DISCUSSION: The Genius of Audiobooks

The wonderful thing about owning a house is that you own a house. I mean, it’s yours. You’re not living in a room in your parents house, with your stuff confined to a few shelves and one closet, but rather, you have an entire house that you can stock up with crap, dirty however and whenever you want to, and if you don’t want to clean it up, you don’t have anyone making you.Of course, the less-than-wonderful thing about owning a house is that eventually you do have to clean it up. Now, I’m not a slob by any means (just ask, well, anyone who knows me), but over a long Canadian winter, the list of chores tends to add up. There’s window washing, floor washing, baseboard washing, dog washing, car washing … and that’s just in the “washing” section. There’s also vacuuming, mowing the lawn, sweeping the driveway, raking the lawn, weeding the garden, and a whole lot more unsavoury activities.

I’m a reader. I like winter, when it’s too cold to do a darn thing, which means I can curl up in front of the roaring fire with my book and only have to worry about washing the dinner dishes.

I mean, this blog is called Reading In Winter.

But now, winter is ending. The grass is half there, half buried, but it still holds its gaze with me whenever I look outside: “You will mow me soon,” it says, with its gazeAnd you will mow me every week. Sometimes twice a week.”

I get the same glares from the garden, the dogs, the windows, and my car — which isn’t dripping in a look of shiny newness anymore, but rather, it holds a coat of grime, dirt, and salt, from the Canadian winter.

Just recently, I realized one thing: It’s hard to clean the toilet and read a hardcover book at the same time. In the same sense, it’s also hard to bath the dog and read, or do the dishes and read, or do online banking and read. It’s even hard to read and update my blog, which is about reading. 

Enter: the audiobook.

I had dabbled with audiobooks in the past, but only the recent past. I think it was for the 24-Hour Readathon last October, that I listened to an audiobook by Jay Leno, the very first audiobook I had ever listened to, and it was great! With 24 hours of reading, it’s hard to actually, physically sit and consume book after book. Eventually, you need to get up and get moving. And Jay Leno is funny. He definitely helped break my day up.

Of course, that wasn’t my first introduction to the audiobook — at least not the traditional audiobook. When I was little, fairly unable to read, my brother would record himself reading my storybooks on a cassette tape, alerting me when to turn the pages. I loved listening to them, that being one of my favourite memories from childhood. And probably the earliest time I remember reading … or at least, trying to read.

After the Jay Leno audiobook, I had listened to a few more — one by Ellen DeGeneres, and another by Neil Gaiman (a children’s book, not one of his longer ones) — and I liked them fine, but never thought anything more of it. But just recently, as I was crying over the vacuum breaking, the dog coming into season an entire MONTH earlier than I had anticipated, and the beginning of tax season, eyeing my pile of papers that still sat in the office, needing to be filed, I realized that I just can’t keep up with my reading goals when there is so much stuff to be done.

So, I made the executive decision. I was going to embrace the audiobook.

I’ve heard of so many people who listen to audiobooks. These are mainly people who listen on their long commute to work, or maybe as they’re getting ready for work in the morning, or even as they’re working away on paperwork at the office. Audiobooks are portable and it’s easy to just pause and play as you go.

I already had a few on my computer that I had downloaded, so I loaded them up on my iPod and started to listen. And boy, was I ever AMAZED at how much stuff I got done while listening to my audiobook!

If you’re worried that you’ll run out of things to do and just be sitting bored on the couch, twiddling your thumbs, wondering why you aren’t reading a real book, while listening to your audiobook, think again. Here is what I managed to do while listening to John Green’s An Abundance of Katherines, roughly 6 hours, on audiobook:

  1. I organized some of the files on my iMac, cleaned up my iTunes, and updated my iPod.
  2. I went through a huge pile of paper in my office, figuring out what had to be shredded and what could be recycled.
  3. I went through my personal email and got back to people, signed papers, paid bills, and printed off important information.
  4. I did the dishes, put away the dishes, and fed the dogs.
  5. I vacuumed the house.
  6. I dusted the house.
  7. I did the recycling, and emptied all the garbages.
  8. I took the dog to the vet, I got groceries, I went to the post office and the library.
  9. I went through my Google Reader and visited all the blogs that were piling up and commented on most of them.
  10. I made up some templates for all of the reviews I was planning to write in the next few weeks.
  11. I made up a new page for Audiobook reviews (at this point, I knew I’d be listening to a lot of them).
  12. I put away the groceries and whipped up some hamburgers for dinner.
  13. I made all the beds.
  14. I cleaned up the books in my library, and made sure everything was put away where it should be.
  15. I cleaned up my pile of review books in the kitchen.
  16. I printed off reviews that I had done ‘for review’ and attached them to emails from authors so I could ensure they were done.
  17. I updated my Goodreads, went to Formspring, Facebook, and Twitter.
  18. I washed the walls.
  19. I cleaned out my car.
  20. I cleaned out the fridge.

And I’m sure there is plenty more I could add to this list. When I thought about it, when I try and sit down and read a book for the day, I’m constantly distracted by any of the items you see above, that in the course of a 10 hour day, I’ll end up reading for maybe 3 or 4 hours of that time. But with the audiobook, I just carry it around with me! It’s that simple.

Of course, there are cons to audiobooks:

  1. Portability
    If you get your audiobooks from the library, you can get either pre-loaded audiobooks, or CD audiobooks. If you get a CD one, then you’re pretty much stuck as to where you can listen to it, unless you have one of those fancy, old-timey devices called a “CD Player.” Now, I only have one on my computer, so that means I could listen while doing blog stuff, but not much else. A pre-loaded audiobook means you can just plug in your headphones and go. Same as an iPod, only with an iPod you can plug it into your car, too, which works well for me.
  2. Selection
    Again, if you get your library books from the library, there’s not a huge selection. The other downside is that if you go to the library, you pretty much have to know what you want to listen to because (at least at my library) they’re not sorted out by category. It’s likely the YA book you’re looking for is right next to the Stephen King title. The same thing goes for Overdrive. I tried looking for some books to borrow using the library’s online system, but a lot of them were only for PC. It made my Mac sad. There is plenty of selection if you’re looking to buy through iTunes but that adds a whole other con …
  3. Price
    Audiobooks are ca-ray-zy expensive. Like, nutso expensive. I see some that cost more than I paid for the actual, tangible book. If you can find them cheap, then that’s a good thing. Sometimes, I’m sure, there must be sales, or your local second-hand bookstore might have some copies. As for online, I’ve only looked on iTunes, but they’re still pricey. The nice thing is that you can listen to samples to see if you’ll like the narrator–because a narrator can make or break a book–but you’re still going to be paying at least $20+ for one book.

But there are also some great pros to audiobooks:

  1. The Narrator
    Sometimes you get such a great narrator that it makes the entire book so much better than it would have been if you had been reading the book yourself. I was lucky to have that with the John Green audiobook because Jeff Woodman was an amazing narrator! He did some great voices and told the story at such a great pace that I didn’t feel like I was falling behind at all. He read the book like I expected the book to be read. It made the book a joy to listen to. (Plus, you have to think of the dedication it takes for a narrator to actually narrate an audiobook — they have to get familiar with all the characters, the pauses, the inflections, the mood of the story — it’s a LOT of work!)
  2. The Element of Surprise
    If you’re like me, your eyes tend to wander when you’re reading a book. You know, you’re heading towards the end of a chapter and it’s getting suspenseful and you just take that little glance to the last sentence and see that everything is going to be alright? I do that all the time. I ruin some books by doing that. But an audiobook is like watching a movie — you don’t know what’s going to happen. I made many a gasp and a crazy out-loud laugh (which scared the dogs) while listening. It’s great because I have no clue what’s going on! I can’t ruin it for myself.
  3. All the reasons listed above
    You can do so much while listening to an audiobook. It was wonderful to feel like I was actually accomplishing everything on my to-do list AND still taking the time to do something for myself. Audiobooks are also great when, like the other day, a 45-minute car trip takes 2 and a half hours due to bad roads and crawling traffic because of accidents (all due to the lovely Canadian winter). I only wish I had discovered audiobooks that day.

I can only hope that as the summer goes by that I can listen to more and more of these great audiobooks. I also hope that my library keeps getting them in, especially some more YA titles. By the looks of it, they have over 50 YA titles and a ton more of adult titles. I think it would be great to listen to some of the books I’ve been putting off (like The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo) or even to “reread” some of the books I had been meaning to (like The Mortal Instruments or the Harry Potter series). Not only will I get to read, but my house and home will enjoy getting some attention, too.

Why did I not think of this sooner?!?

Now a few questions for you: Do you listen to audiobooks? When do you listen to audiobooks? Can you think of any more pros or cons for my list? 

© 2012, Reading In Winter. All rights reserved.

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22 thoughts on “DISCUSSION: The Genius of Audiobooks

  1. Oh, Kristilyn, you’re tempting me LOL I do spend a lot of time in my laptop that I could use to listen to an audiobook, but I’m still a quotes-addicted person, how could I select my favorite quotes out of it? LOL

    I may have to check out what my local library has on audiobooks… As you said, they’re so expensive that I’m not sure I wanna spend that much money in one and then get frustrated–or maybe I won’t, we shall see :)

    BTW, loved the story about your brother, I’m sure you have tons of good memories from listening to the tapes!! :)

    Maeva
    Murphy’s Library

    • That’s why I signed up for Audible … it’s so much cheaper than buying from a store!

      There are so many times in the day where an audiobook comes in handy … I hope your library has some good ones!

  2. I LOVE LOVE LOVE audiobooks – I listen to them as a I walk around campus, and while I don’t finish them super fast I usually can get about 1 done every 1.5-2 weeks and it rocks :)

  3. I’m glad you discovered the awesomeness of audiobooks! I don’t think I would pay for an audiobook but I really enjoy the ones I’ve downloaded as free promotions.

    My biggest problem with them is I can read a lot faster than listen. Not to mention I have to find the time to listen but a book I can read whenever. Basically they get shoved to the backburner and I take forever to finish them.

    • Yeah, that’s why I try to only read ones that should keep my interest. I have a very short attention span!

      They are very convenient, though … especially with housework, yard work, online banking, dog walking, etc.

  4. I enjoy audiobooks before bed. I have bouts of insomnia and having someone read to me helps me sleep. If it’s really late and my bf is sleeping, it’s a good thing to have audiobooks as a back up.

    Does your library have a program where you can borrow ebooks/audiobooks? Mine does and it’s set up to download them straight to your itunes. That’s how I get most of mine. Being on a book budget is a pain sometimes, isn’t it?

    • That’s a good idea! My only problem with listening before bed is that I’d probably fall asleep and it would keep running on, making me forget where I left off. At least with a book, I can flip through the pages to figure it out (that is, if my bookmark doesn’t seem to make it in the book before I fall asleep).

      My library has a lot of ebooks available! They are connected with another library in another city, and we can do interlibrary loans. They also have files you can borrow online, but since I have a Mac, there’s not a lot of choice with that method.

      A book budget can be a pain, yes!

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  6. This is a GREAT post! I’m a huge audiobook fan. I listen to them in the car on the way to and from work (about an hour a day total). I also have them on my ipod and listen to them while cleaning, or any time I have something else to do! It’s great! Some of my favorite narrators are Khristine Hvam, Katherine Kellgren, Amy Rubinate, Nick Podehl and Luke Daniels.

    • I love having audiobooks on my iPod! I can’t believe how much I get accomplished … and it’s not that I just accomplish things, but I ADD things to my to-do list just so I can listen to my book. It’s wonderful. :) I think I’ve only listened to Nick Podehl (out of the authors you listed) and he was GREAT! I have to mark down my favourite narrators because they make a world of a difference.

  7. Great post! To cut costs, I recommend an Audible membership. The lowest one is about $14 a month. BUT – once you’re subscribed, you get all kinds of discounts. In addition to the audiobook you get with your subscription, most books in the catalog are discounted all the time for members, and they run a lot of sales. Sometimes you can get a book for the cost of a magazine!

    • I signed up for Audible a few months ago and LOVE it! The deals are amazing, and that’s a good way of looking at it because sometimes they’re cheaper than a magazine! I got Will Grayson, Will Grayson for only $4.95, which was a great price. Best membership I think I’ve ever gotten!

  8. Love this post! Audiobooks are some of the most precious things that I own digitally. I have a subscription to Audible and enjoy it. I can’t speak to your Mac issues, but you could check it out. I love the Audible app on my Droid.

    So glad you’re joining the audiobook revolution. :-)

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  10. I adore downloading books to my iPod. However, bursting out in laughter while in the weight room is not well received. Especially when you are an overweight 50+ year old woman. The narrator’s can definitely make or break the book. Dana Stabenow and J.D. Robb have great narrator’s. J.A.Jance has a mix of good & just awful.

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  12. Pingback: BLOGIVERSARY FEATURE: A Little Bit About Me | Reading In Winter

My home is where my books are. - Ellen Thompson

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