I’ve resisted Kindles. I haven’t digitally downloaded any reading material on my iPad. I haven’t attempted to check out a digital book at my library. Why? Because I love books. Real books: like, the ones with pages.
I love the tactile experiences of holding a book and turning the pages and seeing how those actions play out with the actual words of whatever I’m reading. Sometimes these instances truly MAKE a reading experience for me. In fact, my thesis for grad school has to do with how play is promoted through a child’s experience of holding, manipulating and reading a book.
But, in thinking back on my reading experiences over the past year, I feel guilty. I feel like I’ve been cheating on my books. That’s because the majority of the books I’ve recently read have been…wait for it…audiobooks. I know, right? I feel icky and ashamed.
I usually commute twice a week, 45-50 minutes each way. I’m a music lover, but my options are limited when Stella naps during the ride. The music that lulls her to sleep makes me feel a bit too relaxed. Not something you want to feel while behind the wheel. I also generally enjoy sports and talk radio, but I started finding the tone depressing, and I generally came home grumpy thinking about the state of the world and allegations of juiced-up athletes. So…I turned to checking out audiobooks at my library.
It started out so innocently: just a little Tina Fey and “Bossypants” to get me over the hump. But that quickly turned into Mindy Kaling’s “Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me” (still one of my common concerns). Then Chris requested I find Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard’s “Killing Kennedy,” so I decided to partake in that as well. Then I started to OD: “The Chaperone” by Laura Moriarty (read wonderfully by Downton Abbey’s Elisabeth McGovern), “Z: A Novel of Zella Fitzgerald” by Therese Anne Fowler, “From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler” by E. L. Konigsburg, “Matilda” by Roald Dahl (YES, children’s books make great audiobooks!), “Rules of Civility” by Amor Towles and “Three Nights in August” by Buzz Bissinger…PLUS QUITE A FEW MORE.
As you can see, I now have a problem. Can I be a book purist and an audiobook listener? I think that my double-dealing is justified. Audiobooks became the answer to my need for engagement, enjoyment and (not-too-relaxing) relaxation for my travels. I know plenty of people feel that one cannot really internalize a book without having pages in front of their eyes, but I believe this is dependent upon the material. If I were listening to someone read the dictionary on CD, I can assure you that I wouldn’t get past AARDVARK before my thoughts drifted. So in order to enjoy an audiobook, or any book for that matter, the content has to be engaging, relevant and worthy of attention. That’s why I’ve never randomly selected audiobooks for my commute. I’ve only selected books that I would have been interested in traditionally reading.
From an intellectual and academic perspective, a Forbes article states that more specific research must be done on the impacts of audiobooks, but the cognitive processes of reading and listening are remarkably similar. So, while some audiobooks I’ve chosen during my travels have been busts, I don’t feel like I didn’t connect with these books because of a disability to engage with the format. They just were not the books for me, and wouldn’t have been in paper form either.
So, now that I’ve talked myself into a valid rationale for my two-timing, I can still say with certainty that I won’t be curling up with a cup of tea and my stereo on a Sunday afternoon. But I will continue to browse the big boxes of CDs in the cozy corner of the library for the times when I may just be otherwise idle.
That’s justifiable, right?