Listening vs Reading

Listening vs Reading

I originally wrote this article before quarantine had started, but it’s only become more true given the world’s current circumstances. Listening to audiobooks is a wonderful way to pass the day. I myself much prefer listening to a book these days over reading them for several reasons. 

  1. I can listen while I work, be it folding laundry, washing dishes, gardening, or feeding animals. Because I can multi-task while listening, I’m accomplishing far more in chores, but also reading more books than I ever have before. As an added bonus, it makes the work go by much faster. 
  2. I protect my eyes by limiting screen time and/or reading from a page in dismal lighting conditions late at night. 
  3. I can listen during long car trips, which, as we live out in the country, every drive is a minimum of 30 minutes long, and that’s a decent length of book reading. 

What’s more, all these benefits effect my children, as well. I have a six- and four-year-old at the moment, and we absolutely love to read together. My six-year-old can read to himself, but my four-year-old can only “read” those books she’s memorized. Although it is important for emerging readers to also see the written word, the benefits of listening to audiobooks are still applicable to them.

For example, they can listen while they play, perhaps doing a puzzle or building with Legos. They can also listen in the car, which I much prefer to the idea of letting them watch movies over long car trips. I grew up listening to audiobooks in the car, and those are still some of my favorite memories. There’s something very different and wonderful about listening to Hank the Cowdog and Anne of Green Gables in the car. Not to mention the fantastic radio theater productions one can find. My absolute favorite versions of The Chronicles of Narnia are the radio dramas produced by Focus on the Family. 

There are a couple ways in which I think this rise in audiobook usage is impacting novel-writing, as well. 

  1. Writing style— With more books being listened to via audiobook, I think authors would be smart to pay greater attention to how their work sounds as much as reads. I’ve always heard it’s smart to read your book aloud at least once at some point during the revision process, and I think this advice is even more insightful these days than ever before. 
  2. Length of books— I believe writers are becoming more aware of how long it takes for a narrator to read their book aloud, as this is a much easier thing to guesstimate than how long it might take any reader to read it to themselves. If you listen to a lot of audiobooks, you’ve probably noticed there’s an average cadence which makes the typical audiobook length about ten hours, at least the books I’ve been listening to. Collections of short stories achieve about the same length. Naturally, epic fantasy and older classics will always stretch the mold. Also, listening to a book at a higher rate (1.25 up to 2) will change this.

There are even some authors who’ve begun writing books that are only being produced via audiobook, which I think is a mindset that probably produces a writing style more like that of a script than a book, in some ways. The rise of audio drama podcasts, like Victoriocity (which I adore!), are also bringing a new format to the art of story-telling. 

All this change is natural, of course, but it makes one wonder where it will lead? Will the audiobook dominate sales? Will it eventually mean people won’t need to learn how to read as everything will be read for us? Will required reading levels become something dependent upon one’s intended job?

What do you think?

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