Six Years of Audiobooks

I finished my very first audiobook, Misery by Stephen King (narrated by Lindsay Crouse) on February 23, 2013. I was thinking of this yesterday because it’s been just about six years since that first audiobook, and a strange thing happened.

I was in the carpool lane at my kids’ school sitting in the rain and waiting for the kinds to emerge from the building. I was listening to an audiobook, of course, The Stephen King Companion by George Beahm–a remarkable book for any Stephen King fan–and happened to glance at the Audible app to see how much time I’d listened so far. I accidentally clicked on the Total tab instead Daily tab, and this is what I saw:

Audible Listening Time

I happened to glance at the app just as I hit 6 months of listening time. In my head, I immediately thought back to when I started, and realized that it was February 2013–six years. I had spent a full half year out of the last 6 years doing nothing but listening to audiobooks. Put another way, since February 2013, 2 hours of my day each and every day are spent listening to audiobooks.

When you have been blogging as long as I have (since late 2005, with well over 6,000 posts to show for it), you are bound to see changes. I’m often amused by a post I wrote in 2012 where I claimed, unequivocally, that audiobooks were not for me. It turns out that audiobooks freed me up in more ways than one.

From January 1996 to mid-February 2013, a span of 17 years, I read 501 books, or about 29 books a year on average. From mid-February 2013 to right down to the present moment, a span of 6 years, I read 360 books, or about 51 books a year. Of those 360 books, 318 were audiobooks.

I’ve long since given up the debate on whether or not reading or listening to an audiobook amounted to the same thing. I think they do, and that satisfies me. (Abridgments, on the other hand…) Audiobooks have allowed me to read far more than I could before. In part this is because I can multitask while I listen to a book, with varying degrees of success depending upon what I am doing and what I am reading. In part this is because I’ve learned to listen at increasingly faster speeds. The book I’m listening to now is playing at 1.75x speed, for example.

But the availability of audiobooks have allowed me to branch out to things I might not otherwise try. (I read William Manchester’s three volume biography of Winston Churchill, for instance, which I might not have done were it not available as an audiobook and I could listen to it while walking and exercising.)

Whereas I naively complained in 2012 that I preferred my own internal voice to that of any voice actor, I have found that some narrators add a dimension to a book that pushes it over the top. Craig Wasson did this for Stephen King’s 11/22/63. I will seek out narrators and often find books I might not have read because I enjoy the narrator so much.

There are still some areas where audiobooks have problems. It’s not easy to highlight passages in an audiobook. Over time, I’ve learned that if I want to take notes on an audiobook, I’ll usually have the e-book edition (or a paper edition) handy to mark up alongside the audio version.

It was pretty amazing to see that total time roll over to 6 months. I suspect it won’t take me another 6 years to get to 12 months, however. The pace of my reading has picked up, thanks to audiobooks. Last year I read 130 books, more than doubling the number of books I read in any prior year going back to 1996. I expect to read at least 100 books this year. That’s an average of about 140 hours of listening time each month, or 1,680 hours of listening time each year. At that rate, it will only take me about 2-1/2 years before I reach 12 month of listening time. Check back with me in August 2021 and let’s see how close I come.

4 thoughts on “Six Years of Audiobooks

  1. I’m currently having an audiobook reading slump. Have you ever had one of these? How would you suggest to get back into it? Partially I think it’s because the times I could be listening to an audiobook are also the times I could be reading, so I end up reading instead. This was not a problem before, like I said, I’m definitely in a slump. Went from listening everyday to not listening at all.

  2. Kathy, I started with audiobooks to better fill in the time I had where I could listen to a book while doing other things: commuting, chores around the house (washing dishes, folding laundry, mopping floors, etc.), and exercising and walking. That typically allowed me to get in 2 hours or so of listening each day. I still read paper (and e-) books, but reserved the audiobooks for times when I couldn’t physically read a books.

  3. Do you read the same books you are listening to or are you reading something in physical and something else in audiobook? I’ve started listening again (inspired by you) and my house is pristine! =P

  4. Kathy, often I am reading different print/e-books from the audiobook I am listening to. For instance, at the moment I am listening to Lisey’s Story by Stephen King, but reading a paper (ARC) version of Jack McDevitt’s Octavia Gone (which comes out in May). That said, with certain nonfiction, when I know I want to take a lot of notes or highlight a lot of passages, I will often listen to the audiobook version and follow along in paper/e-book at the same time.

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