Reading vs Listening

Reading vs Listening

Main Points
• Audiobooks are great for consuming information but don’t teach as much as actual reading.
• Reading books gives better insight into the actual writing process.

I have a confession to make. I rarely read anymore. I know that’s ironic with me wanting to be an author and everything. I just find it hard to lie there doing nothing but focus on words. Reading pretty much requires 100% attention. You might get away with listening to music, but have you ever tried reading while exercising, driving, or cleaning? It rarely works.

Once I’m engaged, I enjoy reading, but it takes me a while to get started. Sometimes, I just set the book down and do something that draws me in faster like video games, TV, or movies.

Audible The Great Lie
When I found Audible, my life changed forever (no joke). They’re an Amazon company that sells very cheap audiobooks (the lowest priced membership can nab audiobooks for less than $10 when they normally go for $30 a pop). I’m good at learning through audio, so I got hooked instantly, especially with their speed up feature where you can play books at up to triple speed.

I loved it! I started listening in earnest. All told, I currently have 207 titles in my library, have reached ‘Master’ Audible level, and have listened for a total of 1 month, 5 days, and 23 hours. So many books! And I’ve loved most of them. Some, I wouldn’t have been able to get through except for Audible as the pacing was too slow or the prose didn’t jive with me (I’ve tried reading the book version vs Audible different times). As a plus, I could listen while I was driving, cleaning, taking a walk, exercising, etc.

It was great to feel like I was reading again, and LOTS of authors say you should read extensively to improve your craft. I wouldn’t have ever read as much as I’ve listened to. But the problem with Audible, and any other audio book, is they’re terrible teachers of craft. For one, I generally listen at 2x to 2.5x speed on most books so the plots fly by. I’m enjoying the story, but it’s hard to notice the details. What was that one quote? How did the author introduce that character or subplot?

Actual Reading Into the Nitty-gritty
To learn, it’s so much more useful to actually read a book. You pick up syntax and grammar pointers. How does the author overcome always saying, “she did this, she did that?” How are they starting off each chapter? How are they ending each one? How is the structure set up? Do they use any wording you can use to replace common phrases like, “he turned,” “she looked,” etc.?

The audio is WAY too fast to pick up on this. When I’ve gone back through some of my favorite books, I’ve had to hit the thirty-second rewind button multiple times to figure out one point. In a book, I’d simply look at the place I’m interested in. Usually when we read, we do it for enjoyable. But if we reread a novel, we can do it to learn AND enjoy.

Having said that, audio is much faster, at least for me. If I want the story and I want it now, it’s Audible. If I want to learn what the author is doing, reading is better. The exception when an audio book is better is when I want a quick overview or I want to do a pacing analysis but that’s about it.

So I’d recommend reading more. Physical copies and electronic copies. Read for enjoyment but also start noticing how authors are writing. You’ll find a wealth of knowledge just doing that.

But what works for you? How do you feel about reading vs using audiobooks? Has one been more beneficial than the other?


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