First, I have to let you know that I’m not getting paid in any way to say this, but I really love my iPod. I have a number of podcasts that I listen to (such as Radiolab, which I posted about previously). Lately, I have been getting into audiobooks, which can be downloaded from iTunes or websites such as www.audible.com.
I think audiobooks are a revolution. I know they have been around for a while with books on tape and books on CD. But it is only recently that technological advancements such as the ubiquitous iPod and other mp3 players have been making audiobooks a viable option over traditional books.
Some people will decry audiobooks and tout the “inherent” superiority of the printed word over the audio format. The reality is that traditional books have only been common for about the last couple hundred years. The spoken word has been the dominant means of communicating and storytelling for thousands of years. Granted, the Native Americans never had iPods, but still the audio format of books through an iPod and other audio players is much more familiar to our brains in many ways than reading the printed word. Five hundred years ago, only a small percentage of the population of Europe could read, but everyone told stories.
Having been involved in the assessment of learning disabilities for about 15 years, I know that numerous people struggle with reading for various reasons (e.g., dyslexia, ADD/ADHD). Also, many people are just better “auditory” than “visual” learners. Thus, audiobooks open up another world for such individuals. Finally, these individuals have an easy way to enjoy a luxury that most of us have taken for granted.
Frequently, new audiobooks are read by the actual author. At other times, works of fiction are read by voice actors that make the books extremely entertaining. For example try listening to any of the books in the Harry Potter series in audio format – the voice actor is amazing!
Now you can go for those long drives and runs while listening to audiobooks, which adds a whole new dimension to things. It is still important to be “unplugged” some of the time. I think we do need to be comfortable in stillness and silence. Also, don’t try listening to an audiobook using headphones while driving – that can be dangerous. When you are driving in new territory or in traffic, it’s also not good to have too much of your psychological attention being taken up by listening to audiobooks. Not enough attention will be left for you to do safe driving.
Audiobooks are an easy and cost-effective way to learn and/or be entertained. Plus, they don’t have to kill trees to make audiobooks nor do we have physical storage problems with them. Give audiobooks a try if you haven’t already.