The 36-Year-Old Audiobook Virgin

Greg Zimmerman

Staff Writer

Greg Zimmerman blogs about contemporary literary fiction at The New Dork Review of Books and holds down a full-time gig as a trade magazine editor. Follow him on Twitter: @NewDorkReview.

It’s confession time. I am an audiobook virgin. I’ve never done it — never “read” an audiobook. It’s not something I’m incredibly ashamed of, it’s just something that’s never happened.

You may have seen Rachel and Cassandra’s really entertaining Audiophiles columns: debunking the myths of audiobooks, discussing their first times with audiobooks, and providing a great list of 11 audiobooks to help listeners enjoy their first times. And in this week’s Book Riot podcast, Jeff and Rebecca riffed on the report about audiobooks’ increasing popularity — how technology has made it easier, cheaper, and much more convenient. (No longer are we ripping 12 CDs of an audiobook into iTunes in order to listen on our phones or iPods.)

The pressure is mounting. I’m almost convinced to throw caution to the wind and give one a try. Almost.

But let’s back up, and look at the reasons why I’m a 36-year-old audiobook virgin. My reading life is arranged such that I’ve never felt like audiobooks are something I needed. I work at home, so don’t commute to work (and when I did, I listened to the news or very loud rock music). I’m not a “gym exerciser” or runner, so no-go there. (I am a biker, but it seems that homing in on a Dan Brown chapter-ending cliffhanger may not be conducive to successfully dodging Chicago traffic.) And I can’t imagine just vegging out on the couch and listening. If I’m going to do that, why not just read?

Still, even as I concede that Rachel and Cassandra are right about the eight myths — that audiobook narrators aren’t annoying (but they are sometimes, right? They’d have to be!), or that audiobooks aren’t cheating (the content is still the same), that it’s not hard to follow an audiobook while you’re doing other stuff (my undiagnosed ADD might claim otherwi….SQUIRREL), or that audiobooks aren’t less intimate (cue Barry White?), it’s always been tough for me to get past the fact that listening is, by definition, less active than reading. It totally is! It’s the one hurdle to audiobooks I’ve never been able to scale. I like the “control” of reading at my own pace. I like the ability to stop and admire a sentence. I like to be able to speed up or slow down, depending on what’s happening. And you know what? I friggin’ like my own voice! (It’s more comfortable, anyway.)

Look, I fully realize that audiobooks don’t replace “traditional” books — that most audiobook readers do so in certain situations or at certain times, and still very much enjoy traditional books as well. And so all this said (the Rioter writes just as he’s about to totally reverse positions), I’m willing to give it a go! I like to think of myself, as we all do, as an open-minded reader, and new books things are good bookish things. Cassandra and Rachel’s post about losing your audiobook virginity was great — but I’d love to hear from Riot readers, as well. What advice do you have? What should I try first?

I’m excited! When I’ve finished, I’ll report back on the experience.


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