Audiobooks – what are they good for?


When I was a kid I used to love listening to audiobooks. I would color in my coloring books or do other kiddy crafts while being read to by the casette player. Then came a long period without audiobooks. Music took their place in my walkman and discman, and I developed my obsession with the printed book. Then came university and more books. Only when I was writing my Master’s thesis did I rediscover the joys of the audiobook-coloring book combination. That’s right, at the age of 24 I took up coloring My Little Pony and Disney princesses while listening to Harry Potter. All the while doing my thesis on Pynchon and Heller. And I’m not at all ashamed! Just look how adult coloring books are popping up all over the place. People are now realizing, as I did, that coloring is very relaxing and doing it while listening to books even more so.

I don’t color these days, but I do loads of crafts that would take time away from my reading. With the rediscovery of the audiobook I can read and crochet at the same time. That means I can get through even more books! How amazing is that? Well, I’m not sure. It’s definitely a nice change from the constantly Netflix-listening, but does it actually compared to reading? Perhaps not. Maybe my mind wanders without me realizing, making me miss parts of the book. You definitely lose that sense of immersion that sitting with a real book allows for. The feel of the pages is a big part of reading. But I’m also discovering books I probably wouldn’t have otherwise. I’ve discovered books so amazing that I’ve had to buy the printed one, so I can read it for real some day. And I’ve encountered narrators who brought the books to life in a way I’m not sure my inner voice can. Yes, occasionally I miss stuff, sometimes the app messes up and I have to try and find my way back, and books take a long time to read aloud, so it is slow going at times. And I will admit that I won’t purchase audiobooks – they’re simply too expensive compared to real books that look very nice on my shelves. But streaming services like Storytel and Mofibo allow you to shop around, discover new things and just skip a book if the first few “pages” don’t tickle your fancy. Ok, I’ve just cancelled my subscription to Storytel due to their faulty app and disappointing selection of English titles. But I’m thinking about trying Audible and sticking to really long audiobooks so I can settle for that one freebie a month.

For me, audiobooks serve as a nice supplement to my “real” reading, in situations where my hands are busy with other things. Of course, there are still books I would never listen to (unless I’ve also read them). Some books deserve the attention and commitment real reading requires. Some books deserve a place in the bookcases. And to be completely honest, audiobooks could never satisfy my need to collect.

What do you think? Are audiobooks as good printed books? When you do like listening to audiobooks, if at all? If you don’t, why not? And if anyone knows of other decent streaming services, let me know!


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