My Complicated Relationship With Audiobooks

“There were literally three seperate couples sitting around the fire making out, like some sort of organised kissing orgy, and half of me was like, ew, and the other half was like, wow, I sure do wish that was me.”

First line in Loveless by Alice Oseman

Hi, and welcome to another rambly post from me, and this time it’s about audiobooks. Audiobooks have seen such a rise in popularity over many years now, so I’ve obviously also attempted them to see if I could jump on the bandwagon. The results have been mixed, to say the least.

First of all, I have to say that I’ve probably read less than ten books as an audiobook so you could argue that I haven’t given them a proper chance. However, every time I try, I have the same feeling of losing something. It’s hard to explain but I get the sense that I’m not as “into” the book and don’t have as strong feelings about it as if I read it physically. That’s why picking to read something as an audiobook feels like I’m deliberately choosing to miss out on a great experience. Or rather, a possible great experience. Naturally, I’m not too inclined to do that and would never do it with a book I had high expectations for.

Another problem I have with audiobooks is that I simply have a hard time staying focused. My mind is easily distracted so I find that I HAVE to do some mindless task while listening and I think that limits the time I’m able to read. Then there’s also my problem of having a hard time imagining scenes from the books in my head, especially if we’re talking about something from fantasy books that I have no frame of reference for. While listening to a book, it’s very hard to pause or go back to reread stuff which is what I do to deal with this problem in physical books. I mean, you CAN do that with an audiobook but it’s such a hassle. Contemporaries are definitely easier for me to go the audiobook route with in that regard, but I just don’t read a whole lot of those.

So why do I not just accept that audiobooks aren’t for me and move on instead of writing a whole post about it? Well, I clearly WILL NOT accept it. I know reading so many physical books and ebooks are bad for my eyes which aren’t great to begin with. My optician has reminded me of this and I have two friends who now need glasses after taking degrees that required A LOT of reading. I mean, I know reading 60 physical books a year isn’t great in the long run so audiobooks could help me a lot. And I also really want to interact with all the content from the bookish community about audiobooks.

Another reason I’ve been thinking about audiobooks lately is that I discovered that I can listen to audiobooks while I’m at work. My job as a mail carrier is the exact kind of mindless task I need to be able to listen to something while doing it. Well, when the weather is good at least. Including my 90-minute commute every day, that’s about 8 hours of audiobook-listening time. And I’m not using that time! My TBR is ever-expanding and now I have the thought in my head that I’m wasting time! Don’t worry, I’m not actually stressing about it, but I hope you understand why I’m suddenly thinking about my relationship with audiobooks. Because if I feel like I’m “wasting” a reading experience by going the audiobook route, is that what should matter more than wasting reading time? Or do I just feel that it’s a wasted experience because I’ve only ever picked mediocre books to listen to? See, I told you this was complicated. Do I bite the bullet and listen to a book I expect to be 5-stars to test whether it’s just me who hasn’t given audiobooks a proper chance? Or do I say fuck it and only occasionally listen to a contemporary that’s probably going to get 3 stars? Because could that not be okay, too? I mean, I’m not a reader who wants to read all 5-stars books anyway so maybe those 3-star books I’ll inevitably read might as well be audiobooks?

Have I completely lost you now? Don’t worry, I think I’ve rambled on long enough, so now I invite YOU to ramble in the comments. Do you listen to audiobooks? How much? Do you recognize any of the feelings I have towards audiobooks? Do you have any advice? Please help me.

17 thoughts on “My Complicated Relationship With Audiobooks

  1. Personally audiobooks add to the experience BUT the narrator must be perfect for the book. If not, I can’t stand to listen to it

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m with you 😁 I also feel as though I’m losing something whenever I listen to an audiobook instead of reading the same story physically, but in my case, I think it’s BECAUSE I picture everything so vividly. It’s always jarring to me that the characters’ voices I’m actually hearing aren’t the same as the ones I’m hearing in my head. And before you say I could just use the narrator’s interpretation as a frame of reference – that hardly ever works for me 😅 Because I am always very aware that the narrator is just adjusting their one voice for several different characters. Or I’ll already have pictured the character in my head, voice and all, and when the audiobook voice doesn’t fit, I find it extremely annoying!

    Similary, I’ve found that the way you stress a sentence when you read it makes a huge difference in implicit meaning. And I just like making those choices myself!

    Besides, listening to audiobooks takes forever! And then there’s the not being able to flip back and check on details thing, which annoys me, too – although I don’t actually do it that often 🤣

    That being said, I do agree with you that audiobooks are an amazing way to make use of time when you couldn’t otherwise read! I wouldn’t ever have gotten to so many books during my university years if I hadn’t made use of my commutes. And audiobooks make cleaning and cooking so much more motivating! However, I still only reach for the audiobook version when I have no alternative (= when Scribd only has the audiobook and I’m too stingy to buy a different version 🙃).

    That being said: I first encountered some of my absolute favorite books in the past few years as audiobooks – The Betrayals, To Paradise, Cerulean Sea, The Darkness Outside Us 🥰 So I don’t think listening to them ruined the experience! I did, however, go back and reread all of them (except The Darkness Outside Us, which my library doesn’t have and I don’t have a copy of yet) physically afterwards, and that experience was even better 😇 So I’m not sure if I can stifle your fears about listening to audiobooks making you miss out on an excellent reading experience, but let’s just say I definitely wouldn’t waste those eight hours. I’m really jealous, actually! 😄

    (Also, I may have to take back what I said about me wanting you to read the rest of The Realm of the Elderlings 😅 Because in my eyes, chances that you’re not going to hate Fool’s Assassin are very slim 🙈)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh yes that thing about characters’ voices is a problem for me too. It’s something about a character’s personality being reflected in the voice in my head, I think 🤔 So a narrator will force me to think a certain way about a character. I definetly relate to what you say about making those choices myself.

      And it’s funny because I’ve always thought of audiobooks as being the faster way to read 😅 Not that I speed it up all that much. Maybe it’s just that I feel like the people who read 100+ books a year are the people who listen to audiobooks so I feel like that must be their secret 😅

      Well, I wouldn’t listen to a book and then read it physically immediately after so I don’t think I can use your method 😂
      But yes, I’m also hating wasting those hours. I’ve actually considered the audiobooks for the Rain Wilds Chronicles because I already know I’ll hate those 😬 And if they make me angry at work, I’ll just peddal harder to release frustration 😆 But what an encouraging remark on Fool’s Assassin 😂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah, I also got the impression that the people who read like 300 books a year always read a ton of audiobooks as well 🤔 But I just don’t get it! I usually listen to mine at 1.5x speed, but it still takes forever to get through them! I can easily read a 300 page novel in two hours, but in audiobook form, that usually translates to over 10 hours of listening time. Which is so inconvenient!

        And don’t judge The Rain Wild Chronicles before you read them 😜 The second one in particular, I absolutely loved! 🥰 But then again, I’m a sucker for the animal companion trope, and since there are a ton of dragons in those books, I basically got multiple companions as a package deal 🤣 So I guess it’s okay if you need to release your frustration on those pedals.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I’m sorry, you read 300 pages in two hours?? 🤯 Yeah, then I see why an audiobook is slow 😅

        You’re telling me not to judge The Rain Wild Chronicles beforehand while also telling me it features one of my least favorite tropes very heavily 😬

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Well, yes, unless it’s a very dense classic or something… 😅 I need to fit all those books into my schedule somehow!

        Also, don’t give up hope – Assassin’s Apprentice featured one of your least favorite tropes, too, and you liked that 😜

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Interesting. I’ve so far not done audiobooks as taking in verbal information without a corresponding visual element is not a strength, and because I love to read and listen to music at the same time. But that sense of not being invested makes sense.

    Maybe you should try getting into them more with fun popcorny 3 stars, and then see if it becomes comfortable enough you feel like you could be properly invested in a great book?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. While I have listened to various genres, I’ve found I prefer to listen to memoirs and self-help or educational books. I tend to zone out when reading them physically, so at least this way I can listen and still focus on another task.

    Physical or e-readers are still very much my go-to. Almost like a security blanket lol.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It makes a lot of sense that those books would be easier to listen to. I don’t read very many of them myself but they would definitely eliminate my problem of not being able to imagine fictional worlds so maybe I need to try the audiobook route next time I attempt one of those.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Your audiobook experience is very familiar – I’m definitely someone who takes information in better visually (and if I really want to remember things, I need to write it down – ironically, the act of writing usually means I remember more so I don’t even have to check my notes later) so audio has always worried me in that regard. Like you, I’ve been experimenting over the past year or so; I’ve found I adore it as a way to fit more rereads into my reading life (something I’ve been wanting to do) but am still trying to figure out where it leaves me for reading new titles. Narrator is super important, but I’m still trying to work out how much some of my meh reactions have been from only listening.

    That said, I enjoy Realm.fm style audio (“tv for your ears”) of episodic stories told over one or more series arcs – maybe because I tend to have shorter periods where I can listen, so the 30-60 minute episode format (with mini plot arcs) works really well for me rather than feeling I’ve put my book down after making very little progress and then worry about not remembering details when I can fit in another listening session (looking at you The Expanse, which I would never have survived on audio if it hadn’t been a reread; but I’ll never reread it any other way now!)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think you’ve sold me on that idea of doing rereads by audiobook. I don’t reread as much as I’d like to so that is a very appealing plan. At least for some of my available audiobook time.

      And I can definitely understand the appeal of those episodic stories. The unpredictability of when I’ll have time for another listening session is also what has kept me from experimenting too much with audiobooks and has made me stick to shorter books until now. I was sure I was going to end up in a situation where I’d been listening to the same book for four months.

      Thank you for your comment!


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