooked now even though my drive is much less. We actually started a "honor-system" lending library at work and people donate audios they have purchased and finished (check out part of our collection at http://www.librarything.com/profile/6jdaudios).

I have found that sometimes books that I had a hard time "getting into" in print were much better in audio format. I.e., Robert B. Parker's "Spenser" books - once I heard David Dukes read one, I was able to go back and read of the books in the series.

In the same vein, I love being able to sample books on Audible and have deliberately purchased or borrowed "hard copy" because the reader did not "suit" me (or the work).

And I think that I have started reading more print non-fiction over recent years because of certain non-fiction audios I've heard.

Jun 23, 2010, 8:55pm Top

I actually order audio books from the State Library through ILL to help me decide if I want to buy the book for our city library.

Jun 24, 2010, 6:03pm Top

I believe audio books are books because they contain all of the contents of the original book as long as they are not abridged. Saying that they are not books just because of the way they are conveyed is like saying that a paperback version is not the same as the hardcover!
If you like audio books then listen to them! If you don't stop.

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