I have a habit of saying, “I read that book,” but what I really mean is I listened to that book. I discovered books-on-tape in my local library two decades ago. Often, as many as 18 cassette tapes would sit inside the clunky black cases holding a world of prose from every genre. Let me tell you why I fell in love with them.
I’d spent years dreaming about listening to stories on my daily drudge to and from work. The radio yielded short, serial mysteries that were sometimes amateurish and always unsatisfying. Most ended with forty-five minutes left for me to sit in bumper-to-bumper traffic with nothing to do.
Finally, Recorded Books appeared in my library and my life changed. I enjoyed bestsellers, the classics, self-help, and romance. Whenever a discussion came up, “Yes I’ve read that,” I’d shout. My reputation as a voracious reader grew, and I never felt guilty accepting the admiration. (I’ve read the articles written by “real readers” who say listening is cheating. I’m not even going to address that.)
The hardest part of listening to audio books while driving was changing them out. Often the tape inside the cassette would get stuck in the cassette player and I’d need to pull over on the expressway to coax it out and spool it back inside with a pencil. No way was I driving home without my book.
When Recorded Books switched over to compact discs that made listening while driving so much easier. The multi disk players that automakers had installed for music CD’s allowed me to load four disks of books at once. My days of hassling with loading and unloading tapes were over. My God! The story could continue. Many times I drove past my exit listening to a part in the book that was so good, I forgot I’d been driving more than an hour.
I made my move toward Audible in 2005. Chain bookstores like Kroch’s and Brentano’s and Borders were closing shop. The first book I purchased from Audible was The Truth About Hillary by Edward Klein. It was an unauthorized, uncomplimentary look at the former First Lady in which the author pondered how far Mrs. Clinton would go to become President of the United States.
My second purchase was On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King. I read it again and again. No explanation necessary, right? In On Writing…, the Master tells us how to do it.
I try to balance my Audible listening with the reading of ebooks. There are several indie books I read each month. That, added to my own writing, means I have little time to sit and listen to books anymore. My best times to enjoy an audio book are long walks, washing the dishes, or making the occasional long drive.
I’ve just finished “Sister of Mine: A Novel” by Sabra Waldfogelon on Audible. Because it’s seventeen hours and 21 minutes long, this would’ve taken me through two weeks of travel time when I was commuting. It took more than a month to finish it and the book was awesome. I’m considering adding it to my Kindle to read again.
When did you first fall in love with audio books?
Tomorrow, I compare the good and bad of audio books. See you then.