Thoughts on Reading Audiobooks

Reading books used to be time consuming. Not so with audiobooks – but does the new format deliver!?

Around the 2009 presidential inauguration of president elect Obama, Amazon.com-owned Audible.com started sponsoring Slate.com. I heard about it in the Slate Political Gabfest podcasts. In true internet fashion Audible.com were giving away a book if you’d sign up for a test membership.

For a few years now getting the time to read books has been very challenging, but staying up to date with news on business and politics has been no problem thanks to podcasts, and for a while they have indeed dominated my listened tracks.

So if there is time to listen to news, there will probably also be time to do that and read a book per month, and I went to the special offer at Audible.com and downloaded my first book.

I’ve now been testing the format for about a week, and I’ll comment a bit on the format.

While you can consume a book without stopping whatever else you’re doing – cooking, cycling, walking, etc. – and while you do get the same content, the format of Audiobooks – for all its advantages – also has some shortcomings:

  • if you’re listening to a book, which has interesting graphs, you don’t get those
  • if you’re interested in quoting from the book you’re reading you’ll have to write the actual quote by listening and writing, listening and writing, until you get it right.
  • BIG ONE: you can’t easily search through an audiobook. I’m listening on an iPod Nano, and it just doesn’t have the entire text of the book in the “show notes”, and the chapters don’t necessarily come with easy navigation either. So flipping an audiobook open and finding a specific reference is tedious, and can’t be recommended.

There are probably plenty of other reasons that audiobooks aren’t even close to replacing books at this point, but I’ve downloaded my first audiobook and trying it out. It’s a very recent book by Jeff Jarvis with the title “What Would Google Do?

I’ll get back to that book and talk a bit about it in a future post – for now, I just want to get on with the book!