It’s an Old Prejudice

tapesWhen my wife was alive and commuting daily at least 45 minutes to work, she loved recorded books, mostly mysteries and usually abridged. For a few years I joined her in the commute and it was obvious how the recorded books relieved the tedium of the drive and I had to agree with her, the abridged versions left out a lot of boring description and made the trip more pleasant. Due to the number and size of the abridged tapes, she was enjoying a typical novel in just two days. Recorded books were, as they say, better than mayonnaise.

I knew a few readers that used recorded books to cover the hours washing dishes, weeding the garden, or ironing the sheets (they still do that?). Being an avid reader myself, I tried recorded books, thinking it was another avenue to expand my reading. What a disaster!

First, I was bored listening to the tapes. Even exciting stories drug on to the last syllable of recorded text. I suggest two reasons: first, the readers were slow and methodical, reading much slower than I would if I was reading the same book, and second, I found my imagination disengaged from the story and lazily allowed the reader to interpret it all for me. Yawn. As you might surmise, I actually gave up on recorded books because I kept falling asleep and then spending more time trying to find my place back on the tape (or worse on CD) and to re-listen to the parts I snored my way through initially.

Now that I am old and having some eyes trouble, I have shifted from ink and paper books to digital versions on my iPad. I recently got the big idea to subscribe to an online source of recorded books to further save my eyes. Looking through the catalogue I was quite excited: they had recorded copies of big fat books and older classics that I had not found or purchased in digital form. I started with The Golden Notebook and just dipped into Doctor Zhivago.

images.jpgBut I quickly realized that I still needed to have the printed text in front of me to fully ingest the entire import of the text. At first I wondered if I needed the audio version if I was still reading the printed text? I rationalized that, despite the tediously slow cadence of the reader, the recorded version functioned as a sort of metronome that kept me reading and helped me to focus my attention and not wander around in my head. Also, I tried using the digital voice on the computer to read the digital texts with varying results; the audio recording at least seldom butchered the pronunciation of less common words.

But as fate would have it, I fell asleep listening to Doris Lessing and later discovered the almost impossible task of trying to resynchronize the text with the recording and to resume the narrative at the spot I last remembered as I drifted off to sleep. I did this more than once and realized I was never sure I wasn’t rereading great chunks of prose or even worse, skipping over some important part of the story.

My current analysis is much as  I concluded back in the ’90s: recorded books might be good for long car trips but they suck as a replacement for any kind of reading. I’m going to increase the font size on my iPad and consider increasing the strength of my reading glasses. If it gets really bad I can always stream my digital book to an app that reads text even if it means some words will be undecipherable (like covfefe?). 


One thought on “It’s an Old Prejudice

  1. I listen to a fair amount of audio books these days while doing other things. As to the speed, if you can access Overdrive through your local library, you can change the speed of the playback. 115% – 125% works really well for me. One reader I know who listens on some device can also change the speed.

    The books that are the easiest as far as keeping up with the storyline are series mysteries since I’m already familiar with the characters and usually the locale.

    (P. S. Never ironed my sheets, never will. Actually I don’t even have an iron and haven’t since the 70s. If it’s not wash and wear, forget it, lol. Way better than sliced bread or even mayo for this lazynik.)


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