Yesterday I found myself wondering why it is that new ways of listening to audiobooks are getting so much attention?
Stories about audiobooks, in general, seem to focus on road trips and keeping the kids quiet in the back seat, rather than how generally cool they are.
And as anyone reading this blog must already believe, Audiobooks are great, cool, awesome, neat… people should be writing about them all the time.
Well, I shouldn’t complain.
Anything that gets people to listen to books is a good thing. Audiobooks downloads are already growing incredibly fast and surprisingly even to me. Given that there are about a dozen companies out there offering audiobook downloads, and that’s great.
I just have this skeptical reaction to ‘new technology’ stories touting the latest thing as if everyone has it or wants it. Sometimes it’s genuine (like with downloadable audiobooks), but often it’s just another idea that tech editors think is nifty, but the general public thinks is useless.
I loved a study in Wired magazine from 2002… cellphones were just beginning to have the capability of doing commercial transactions. I’m doing this from memory, but the gist was:
5 years earlier, 95% of consumers surveyed said they’d use their cellphones for buying things. 3 years earlier, 50% said they’d use their cellphones for buying things. And that year (when it was finally possible), only 1% said they’d use their cellphones that way.
This is a perennial source of angst in the audiobook community.
Here I work for an audiobook company, and still, I flinch a bit when I tell someone at a cocktail party that I just read ‘Seven Habits’.
I worry that because they know my background, they’ll respond with, “Did you actually READ it? Or listen to it?” I should be more worried that they ask, “Then why are you such an inefficient schmuck?”
I honestly believe that the manner in which one consumes a book is irrelevant. One of my first audiobooks, “First Among Equals” by Geoffrey Archer, I read while driving around New England with my wife. We later divorced, but I’m almost certain it had nothing to do with my listening to the book instead of reading it.
Anyway, several years later, I couldn’t immediately remember if I’d read the paperback or listened to the audiobook.
That, I think, is the real test. As long as you remember the content, then it doesn’t make any difference. So to all you out there that believe you can only use the verb “read” to mean holding an actual tome in one’s lap, hands, or clenched trembling fingers… try to defend yourself without using the word ‘purity’.
By the way, if you still flinch at cocktail parties, you might want to take a look at the Chautauqua series of famous lecturers. They’re lectures, so it’s only natural to say you listened to them. Then all you have to worry about is people asking if you actually went to Chautauqua. If you can’t remember if you went to Chautauqua – well, read this book.…