Thursday, August 2, 2007

Which do you prefer? Print or Audio?

Do you listen to audiobooks? Generally, I don't because they don't hold my attention the way print does. My focus wanders, and I lose my place too often to keep track of the narrative. Also, I've held onto the habit formed in college of underlining key passages and making comments in the margin. And finally, I just find it restful to occasionally look up from the page now and then and mull over what I've read.

But I know many people who prefer listening to books and they seem to get just as much out of listening as I do from reading. This makes me a bit envious since listening to books allows them to multi-task. They can take care of mundane tasks like cleaning, cooking, exercising, driving, etc. all the while being entertained by an audiobook. So now, some of my audiobook-listening friends not only lead more productive lives than me, they actually look forward to doing their chores!

But according to an article in today's New York Times, Your Cheatin' Listenin' Ways (8/2/07), some hardcore readers sneer at those who listen to audiobooks. And some book clubs don't even allow their members to listen to books. This seems a tad extreme to me. Okay, maybe if the club is a scholarly group, then yes, you should probably read the book in print. Otherwise, lighten up folks. To my mind, it's the content of the book, not the format that matters.

And for some, listening is not only a time saver, it's also an easier way to absorb information. Whether from deteriorating eyesight or learning differences, some people hear better than they read.

So for the record, I don't care if you read or listen to a book for the Readers Roundtable Book Club. What makes the book club worthwhile is that we enjoy thinking about and discussng the ideas, experiences, and information contained in the books we read--or listen to.

Your Cheatin' Listenin' Ways
JANICE RASPEN, a librarian at an elementary school in Fredericksburg, Va., came clean with her book club a couple years ago. They were discussing “A Fine Balance,” a novel set in India in the 1970s by Rohinton Mistry and an Oprah’s Book Club pick, when she told the group — all fellow teachers — that rather than read the book, she had listened to an audio version.

“My statement was met with stunned silence,” said Ms. Raspen, 38. Link to article.

Illustration by Christopher Sharp, The New York Times.

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