Pop Culture
Dec 28, 2017, 07:00AM

The Unwritten Word

An unexpected audiobook convert.

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When e-books and e-readers first came out, I was against them. As a budding English major and a lifelong collector of books, I wasn’t willing to even dabble in the new technology, for fear it might convert me. That didn’t happen, though I eventually dabbled. Back then, there was so much hype about e-books, and with bookstores closing because of Amazon, I was convinced that the paper books I loved were on their way out. I was prepared to be one of the last holdouts, so if you’d told me that just a few years later I’d be getting much of my reading done through a format even more foreign than the then-cursed e-books, I wouldn’t have believed you.

But you’d have been right. And considering how dead-set against e-books I was, I’m surprised by how well I’ve taken to audiobooks. I still read, but more and more I’ve found that listening suits my lifestyle. I listen in the gym, I listen while commuting to both my college and my farming job, and I listen during just about every minute of the latter, as that job requires me to be alone most of the time, working at tasks that don’t really need all of my attention.

Don’t get me wrong—audiobooks haven’t replaced physical books for me, and don’t think they ever will. I’ve found that not all books lend themselves to being heard. Some require a slower, more intentional reading than audiobooks allow, and with many books I need to be able to stop, pause, reflect, maybe go back and reread a line or paragraph for some nuance or wordplay. But with most books, especially those that are less consciously literary, all that’s expected of me is to be along for the ride, and I’ve found that these books ride as smoothly in earbuds as they do on paper.

Got a weakness for King, Patterson, or even Roberts? No judgment. I’ve listened to more than my share of the former, and don’t even want to know how many hours I’ve spent listening to space battles and wizard duels. And during most of those hours, I didn’t really need to pay all of my attention to the books. Whether I was driving, running laps, or mowing grass, I was also escaping from a world in which I had to do those things in order to do what I really want. I’ll take it any way I can get it. Except e-books—some habits die hard.


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