Wednesday, June 15, 2011


I don't know who has the power to decide such things (I suspect the answer is "anyone"), but I saw today that June is "Audiobook Month." That "fact" won't change what I've been doing with regards to audiobooks, but it does give me ample excuse for writing about them. Which is convenient, since it's 11 p.m., I want to go to bed but can't come up with anything more substantive for a topic.

For me, this could well be the year of the audiobook. I've consumed the words in a mere 14 books so far this year, but fully ten of those have been audiobooks. To some extent, this is because we've done a fair amount of driving this year, from visiting my mom in Ohio when she was in the hospital to the regular sorts of trips that come up, but that's only half the story. The other half comes down to sheer availability.

When I lived in Providence, RI, I naturally had a library card. One perk of a Providence Public Library card was that I could check out audiobooks by downloading them onto my computer and from there either burning CDs or just putting them onto an iPod or mp3 player. In theory, the books expire after the lending period is up, but if one listens to them on CDs or an mp3 player, there appears to be no way for the library to enforce that. In any case, this service gave me access to quite a number of fiction and non-fiction works, and now Indiana's Evergreen system of libraries is offering the same kind of arrangement. And did I mention that I've continued using my Providence library card for the past 3 years even though I don't exactly live within the Providence city limits any more?

I don't just listen to audiobooks in the car, and this has caused occasional friction at home. I like, for instance, to listen to books while I'm doing household chores like cooking or washing dishes, walking the dog or doing laundry or picking up around the house. Probably 95% of the time, this is not a problem, but for the 5% of those times when my wife is trying to speak to me, well, she gets frustrated when I don't answer or have to fumble around with iPod controls, and even more so when I have to wash and dry my hands before fumbling around with iPod controls, or when I only mentally "surface" briefly enough to answer whatever question I'm being asked and then dive back into the waters of my audiobook.

Her response is, of course, understandable, as is my desire to fill the time when I'm doing tasks that don't require much mental attention. I've tried to be more judicious in my listening, but I've probably failed. When I'm all on my own, at any rate, is a perfect time to listen to audiobooks, including but not limited to the time when I'm out using my chainsaw. I have noise-dampening headphones to block out my power-tool-generated decibels, and they also let me listen to an mp3 player.

I've also discovered that, although I may miss out on some of the nuance that the voice actors have been paid to provide, I can set my iPod to play audiobooks at 2x speed and take it all in just fine. At least, I can with fiction--non-fiction might demand more time to ponder. But for someone who craves stories, audiobooks have been a good way to satisfy that desire.

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