In 2002, I joined Audible and began binging on Audiobooks. We had recently moved to a new house which tripled my commute to 30 minutes, so I retasked the 15″ woofers in my 16 year old little truck to the spoken word. I felt like I was making the most of my car time, and was selective enough that I enjoyed most of what I was reading. Or hearing. Or whatever it is.
In the year or two to follow, podcasts began taking root, soon blooming into a cultural norm. I found that words that were meant for listening were often easier to follow than words meant for reading. I filled my soap bar shaped iPod with recorded live audio, usually from conferences or churches, that had been published as podcasts. Soon after, studio recordings meant for podcasting, like TWiT and later, 5by5, joined my subscription queue.
I’ve not had a commute to a particular place for many years now, but still find enough time in my car to fill my ears with things that interest me. And maybe even things that make me a better me.
As 2011 was wrapping up, I revisited audiobooks. I wanted to return to the longer form exploration of ideas that books could offer. The longer format makes for a larger exploration of a theme, and the ideas explored have more permanence, shaping my thinking in ways that may matter for months or years, instead of weeks.
(I’m not done with podcasts, for sure. I still subscribe to a number of tech and general interest podcasts using Instacast. Some of these podcasters I even call friends. Heck…I even co-host a (kind-of) monthly podcast. But I’ve started listening to podcasts more while sitting at my desk making websites. The conversational nature is easier to follow than an audiobook with while I’m engaged in other tasks.)
I’ve found a treasure of downloadable Audiobooks are available through my local library. I’ve also rejoined Audible to get a monthly credit — the most difficult thing is choosing how to use it each month — and the Audible iPhone app is great.
Some types of books work better in audio than others. Those that hold my attention best are narrative formats like memoir or biography. (And I suppose fiction too, though I haven’t tried it.) Books based around practical ideas work well for me too — right now I’m reading Moonwalking With Einstein, by Joshua Foer. Books that are more conceptual, like philosophy or theology, don’t work as well, and I’d prefer to hunch over those with the means to highlight and take notes as I go.
Reading is good. When I don’t read, when I don’t engage with the ideas that come from others, my own idea flow begins to dwindle. I’ve spent more time making websites the last few years, and had less time to read. Thankfully, audiobooks are making up for some of that — I’ve already worked through five of them in 2012.
If you want to give Audible a try, I recommend it. (The Audible links here are affiliate links, in the interest of disclosure.) But I’d also suggest you take a look at your local library. You might find a few months worth of commutes there.