Listening vs. Reading


TO CREATE AUDIO-BOOKS or not to create audio-books, that’s the question. (And my apologies to Shakespeare.)

Audio-books, at least according to many publishers, authors, and book reviewers, are quite the rage lately, but they’re also quite costly to create (unless you went with a traditional publisher and gave them the rights to create an audio-book for you).

However, I’m wondering where the day-to-day, normal reader stands on the issue. Do they prefer written words or spoken words?

I know when I was a kid, even into the first few years of grade school, I loved hearing adults read to me. I would close my eyes and envision the world being described—the sights, sounds, and smells of it. I would see the characters come to life in my head. It was like watching a movie only I got to decide what the ‘actors’ would look like and dress like. However, somewhere around second or third grade, I found out that I could read faster on my own, and the faster I read, the more stories I could enjoy. That’s when reading out loud lost its fascination and appeal for me.

Even now, when I try to listen to a book, I find my attention wandering within fifteen minutes. The voice of the narrator becomes just some background noise, and the story is eventually forgotten as I shift that ‘noise’ to the back of my mind.

If I’m in the car, I will switch to a music station (but then, I don’t much like talk radio, either). If I’m at home, I will start playing solitaire, reach for a real book, or work on some home repair project. The next time I take note of the audio-story, five or more chapters have gone by and I have no idea what is happening in the book. And it doesn’t matter who the author or narrator are, what the story is about, or even the genre of the story. I have tried at least a dozen different audio-books and it always ends up the same:  me returning the audio-book to the library so that I can check the book out in a format I can actually read.

When I have brought up the topic of audio-books vs. reading real books with my various friends, they usually look at me as if I’m some alien life form. They simply can’t imagine driving to and from work, working out, or even doing their tasks at work without being plugged into an audio-book. To them, it’s tedious to have to decipher the words on the page when there is someone willing to read it out loud to them.

Having worked in corporate adult education-type settings, I understand that there are different ways to learn and absorb information. Some people are visual, some need auditory input, and others need some sort of participatory action or interaction to retain information. So, I have to wonder…has the population become more auditory-based? Maybe I’ve been so buried in my own little word-driven, physical book world that I failed to notice the switch. If so, does that mean I, as an author, need to focus more on creating audio-books and less on reader-based books? (But even reader-based books come with audio features—did you know that most e-reading applications have the ability to read the story to you?)

So, what is the truth? Is it better as an author to stick with the traditional formats of words only and publish our books as paperback and e-books, or are readers more inclined to listen to a book rather than actually read it?

I think I know the answer, but I would really love to hear from some readers out there:



About TA Sullivan

An author, writer, photographer, and fellow life traveler who offers her wit, wisdom, and stories with others who share her path, if even for a moment.
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2 Responses to Listening vs. Reading

  1. I know some avid readers in my office who love to listen to audio books (strangely it also depends on the genre–biographies seem to be favored). But most of my colleagues prefer to read an actual book (shifting away from kindles). I prefer kindle or a book. I like to be able to reread a passage that is particularly moving or thought-provoking. I like to go at my own pace. I have never listened to a book on tape, but I know myself well enough to know that if I spaced-out for a moment, didn’t understand something clearly, it would bug me to no end and I’d want to try to rewind 10 seconds! It’s too bad too, because I commute and hour each way and it would be nice to do that.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dr Bob Rich says:

    I fully agree. I read about 4 times the rate of spoken words, so get very impatient with a video or recording DRAGGING on.

    Liked by 1 person

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