Pros and Cons of Audiobooks

Audiobooks are becoming more and more popular by the day, but there’s still some argument about whether or not they are inferior to actual reading. I don’t claim to be the best judge in this competition. I enjoy both audiobooks and actual reading immensely. What it really comes down to when deciding whether to purchase the audiobook or the hard copy is personal choice. Mostly your lifestyle.

Time

The first thing people tend to think of when they think about books in general is time. With an audiobook you can read in the car, they can make your workouts bearable, or if you have a more hands-on type of job that doesn’t require a lot of thought, you might even get away with “reading” at work (But don’t come to me when your boss writes you up).

When Stephen Fry read the fourth Harry Potter book to me I found that I ended up jogging almost 8 miles without feeling tired. We creative types also tend to like hands-on activities like drawing and sewing. An audiobook is a great source of mental distraction or entertainment if you want to participate in these activities but can’t bear a silent room.

But there is one con in the perspective of time. Audiobooks take longer to consume than actual reading does. When I got my hands on the seventh Harry Potter book I decided to listen to Stephen and read it myself. What better way to get full immersion in the world of Harry Potter, I thought. Turns out that was a bad idea.

My normal reading speed (which is actually pretty slow) was at least twice the speed of Stephen Fry’s narration. Narration, you see, has to be spoken relatively slowly and clearly so that the recipient can follow along easily, not missing anything or needing sentences repeated. When we read, we don’t even need to see every word to understand a sentence. We can just fly through, scanning the pages, and understand without “hearing” the words spoken in our heads, thus dramatically cutting down the consumption time when choosing text over audio.

Cost

Audiobooks are indeed more convenient than books. You can just load ‘em on your phone and whip them out whenever you want. However, that convenience comes at a cost, a pretty steep one in some cases.

Unless you can find an audiobook at the library, usually it’s better for your budget to just stick with print. Choosing used books over new or borrowing from the library (it’s a lot easier to find a paperback at the library than it is to find an audio CD) are definitely the best options when operating on a tight budget, as so many of us are forced to do these days.

For a small monthly fee Audible.com does offer thousands of discounted (and even free) audiobooks. It just depends on how often you plan on purchasing whether this option makes sense to you or not.

However, if you have $32 to spend on the Game of Thrones audio CD versus the $14 for a used copy or $5 Kindle copy, be my guest. That’s a long book and it just might be worth it to be able to listen to it on your commute to work.

Engagement

This is the argument for which I like to play the Hard Cover Advocate. Audiobooks, though great, reside a little too near the to television camp for my taste. Listening to words spoken is far less active than reading them on a page. Less brain activity leads to disengagement, often times leading to less enjoyment from the experience.

Plus, when “reading” audiobooks you don’t get that same subtle education that real books give you. Real books can help us pick up on nuances of the English language, learning better where to put commas and what a semicolon is used for. I learned that commas and periods go INSIDE the quotation marks and that a new line of dialogue from a new character goes on a new, indented line all from simply reading fiction. And as boring as that may sound, it wasn’t boring at all to learn because I wasn’t focused on learning how to write well. I was focused on whether or not Ella would break her curse.

Considering the dropping literacy rate among middle class Americans, I tend to vote against using audiobooks unless the situation demands it. We in America like to forget how privileged we are to even be able to read and write. We look for the easiest way, not the best way of doing things.

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