Friday, June 17, 2011

Audiobooks

Perhaps I've talked about this before - I'm not sure.

What I've noticed more and more, is that the radio is annoying. It is the same songs, all sounding the same, played over and over again. Or it is the news, a bunch of big-headed opinions, news, etc. Or it is the same station that plays at work all day.

Meanwhile, just listening to nothing is boring. I could be listening for any weird noises my car makes, or the ignorant honking of the guy in the next lane, but I'd rather not.

The conclusion that I have come to is that it is great fun to listen to audiobooks while I drive.

Most people I talk to don't get it, and that's okay. If there is anyone else in the car I dutifully turn my book off or switch to the radio - they don't know what's going on in the story, and it would be antisocial to play it. Occasionally someone (lastly, mom) will borrow the car and gripe that my audiobook was playing, and that they couldn't figure out how to get the radio to turn on. That usually means my spot is lost, but that is okay - I have a 6-disc changer in my car, so I just look at the disc and track before turning my car off each time.

I have had a few people ask me if listening to audiobooks while driving is distracting - a good argument, since you are putting your mind in a different world from that of the vehicles around you. However, I have never found that it interferes with my ability to focus on the road... mainly because of the type of stories that I have chosen.

The biggest obstacle I have noticed in listening to audiobooks while driving is that it has to be a light, airy book - namely, a summer read - because if there is too much detail to keep track of, then it gets confusing and you have to focus to hard, or constantly rewind to figure out what is going on. Most of the books that I listen to are either romances or teen-type books - gossipy, self-focused and airy. These are the easiest to listen to, because in the end the details don't really matter - you know what is going on anyway.

Audiobooks in themselves are very expensive to buy, especially if you don't intend to re-listen to them on a regular basis. There are other options however. Initially I went the (illegal) downloading route. There is almost any book that has been converted to audiobook out there for the grabs, and all you have to do is download it onto your iPod, and plug it into the car (through a radio converter in your cigarette lighter). I found that I was getting to many viruses on my computer however, and quit after downloading only two books.

Alternately, you can get many of the classic books (and some others) for free online. You have to be careful, because many sites will let you download samples that will just quite a couple chapters in, but there are some good sites out there. A couple that I used most are: Books Should be Free and Open Culture. However, I didn't last more than a handful of audiobooks in this method either, because I was using my iPod (on shuffle) at the gym, and wasn't appreciating when a chapter of my audiobooks would pop up.

What I've actually been doing now is borrowing the audiobooks from one of the local libraries. While the selection is more limited, there are still several to choose from, and they come in either CD or cassette format, making them easy to listent to (without needing my iPod!). In the case of my library, the loan is for 21 days. I find that if all I'm doing is driving to and from work, I finish an audiobook in a couple days short of that amount of time - if I go on a trip during this time (ie/ home to the farm), I can usually finish one per trip.

A couple people have suggested listening to books that are 'actually educational' while I am driving, but I can't see the point unless it is for long trips. For just driving too and from work, I feel that it would be too chopped up (and again, the detail thing.)

Right now I am listening to "Twenties Girl" by Sophie Kinsella. I am a fan of her books, especially in audio format because they are quite easy to listen to (aside from the occasional screeching of a characters voice), and don't require a lot of attention to follow along. I think Kinsella is one auther of whom I can honestly say I have never actually read a book, but have listened to almost all of them. (Except for confessions of a shopoholic - that series grates me the wrong way.)



Overall, I think that listening to books in the car is almost meditative. It brings your thoughts away from the last task and helps you prepare for the next - namely, you stop thinking about work because you are distracted by the story, and when your drive is done you are ready for whatever comes next!

(For reference: my drive to/from work is about 20 minutes each way.)

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