12 months of listening

Last year I did a dumb thing. My mom gave me money for Christmas and I wanted a small mp3 player that was not manufactured by Apple so I could download audio books to listen to when I felt like it. I noticed that audible.com was offering $100 off on a number of mp3 players through Amazon (who, I found out recently, owns audible.com) if I signed up for a year of audible.com. I didn’t read the fine print and was dismayed to find out (after making the purchases & agreeing to the legal stuff on audible.com) the subscription was about $15 a month. Hmm, I thought, maybe if I don’t buy any book group books for the year and use my 1 credit a month for the audio version of the books I’ll break even.

So, I went with that plan and downloaded audio books of the books chosen for book group.

That plan might have worked had I commuted a long distance to work. That plan might have worked if I walked or used exercise equipment. That plan might even have worked if I remembered to grab my mp3 player when I did household chores like laundry or cleaning the bathroom.

Unfortunately I did none of the above, but thought that since my work was mainly rote and didn’t really use much brain power, I could listen to my audio books while working. I really believed I could. I told people this was working. I did get through some books this way and thought I was so smart to have thought of it.

I realized last week that I’d been lying to myself and everyone else. I was not really understanding much of what was going on in most of the books I listened to this way and that was probably why I did not like most of the books chosen for book group this year — I didn’t really “get” most of them and didn’t finish several because of it.

What worried me was this: I thought that I’d lost my love of literature. That I didn’t like the audio books because I didn’t like to read anymore. It was a very depressing thought since reading is part of how I define myself: I am a reader and I love to read. Since I realized that it was the listening to the books while working that probably made me not like them I tried to really read again. I finished a book I started in the summer (Naked by David Sedaris) and started a book that Andrew gave me for Christmas (The Little Stranger by Sara Waters) and am happy to say I still love to read. Naked is very funny and The Little Stranger is a gripping Gothic ghost story.  Whew!

Don’t get me wrong, I really do believe that a person can listen to a book and get as much out of it* as someone who reads the same book, but I no longer think that I can listen to books and work on even mindless tasks at the same time.

So I’ve got 4 credits (and a $10 credit for some reason) left on my audible.com account and will download a few books I’d been meaning to read — but won’t listen to them while doing anything more taxing with my brain than chores or walking or driving — and cancel my account with audible.

I guess I can chalk it up as a year long experiment. Albeit one that failed.

*what a person gets out of listening versus reading might be a little different — but can be pretty much the same. Some people just don’t like to listen to books some cannot concentrate on them, but if one does like listening and can concentrate then the experience can be close to the same as reading a book.

5 thoughts on “12 months of listening

  1. I had a colleague, a very intelligent man, who after work would go home, put some jazz on the stereo, turn on the TV, and read a book. I cannot begin to fathom how someone can do that–or listen to a book while working, as you tried to do. I can listen to NPR while folding laundry or feeding the dogs, but that’s the multi-tasking limit for me.

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  2. NPR wafts through my house all day long. But I don’t like to listen to it while I drive (it involves election season and nerves) so I listen to books. If I really like a book I’m listening to I will bring it in to the kitchen CD player and listen while I cook. That works too. But I wouldn’t be able to listen to it and type or read on the computer, for instance. I could probably do yard work…anyway, what I don;’t like about listening to books for book club is that when I get to book club, I can’t find a passage I want to talk about because it’s one long string instead of page after page. I can’t flip through a copy then and be a part of the conversation.

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  3. My dear, you ARE smart, in my opinion, but maybe the smartness is admitting an error. Here's my take on listening to books: I only do self-help, or whatever they're called – right now it's Malcom Gladwell's “Outliers”, and it's either when driving or working out. When driving I can go through it 2 or three times, because naturally there are times when I'm not really paying attention ( to the book), because I actually need to pay attnetion to my driving (surprise, surprise). So, for me it's not really reading, it's more like listening to a lecture, except that I'm in control and can rewind or stop when i want. With books like Wolf Hall, I couldn't handle audio because i read so slowly and am imagining being there as i read. I often stop and stare off into space or outside, having a fantasy about the story, sort of little sidestories, wondering what it would be like to be there. it's really wonderful, and audio books wouldn't work for me for “literature”, unless maybe it's Shakespeare or poetry. If you're wondering, I'm on my second (or is it third?) glass of wine…Let me know about Chinese new year…

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  4. My dear, you ARE smart, in my opinion, but maybe the smartness is admitting an error. Here's my take on listening to books: I only do self-help, or whatever they're called – right now it's Malcom Gladwell's “Outliers”, and it's either when driving or working out. When driving I can go through it 2 or three times, because naturally there are times when I'm not really paying attention ( to the book), because I actually need to pay attnetion to my driving (surprise, surprise). So, for me it's not really reading, it's more like listening to a lecture, except that I'm in control and can rewind or stop when i want. With books like Wolf Hall, I couldn't handle audio because i read so slowly and am imagining being there as i read. I often stop and stare off into space or outside, having a fantasy about the story, sort of little sidestories, wondering what it would be like to be there. it's really wonderful, and audio books wouldn't work for me for “literature”, unless maybe it's Shakespeare or poetry. If you're wondering, I'm on my second (or is it third?) glass of wine…Let me know about Chinese new year…

    Like

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