Some bibliophiles are purists. They are not fans of all the new-fangled technology like Kindles and Nooks. They wouldn’t be caught dead watching a movie adaptation of a favorite novel. These folks prefer good, old-fashioned, printed books and consider any other method of consumption to be “cheating.”
The trouble is, how many of us have free time that we can spend curled up with a good book? More than her reading chair, I envy Wendy’s reading time. I suppose that if I made reading my absolute top priority, I could make the time to sit down, book in hand, and lose myself in a story. However, it would mean I’d have to give up billable hours, exercise, grocery shopping, or sleeping. I’m not saying it wouldn’t be a worthwhile sacrifice, but I do have my daughter to consider. She likes having a roof over her head, chicken nuggets in the freezer, and a mom who isn’t cranky from sleep deprivation.
I suppose I could opt to give up the few times a week I treat myself to a 42-minute episode of Bones or Castle or Once Upon a Time, but – without trying to sound like I’m making lame excuses – I’ve learned through experience that once I’ve hit nine or ten o’clock, I’m not really much good for anything other than zoning out in front of the TV (or, my iPhone’s Netflix app). I’ve tried reading at night, but I usually wind up reading the same three pages over and over because my over-tired mind just can’t comprehend what I’m reading. What’s a writer to do? As Wendy said, writers read. But what if life doesn’t seem willing to give you time to read?
No worries. Just listen.
Audio books are not cheating. In fact, I think that in some cases hearing a story spoken aloud can bring a new depth to the experience. I no longer stumble over the phrase “I’ve read that book” if, in fact, I have listened to it instead of reading the print version. The end result – hearing the tale – is the same whether you’re reading or, in essence, being read to. There are thousands of audio books available – most of them unabridged, some of them read by their authors. I recently listened to Neil Gaiman read his classic American Gods and was genuinely impressed with his ability and finesse as a narrator and character reader. Since the summer, I have listened to seven novels: the entire Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins, American Gods and Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman, The Magician King by Lev Grossman, and I’m almost done with The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. Over the same time period, I have read (in the traditional sense, though on my new-fangled Kindle) two novels: The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente and I’m almost finished with The Witch of Portobello by Paulo Coelho. If not for the audio book option, I would have missed out on a lot.
I listen to my audio books with the Audible Books app for the iPhone. The convenience of having my audio library with me wherever I am means that I listen to my books all the time – while I’m out for my morning walk, driving, running the vaccum, taking a quick lunch break, or making dinner. Any few spare moments can be magically transformed into a personal storytime just by popping in my headphones and hitting “Play.”
Although I sometimes miss the ability to dog ear pages, underline favorite phrases or make notes in the margin (something a print book or Kindle edition allow me to do), there is something about hearing a story read aloud that brings it to life in a more intense way. Hearing the author’s words spoken out loud gives them a greater weight. The audio experience demands a different kind of focus and attention than the printed page. There is magic in the storyteller’s voice. After all, our oldest story traditions are all oral.
So, if you’re feeling a little short-changed on your reading time these days, consider plugging into an audio book. You may be surprised at just how much “reading” you can fit into your life when you expand your options to include this medium. I know I was!
What do you think? Is listening to a book as good as reading it? What differences have you experienced between the two formats?
Jamie Lee Wallace is a writer who also happens to be a marketer. She helps her Suddenly Marketing clients discover their voice, connect with their audience, and find their marketing groove. She is also a mom, a prolific blogger, and a student of voice and trapeze (not at the same time). Introduce yourself on facebook or twitter. She doesn’t bite … usually.
Image Credit: Michael Casey