Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Trouble With Audiobooks

Last fall I really wanted to get back in shape. Spoiler alert - I didn't. Instead I took a trip to Cleveland and ate every pastry I came across. Realizing that this was a fast road to become Gilbert Grapes mother I thought, hey, we have a treadmill, I should probably use that. Not being one to spend half an hour exercising in silence i perused the iTunes store looking for an acceptable audiobook. It was a great idea! A book, self improvement, perfect!
In my mind all pastries are created equal. Unless they're Bear Claws. Bear Claws are clearly the best.

After finding out how expensive audiobooks are (YIKES) I settled on Mr. Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore. It ended up being a fantastic choice for trying out this new medium. Robin Solan really meditates on the combination or old world knowledge and new technology in Penumbra and listening to talk of medieval manuscripts and the ever powerful Google was really an interesting experience.  I was so engrossed in the story that i'd was hard pressed to put my iPod down, and found that i especially enjoyed listening to this book while i rested my eyes. Only this lead to multitasking, or at least trying to. Cooking dinner, texting, except once I added in another activity I couldn't focus on what was being read to me. While reading a physical, or electronic book I'd never really been pressed to multitask but something about having the majority of my senses free compelled me to make the most of my time, and clearly walking on a treadmill wasn't going to cut it.

On top of having troble focusing because my eyes and hands weren't glued to pages I found I really didn't like seeing how much more time I'd have to put into this book. Don't get me wrong, I was loving the story and couldn't wait to see what happened, but I'm of the tumblr generation, and i could have a degree in fangirling. For me that mean's I wholeheartedly believe it is worth the effort to watch a 45 minute episode of Doctor Who in the 15 minutes I have before I have to be at work. It's irrational, I know, but when I see time I see a challenge. Pages don't challenge me. I've even come to love the percentage bar on my kindle. I just couldn't get over seeing 6 hours and 12 minutes flashing across my screen, though. In general I don't care how long it takes me to finish a book, but I found I really hate having a timer.

What I've found is that while i loved listening to Mr. Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore (someone should really find a rational way to abbreviate that title) was that my brief enjoyment of audiobooks was a fluke. Since then I have tried listening to Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere and have been stuck somewhere in the middle of it since last December. I'd had an even harder time staying focused when I wasn't as invested in the story, and not even Neil's soothing voice could keep me cultivated.

What about you- Do you listen to audiobooks? What are your experiences like? HOW DO YOU STAY FOCUSED?! Seriously, I really don't get it.


Red said...

Aww we both wrote about audiobooks today. Except mine was more a defense of them.

I find I can pay attention to audiobooks IF I'm doing something else, like running or traveling (train or car or whatever). I can't just hang out around the house and listen cos, like you, if I start doing other things I get distracted.

Bear claws are indeed the best.

JaneGS said...

I love audio books, but I only listen to them in the car. While I agree that focus is different when you're driving and listening instead of reading, I also find that it's impossible to skim whilst listening!

My library has an awesome collection and they get what they don't have via interlibrary loan. The price of audio books is prohibitive in my opinion.

I started by choosing books I wanted to reread but somehow couldn't find time to get to, that and books that interested me but were outside my usual genres. If I hadn't listened to them, I might never have read them.

I also have listened to books I knew I wouldn't be able to focus on enough to read--The Iliad, The Odyssey, Dante's Inferno, Pilgrim's Progress are all better read aloud than read to oneself, again in my opinion!

BTW, treadmills are for TV watching!