The problem with audiobooks

I am a huge fan of audiobooks and I have one on the go all the time for a couple of years now.

But recently I think I have noticed a flaw. It won’t stop me from continuing to listen to audiobooks-I most certainly will-but I will be aware of a small problem. Let me explain.

Recently, I listened to ‘Anna Karenina’ by Tolstoy and was slightly disappointed with the book. I wondered what all the fuss was about. I wondered why this book is considered to be one of the finest works of fiction ever written.

So, I have begun to revisit the book, except this time I am reading it, not listening. And it is a completely different, more enjoyable experience.

The writing is so good, so nuanced and subtle that there are passages that must be read and reread to appreciate what is being said. And, of course, Tolstoy’s penchant for telling us what the characters are actually thinking as they speak is evident when you read slowly.

But when you listen to the audiobook you run the risk of missing out on a great deal of the subtlety and high-quality writing. For your mind is inclined to wander if you are driving or exercising or engaged in some other activity as you listen to your book.

I am finding that reading ‘Anna Karenina’ is a far more enjoyable experience, and the ability to read as slowly as you choose and to reread, if you wish, enhances that enjoyment tremendously.

This is something you miss with the audiobook. Yes, I know you can slow down the narration. And yes, I know you can hit the rewind button.

But it is not the same as reading the written word and is far more disruptive.

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