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For many, listening is a great way of passing the tedious hours of commuting. Others find audiobooks calming while they drive. Some plug in while walking the dog, or jogging, or at the gym, or doing housework.
For myself, I started listening to books at night, when I couldn't sleep. In those days I ran a business and was far more stressed than I realised. I started trying to escape my worries by tuning in to the World Service, but I found that if music came on it woke me up. There's something incredibly soothing and restful about the sound of the human voice. I invested in a CD player and took myself off to the local library, where the choice was rather limited. Because of that, I found myself listening to genres and books I would never normally have chosen, which certainly widened my horizons!
There are many disadvantages to CDs though. If you came to the end of one, you had to wake up enough to find the next one and change over, all in the dark so as not to wake up a slumbering partner. Sleep – the ultimate goal – receded further.
Then came the iPod, and a whole new necessary range of skills. Now it's easy to download books right onto the device, and the choice is staggering. But if you do fall asleep, you have to try to discover exactly where you were at the time. I've had some interesting experiences – I once listened to most of a Poirot before realising I had missed the murder!
Which brings me to the whole experience of listening, rather than reading.
It's hard to skip over bits you think might bore you – long descriptive passages, for example – in order to 'get on with' the story. You just don't know what vital clues you might be missing. It's hard to flick back to something you might want to listen to again, because locating it is difficult. So, rather as on a Kindle, you have to keep going forward. This makes some titles almost impossible to listen too (for me): Wolf Hall was one such book. I just couldn't get to grips with who was talking or what had happened when.
These are, perhaps, small negatives, but there are huge positives too. A good reader can bring a book to life. A great reader can be entrancing. You can find books on Audible (the site I subscribe to) by narrator as well as by author or title or genre, so it's possible to find great new books you might never have tried before. (On the flipside, of course, an irritating reader can kill a book stone dead.)
You are kind of forced to listen to the words as the author meant them to be perused, ie, all of the words. The work takes on a different dimension. If you listen, as I do, while trying to get to sleep, you will inevitably miss bits and have to listen to parts again while trying to find where you were (I set my auto switch off to 30 minutes so I am never too far adrift). So you get to know some bits quite well!
The other downside for me is that if the story becomes too gripping, I get caught up in it rather than getting to sleep! But that's because of my own listening proclivities.
In my opinion, it's a completely different experience from reading, but adds another dimension, and a very welcome one.
What do others think?