My Love Hate Relationship with Audiobooks

by | Mar 11, 2022 | Personal Development, Productivity

Am I striving for exposure to new ideas – and lots of them? Or am I hoping to go deep on a subject and really absorb the content? Or am I hoping to spark new ideas that will be jumping off points for content and future thoughts?

There are so many reasons to consume books and audiobooks, but how do you decide which one?

Audiobooks have been essential in my life, I’ve learned a ton, but I also feel like I’ve missed a lot. In this life stage of having kids, a house, a job, consulting clients, and oodles of dishes to clean as my wife works long hours too, it seem paramount that I listen to audiobooks to learn. Reading a physical book just isn’t feasible on a regular basis. But is an audiobook really best for me?

The biggest reason I love audiobooks is that I can multitask. And the biggest reason I hate audiobooks is that I can multitask.

Part of me feels inspiration, the momentum, and a few sparks of inspiration from a good audiobook, but the other part of me feels like I’m running so fast I only had time to pick up a $5 bill I found on the sidewalk when there was 10 others next to it.

What I Really Love About Audiobooks:

  • I can multitask and do mundane tasks while listening
  • I can listen to it anywhere because I always have my phone, I don’t always have a book
  • I get to listen to the authors voice and tone as they read (sometimes)
  • I can buy one in about 4 clicks and download it in 2 minutes

This is a pretty great list of benefits, and it makes it really easy to consume a lot of content quickly. But quickly isn’t always the goal. I don’t read a ton, but my bookshelf (what I call the box of books in my closet) is probably bigger than the average person. However, staring at that box of books I feel like I really only appreciated and absorbed bits and pieces. One of my biggest regrets is not taking good notes and writing my own thoughts.

That’s why the last 2 or 3 books I’ve read I’ve taken notes while reading and I believe it has brought so much extra value. I remember more, I connect it to other situations, and I write questions for myself to ponder later. Now, I also signed up to a subscription with Audible, Amazon’s audiobook service. They sucked me in with their book-a-month pricing strategy that seems so much cheaper than buying the physical book or individual audio books. So I felt I had to use up those credits, and bought a few audiobooks.

That brings me to right now when I feel like I’ve just listened to half an audiobook and barely had a chance to take a note. When I’m at home doing the dishes, I might have an opportunity to pull out my phone or laptop and take a note or two, then get back to my task at hand. But when I’m driving, the story changes entirely. When I’m grocery shopping it’s the same thing. I can’t just keep stopping to take notes.

However, that’s only the beginning of my problem with audiobooks – here’s the full list.

What I Hate About Audiobooks:

  • I’m a visual learner, and seeing words on the page, headings, and a book title are valuable to me in remembering what I consumed.
  • Taking notes means that you have to pause it, stop your current activity, take a note, and start again – and sometimes you just can’t.
  • There are no page numbers to reference when taking notes. I know I know, you can add bookmarks on your app, but it’s not the same as writing a page number in your notepad or writing a note in the book margin.
  • You can’t skim sections – specifically when going back to jog your memory about a previous section or to remind yourself of a thought you had previously.
  • You can’t capture quotes nearly as easily. I typically have to rewind like 3 or 4 times if I want to grab a quote and write it down.
  • I can’t set the book on a shelf or my desk as a trigger to think about a topic. Sometimes the book jacket is enough to remind you of a concept, and that serendipity can be valuable when you’re in a different frame of mind or hashing through a project.

Well it’s pretty clear after writing this article that I should stop listening to audiobooks, OR I can simply face the fact that my audiobook experience will be quite superficial and ensure that my audiobook selection is lighter in nature, fiction, or motivation so that I’m not missing out on too much conceptually.

Don’t get me wrong, books aren’t perfect either, particularly when a book is only printed in a 370 page hardcover and you take public transit to work in a city that rains 8 days out of 10. This limits your reading time to before bed, during lunch breaks, and on the weekends. But in a world where attention spans are shrinking, focus is lacking, and creativity is waning, the opportunity to rise above the crowd by diving deep is not something to turn away from.

Let’s all make a promise to ourselves that we will go beyond just consuming because “rich people read books”. Let’s make a commitment to go deep, to learn, to apply, and most importantly enjoy the process.

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