Although I don’t make nearly enough time for it, I am an excellent reader. I love the whole experience of books- the feeling of it in my hands, the reaching of the bottom of each page and the excitement of starting another. I love the feeling when I pass the halfway mark and know that I’m in the home-stretch, which for me, is particularly thrilling given my ratio of started-to-finished books on the shelf. I like looking at the typography, both inside and outside the cover. I’ve even been known to peel open a book like an exotic fruit and smell the ink and paper as if it was nourishing in some way. The experience of a book is so much more than the words pulled together by its author.
I think the above illustrates why I can’t really find a place for audiobooks. I’ve tried. In fact, I recently got a free audiobook from eMusic (yes, requires a credit card, but you can cancel the subscription after you try the free downloads) and really worked hard to find a book I wanted. I searched the classics, the abridged, the unabridged, fiction, essays, foreign language lessons, and even brain entrainment for a desired title- one that I could see myself devoting hours of listening time to…
What I ended up with was a four-hour vocabulary booster. I already have a reasonably broad vocabulary, but I can certainly improve. Yes, I passed over the triple Cormac McCarthy release read by Brad Pitt for learning words like circumlocutory. It is difficult to measure the life I don’t have.
So, when do I listen to audiobooks? Despite the first paragraph here, I do listen to one or two of them. One is my husband’s audiobook TableRappers and the other is Stephen King’s On Writing. I have others, but I just can’t make the time for them. TableRappers is offered up in easily digestible twenty-minute (or so) episodes and On Writing is non-fiction, anecdotal, and easy to dip in and out of. I have The God Delusion in audio (as well as print) but cannot seem to muster the time or attention span it requires. I also have Rant by Chuck Palahniuk. Can’t see myself with the attention span for that either. Audiobooks need me to settle into some knitting or dishwashing or other mindless task. I can’t do it. Hell, even my longest commute is a twenty minute walk to a part-time job in town. This is not enough. I like the way a book engages me with tactile pleasure as well as mental stimulation. I can devote the time to a book because it requires the whole of me, whereas the passive audiobook says, “fit me in while you’re doing other stuff, I don’t mind.”
I prefer the demands of paper even if it means my started-to-finished ratio is destined to remain severely out of balance.