Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.
I have an ongoing debate with my wife…when I listen to a book, did I “read” it? When book discussions come up and I comment that I’ve read something, she is quick to correct me. “You mean you listened to it, right, babe?” “Thank’s very much for clarifying that, dear.” Several discussions on this topic have not moved us any closer to agreement. To her, listening is not the same as reading.
This seemed to be an appropriate topic for my first post as a subject expert on the DBW blog. When Jeremy Greenfield, Editorial Director for Digital Book World, asked if I’d be interested in writing for DBW, I wondered what exactly I’d blog about if I signed on. I cofounded christianaudio, an audiobook publishing start up about eight years ago and have quite a bit of domain expertise related to audio publishing. Before that I worked for a technology provider primarily in the eCommerce space. More recently I have been building an ebook delivery platform that many Christian entities are now running on.
As I think through what to blog about on this site, the first question that came to mind is whether or not my audiobook experience is relevant here. I believe it is, so I plan to write a bit about the audiobook industry. eCommerce topics are also germane since most of us are trying to sell the content we publish! My most recent experience, however, may be most applicable since it directly relates to a problem many independent publishing houses have, that is selling digital products to folks reading their books.
Back to the topic at hand. Although I must concede that listening is not reading, the end result of both activities is very similar for many. Sure, you can’t underline an audiobook. But think about it, when was the last time you actually went back and read all those highlights?
True, you can’t flip back a few pages in an audiobook and re-familiarize yourself with that character who’s come back into the plot. You can click back a couple of tracks, though, if necessary and re-listen to a section or two. Let’s face it, in either case that’s not something that we usually need to do.
“I can read faster than I can listen,” you say? Ever tired the 2X, 3X speeds on your iPod?
“I can’t follow audiobooks, reading is way easier.” With practice following audiobooks is easier than reading for many people.
The truth is that listening sometimes unnecessarily gets a bad rap. It’s true, some books are better in print or “e” format. But the opposite is true as well. Some books are better as audiobooks. I commuted for about five years from North San Diego county to Irvine – about 1.5 hours one way. Durning that time I became an audiobookoholic. I devoured them (mostly classics because that’s what was available from my local library) and became particularly fond of the Russians. Let me tell you that the average person has a much better shot at getting through the audio versions of Crime and Punishment and War and Peace – go Simon Vance! Just keeping the names straight is a deal breaker for some. The narrator glides through them and provides character voices to keep everything manageable. Just sit back and enjoy.
Full disclosure, I bought a lot of these books after listening to them and made notes in sections. I didn’t, however, feel a need to read them…because I had. I just wanted to be able to quote a section or two and re-read a chapter because I couldn’t help myself.
My opinion is that in the near future, reading and listening may become completely ubiquitous as our desire for content begins to transcend the reading context. Enhanced books will eventually give audio a more prominent and deserved position in the format hierarchy. More to come on that topic as well.