Thursday, January 26, 2017

Thoughts on Audiobooks from a First-time Listener

In an effort to meet my goal of reading 40 books this year, I decided to give audiobooks a try.  I have tried listening to novels on maybe two other occasions, but never actually managed to finish the book I was "reading."  With that as an introduction, here are my thoughts and advice on audiobooks (with the obvious disclaimer that I speak with no authority on the subject whatsoever!):

1. Audiobooks are excellent background noise for mindless tasks. Washing dishes, folding laundry, picking up toys, grocery shopping, etc.  I found those chores to be so much more enjoyable bearable with the distraction of a good story playing in my ears.  But as soon as I tried to do anything that required a thought process (reading and answering emails, scrolling through Instagram, playing Two Dots (as you can tell, my "thought process" activities are quite mentally stimulating!)), I had to stop and rewind about five different times to figure out what was happening in the story.  Clearly, my multi-tasking abilities do not include listening and reading and thinking all at the same time.

2.  Audiobooks are great for "popcorn plots."  I'm pretty sure I just made that term up, but a popcorn plot is one that requires little to no thought process. (Hmmm.... I'm starting to see a theme here.)  Think summer blockbusters - big explosions, predictable romances.  A story that is so full of stereotypical archetypes, that you don't need to utilize any deductive reasoning to figure out where the plot is headed.  I have nothing to compare this to, but I'm pretty sure non-fiction audiobooks would never work for me.  I usually read non-fiction with a pencil in one hand, ready to make notes in the margins or underline important words or star key passages.  I was listening to Sarah Dessen - the queen of the quintessential YA Romance novel - so keeping track of the story and characters was not rocket science.

3.  Audiobooks are not good for falling asleep.  Duh.  This is probably embarrassingly obvious to just about every other person alive.  I really enjoy reading a book to help me fall asleep at night (the moment when you realize that, yes, it's time to turn off the light because you just smacked yourself on the nose with your book as it fell out of your hands and onto your face?  Oddly satisfying.), so I thought I would try it with the audiobook, figuring I would feel myself falling asleep and turn off the player when the time came.  Uh, nope.  Didn't happen.  What did happen was that I woke up at like 3 o'clock in the morning, with my earbuds still in, the audio still playing.  Seven chapters and half a battery later, I turned the thing off and rolled my eyes at myself as I drifted off to sleep for the second time.  Again, duh.

4. Audiobooks are fun with the right technology.  This is totally untested, but I think I would enjoy an audiobook even more on a different platform.  I checked out a Playaway device from the library, which required headphones to listen, which was okay when I doing mindless tasks late at night, but not so okay when I was wanting to listen to the story during the day and my children, for some reason, wanted my full attention.  I know there are online services and mobile apps for buying and renting audiobooks, so for my next listening experience, I want to try something I can download on my phone.

So there you have it.  My completely unqualified review of audiobooks.  I'd love to know your thoughts and advice (qualified or otherwise). Favorite titles or genres?  Favorite apps or services?  Favorite mindless task to complete while listening?

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