I’ll be honest: since the pandemic began, my attention span has been on a steady decline. Nowadays I watch movies on Netflix in ten minute chunks, because that’s how long I can hold out before I’m clicking away to something else. Between having the attention span of a gnat and not having my usual commute or routine, I haven’t been reading much. Sitting down with a book makes me feel restless, which is frustrating because I’ve built so much of my identity around being a reader. Lately, it’s more my speed to listen to a mindless podcast while I play Animal Crossing (I seem to need at least two forms of distraction at any one time).
I’ve been an audiobook listener for many years, but I haven’t listened much since I stopped having a commute. I find podcasts easier, because I don’t have to keep track of plot points, and they’re generally lighter than the books I gravitate towards. I had begun to accept that I just wasn’t going to be getting through a lot of books—physical, ebook, or audiobook—until I started watching Ashley (Bookish Realm)’s YouTube channel.
I highly recommend checking out her channel, because she makes a ton of reading vlogs, has a lot of videos about being a librarian, her adorable daughter makes some appearances, and you’re going to love it. She also reads just a staggering amount of books, despite being a mom and having a full time job. In her videos How to Read More and Audiobooking 101, she mentions how she gets through a lot of these books by always having an audiobook on, and usually listening to audiobooks at 2x or 1.5x speed.
This isn’t the first time that I’ve heard about people listening to audiobooks on double speed, but I never really considered it for myself before this. The strange thing is, I watch almost all BookTube or general YouTube videos on double speed or 1.5x. Because of my short attention span, I get impatient with people speaking slowly. (Or, you know…normally.) Watching videos on double speed with captions is the ideal, and it’s the only way I can watch a full YouTube video before scrolling down to the comments.
I hadn’t considered doing the same thing with audiobooks because I assumed that with an audio-only format, I wouldn’t be able to follow it. I have trouble processing audio sometimes, which is why captions are so helpful. I wasn’t sure if I could keep up with even a 1.5x audiobook. After watching Ashley’s videos and considering, though, I downloaded a middle grade audiobook: Clean Getaway by Nic Stone. I figured that a middle grade book would give me the best chance of actually following the story. After realizing that my duvet needed to be mended, I put on Clean Getaway on double speed and got to sewing.
For the first five minutes or so, it was strange to hear the narrator speaking so quickly. I didn’t have any trouble figuring out what he was saying or keeping up with the story, though, and after the first chapter, I stopped even registering that it was unusual. I was shocked to look up after finishing with my sewing to realize that the book was over. I had been completely absorbed and had apparently sat there for hours, examining the entire perimeter of my blanket and fixing any minor tears, without noticing how much time had passed.
This audiobook listening practice could definitely make a major shift in how many books I go through in a year. I also found that instead of being hard to follow, I was less distracted with an audiobook on double speed. Just like in my video watching, listening on faster speed meant I had to devote a little more brain power to it, which kept my mind from drifting towards other things.
I’ve always been a picky audiobook listener, so I’m sure that there will only be some audiobooks that work on double speed for me. It will have to be a narrator who speaks very clearly already, and one with an accent that I’m familiar with. At least for now, I’m going to be sticking to books that have a pretty straightforward plot, or at least ones that if I miss a sentence, I’m not going to be completely lost. Maybe once I get used to listening on double speed, I’ll be able to do all my audiobooks this way—which would mean I could listen to twice as many!
I’m interested to know how common listening on double or 1.5 speed is. If you’re an audiobook listener, do you always listen on a certain speed—and which one? Do you vary it depending on the book—speeding up slow narrators and sticking to 1x for fast talkers? I look forward to experimenting and seeing how this option changes my audiobook listening.