A few years back I really got into listening to audio books, and I still love it. Audible.com has a vast library of books of all sorts. I’ve been in their “Premium Listener” program for more than five years whereby you pay one flat fee per month, and get to download any two books of your choice. Some of my favorites have been John Adams by David McCullough, The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara (on the battle of Gettysburg), every new book by Malcolm Gladwell, and Scripture. Right now I’m reading Eugene Peterson’s The Jesus Way and Spiritual Leadership by J. Oswald Sanders. I’ve got almost 300 books in my audio library now, and I can download a fresh copy off my Audible account whenever I want.
If you haven’t ever tried listening to an audio book, I recommend giving it a try. It takes a little getting used to, and there may only be some kinds of books you like to listen to. I’ve found that I have a tough time listening to fiction, but non-fiction goes quite well.
Here are four reasons I like listening to books:
1. Convenience. Any MP3 player will do. I’ve used an iPod, and now an iPhone. I can decide at any moment to “read” whether I’m at home, in the car, on a plane, or wherever. And I can have a dozen books loaded and available at any time, although I like to just have a couple at a time. Saves space and weight in a suitcase, too.
2. Change of Pace. I’ve read so many paper pages over the years, and now off the computer screen, I just get tired of it. Listening to a book is a whole different experience. Some of the best writers “write for the ear.” No surprise that their writings play well on the ear.
3. Quantity. I can “read” much more when I mix in audio books. Unabridged non-fiction books are often six to eight hours in length. I can cover that much ground easily in three days or so. If I use my iPod or iPhone when I’m out running errands, or while traveling, I can do two things at once. You can “read” while waiting for a plane, having the oil changed in the car, or commuting across town. My wife and I once took a couple of days to paint several rooms in the house, and the time flew by as we listened to several audio books. World War II epic stories as recall.
4. Thinking. This was the biggest surprise for me. Listening to a book takes longer than reading one with one’s eyes. But the pace of the spoken word is perfect for listening and thinking at the same time. Reading is only valuable with reflection. The audio file keeps spitting out the words, and almost commands your attention. But the pace lets you think about what you’re hearing at the same time.
Listening to books is not really a new invention. It was common in the ancient world to read a book out loud–even if you were the only person in the room. This was the way to savor words, using as many senses as possible: sight, sound, touch. I suppose even smell.
Now if they would make an iPod with the smell of high-grade paper…
Do you have any tips that you could share with others on how to get more out of reading (in any fashion)?