A few weeks ago I spotted a blog hosting a 2014 book review challenge — the more books you review, the cooler your bragging rights. I was keen to sign up; after all, I read hundreds of books a year (yes, 2-3 per week). But the guidelines specified that audiobooks were not allowed. 🙁
I pouted. I got self-righteous. After all I’m legally blind, reading books in a text format (print or ebook) is not a viable option for me. And why shouldn’t an audiobook count? Am I not really a reader because the thousands of books I’ve read in the past decade were almost exclusively enjoyed in audiobook format? Did I waste all that time? Are my honest reviewer opinions less valuable because the story came through my ears rather than my eyes?
Listen, I know it’s a different experience. You’re using different parts of the brain to access and filter the information. But different does not imply that one experience or the other has to be inferior. Some readers enjoy both listening and reading the text for an even more complete experience, and why not?
You may think it’s easy for me to say, seeing as how I’m visually impaired. But believe it or not, it took me a long time to accept audiobooks in my life. I used to read so many books the library couldn’t stay ahead of me. And when my vision first began to fail me (16), I resisted the shift to audiobooks because of the cultural disdain. Listening to audiobooks, for me, was like surrendering to my handicap. When I first picked up audiobooks, I felt it as a personal failure.
I’m not just a fast reader, I’m an impatient one. I might have read entire books in one sitting as a teen, but there was a lot of skimming involved, particularly when it came to long passages of description. Seriously, who cares what they’re wearing? Get on with the story! My eyes darted across the page with practiced skill, picking up on the important keywords and phrases that I knew would move the story itself along.
I can’t skim audiobooks. There are times when this is frustrating, but in the 14 years since I seriously started reading audiobooks it has done me a lot of good. I am forced to read more of the story and the resulting picture is far more complete.
I can’t speak for other’s reading experiences and I won’t presume to try, but I know that audiobooks have been helpful to me as both a reader and a writer. When many people ask, “Why audiobooks?” the first answer usually has something to do with how easy it is to read while doing something else — like commuting to work. And I do get a lot of reading done while I’m doing other things. But I think there are other advantages as well, and this is one that would serve the impatient reader well.
My first two audiobooks are available now through audible: