Bookish Musings: Audiobooks, Yea or Nay?


A couple weeks ago I did a discussion post on what everyone listens to while they’re reading, but a couple people mentioned audiobooks, and the whole thing got me thinking about *why* it is that I’m able to multitask with music in the background when so many others aren’t and if it has anything to do with my inability to listen to audiobooks.

So… I made a post about it πŸ™‚ And now we shall all discuss why we like or dislike audiobooks!

*Psst! This is 2021 me here to say this post is from 2016, and you’re welcome to keep reading it, but you might also enjoy my updated thoughts on why I like audiobooks now!*

I do not listen to audiobooks. I have tried. And I might be willing to try again, especially since Hoopla and Overdrive carry certain books I want only in audiobook format. But I just can’t do it, for various reasons. And those reasons are:

1) My mind drifts. As you may already know from my discussion about listening to music while I read, I’m able to have music on even while I’m doing cognitive things because I usually have no trouble zoning out audio to the background. In fact, my mind does it automatically most of the time, through no effort of my own. If I’m engaged in a conversation, that’s one thing. But if the sound is not something I’m actively participating in, my own thoughts just overtake it. Even if I’m only doing something with my hands, not anything that requires thinking, my mind will wander and before I know it I’ll have spent 30 minutes in lala land and missed three whole chapters. In order to listen to an audiobook, I literally have to sit there doing nothing but listening and intently focusing… and that’s both a waste of time and not fun.

2) In a similar vein, I don’t process information very well in audio format. I’m a visual learner. Maybe also a kinesthetic learner, if we’re going that deep. But either way, I’m just not an auditory learner. That’s why I always hated required attendance in lecture classes and usually spent the whole time sitting in the back reading from the textbook or doing homework for other classes. If I had sat there listening, I would’ve only wasted an hour because I would’ve grasped none of it and would’ve had to read the textbook anyway. The same applies to books. I can’t grasp the information or form the images in my head nearly as vividly.

3) They take too much time. I suppose if I had thought of audiobooks a few years ago when I spent 8 hours driving every other weekend or when I commuted an hour each way to school, I wouldn’t have this complaint. But now I don’t have a whole lot of time that I’m just free to listen while doing something else. And the slowness of the reading compared to the speed when I read in my head bothers me.

4) I can’t control the pacing. This is similar to #3 but not quite the same. Sometimes I may want to read faster, like in a fight scene. Other times I may want to read slower and savor something. Other times I may want to go back and re-read a line or a paragraph. Can’t do that with audiobooks (at least not easily).

5) I can’t save quotes. I’m a chronic quote-saver. My ebooks are full of highlights. My paperbacks have a million little pieces of paper in them to mark pages. But that’s another thing I can’t do with audiobooks.

So there you have it. The myriad of reasons why audiobooks are just not for me. But now I want to hear from all of you!


Talk to me!

For what reasons do you like/dislike audiobooks?
Are you a visual or auditory learner?
What kinds of things do you do while listening?


Your Thoughts


19 thoughts on “Bookish Musings: Audiobooks, Yea or Nay?

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  1. Daniela Ark

    Those are exactly the reasons I couldn’t listen to audio books either plus one more: the narrator!
    Many times the voice has nothing to do with how imagine the characters! But… One day there was a book I really wanted to “read” and I only found it in audio format. So I tried again and did it! Now audiobooks saved my blogging life because I don’t have much time to read at night and I’m exhausted when I get home. I still face the same challenges, especially my mind drifting, which then makes it even slower but it is the only way for now. So, I’d say it is possible! We, humans, usually adapt to anything

    1. Kristen Burns

      I’m glad you gave them another try since they ended up helping you out πŸ™‚ Like I said, I *might* give them another shot… but I don’t really have a NEED for them, at least not at the moment, since I still have some time to read. Possible isn’t the same as enjoyable though lol.

  2. Sara

    I’m right with you, I’ve tried to listen to audio books but it just doesn’t work for me. I walk a lot in the summer and other bloggers have said how great it is to listen to audio books while walking/exercising-ha, I ended up having to sit down on a park bench so I could focus on the book lol. I also can’t have multiple books going on at once (my scattered brain can’t keep them straight), so if I have an audio book going, then I can’t read a book at the same time, and that’s just not happening πŸ™‚

    1. Kristen Burns

      Haha, yes, I’d end up sitting on the bench just to listen too. I don’t do the multiple book thing either. It baffles me how anyone can read five books at once. I might be able to do two books if they were in different formats, like an audiobook and an ebook, but I’m not sure I’d want to. So that’s a good point too. If I have to focus solely on the audiobook, it’s going to take forever, and then I’ll just end up behind on my reading!

  3. Bookworm Brandee

    This is a great discussion, Kristen. I had never listened to an audiobook (except for Ken Burns’ Civil War but I was on a long driving trip by myself) until 2014. I listened to one at the strong recommendation of a blogging friend. I liked that one alright. But I’m like you…my mind drifts. So I didn’t try any more. But last year, I challenged myself to listen to ONE audiobook a quarter. I’d decided to give it the ol’ college try, you know. And I’ve now listened to 18. Here’s what I learned about audiobooks and myself: 1) I can listen while I’m driving, while I’m cleaning, or while I’m exercising. That’s it. 2) It *does* drive me batty that I can’t highlight quotes and important passages. 3) Narrators make or break audiobooks. I’ve found a few narrators that I LOVE. And I seek out books they narrate. I just finished a book where I wasn’t impressed with the narrator at all, so despite the fact that other people adore this story, I couldn’t wait for it to be over. 4) I’m a visual learner as well and stories I listen to do *not* stay in my memory as well as ones I’ve read. I can’t remember finer details if I hear them like I can if I see them.
    All in all though, I will continue to listen to audiobooks because I like being able to ‘read’ a book while I’m getting something else accomplished. Even if it won’t make as big an impact as it would have had I read it. (confession – I listened to a series and I loved it so much, I bought it in paperback so I could *read* it the second time around)
    Happy Thursday, Kristen!

    1. Bookworm Brandee

      I just realized that today is, in fact, Wednesday, not Thursday. So Happy Wednesday, Kristen. Obviously, my week seems like it’s flying by but is actually moving at a normal rate. *ha*

      1. Kristen Burns

        I didn’t even notice that you used the wrong day lol. I did my errands two days earlier than usual this week, so I’m all thrown off too, thinking it’s later than it is.

        I love doing these discussions, especially when I find out I’m not alone in my ways. Good to know I’m not the only person with a drifting mind! But maybe I should give audiobooks another chance since they ended up working out for you. If nothing else, at least I could “read” those books I can’t get in other formats. And maybe I’ll stumble upon a narrator I like. (I didn’t know narrators could make such a big difference!) The problem is that I don’t do a lot of driving now, and I can’t focus on anything while exercising (plus I need music to keep me pumped). But I definitely see the appeal of getting things done *while* reading! Maybe I can try listening while I do laundry… Anyway, happy Wednesday to you too πŸ™‚

  4. Amber Elise @ Du Livre

    I actually avoided audiobooks for the longest time because I’m a visual learner to. But I ADORE them now, seriously I think I read 20 audiobooks last year alone. I like to listen at work, even though I know I’m going to have to rewind a million times because my mind is drifting. They’re great for commutes too if you have nothing else to focus on. But I can zone out at home just listening to an audiobook, especially when doing chores! πŸ˜€

    I prefer contemporary titles as audiobooks because they don’t have as much detail (imo) when compared to sci-fi/fantasy novels.

    1. Kristen Burns

      So far a lot of people have said they didn’t like them either and now they do, so maybe I should try them again. I rarely read contemporary at this point though, so I’ll still stick to SFF. But gah, rewinding a million times just sounds frustrating to me lol, so I don’t know? I’m reconsidering.

  5. Greg

    I don’t do audiobooks either- same problem. It’s why I struggle with podcasts. I like the IDEA of podcasts, but unless I’m actively listening (and who wants to just sit there?) I lose track- I end up looking elsewhere or trying to multitask, and then I’ve missed stuff.

    I have similar issues with time I don’t want to spend the hours on an audio. And yes sometimes I want to read over a passage, or mull it a bit- audio makes that problematic.

    Just too many issue. I’d rather read. πŸ™‚

    1. Kristen Burns

      Ah, so you get me lol. I’ve never even tried listening to a podcast. Exactly, I don’t want to just sit there, but that’s what I had to do last time I tried audiobooks. Everybody else has got me thinking maybe I should give them another try, but idk, I still think there are just lots of issues. Reading the old-fashioned way works for me πŸ˜›

  6. Lola

    I haven’t tried audiobooks, mostly because there’s nothing wrong with reading an actual book. And I don’t really do a lot of activities like traveling to work (as I work from home) where I can see myself listening to one. And then there is the fact they take so much time. And I hate earbuds, my ears are weird and I prefer to have nothing in my ears, so then I would have to listen to books on my computer and that’s unhandy too as then I should be home alone or else my boyfriend can enjoy the book too. I just haven’t seen the appeal yet, but I am determined to try an audiobook once, just to see if I like them.

    I also think I process things better while reading, while in university I prefered to read the text book instead of going to lectures, although i always went to those too. I just got bored easily and couldn’t sit still for long periods of time while listening. And I dislike that I can’t pace it, like the lectures always went a bit too slow? Or not enough information or to the point. I guess with an audiobook you can put things faster, but that would be weird too I guess. I don’t highlight though, so i wouldn’t miss that, but the not being able to go back and re-read or speed up when it feels natural, does sound like it would bother me.

    I also don’t like watching movies on youtube or booktubes. I just want to read a post instead of listening to it. I only recently got into watching movies and tv series, as up until a year ago I strongly disliked watching movies. It’s like I can’t sit still and focus on them. Reading is much easier. My boyfriend and I watched a lot of movies an tv series together in the past year and it seems I finally am getting the hang of watching those ;). Great post and topic!

    1. Kristen Burns

      I FEEL LIKE YOU JUST GET ME. Lol. Not only do we have the don’t-watch-movie-adaptations in common, we have all this in common too!

      I hate having to watch videos online for things that could and should just be text! Especially tutorials and how-to videos. I don’t want to sit through 8 minutes of a video in which I will zone out and waste time and grasp nothing when I could just scan through the text so much faster and easier. I do occasionally watch booktube though. I don’t watch a lot of shows and movies, but that’s because I just don’t like them as much as books. And I feel like I’m wasting time if I don’t multitask while watching shows/movies, which is kind of weird since it’s not really any different than if I were spending time reading. I’m able to focus on them ok though since my eyes are also focused on the story while my ears are listening, and that makes all the difference.

  7. Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

    I don’t have an issue with audiobooks, but I haven’t really listened to many of them. I keep thinking that I’d like to give them more of a try. Maybe sometime soon I’ll give my library a try. Their system used to be clunky and annoying, but I’ll bet it’s gotten better by now.

    1. Kristen Burns

      I’ve only ever tried them on Audible. I love that libraries have things like ebooks and audiobooks now though! If I decide to try another one, that’s where I’d be getting it too.

  8. Esther @ Chapter Adventures

    I wish I had found your post sooner! So we really do agree on this πŸ˜› I’m also pretty much a visual learner. And I love what you said about controlling the pacing of the novel. I didn’t quite know how to put it into words and you said it perfectly. I think that might be one of my biggest problems and what makes me lose concentration with audiobooks. Great post and thank you for linking it up πŸ™‚

    1. Kristen Burns

      No worries, I posted mine way back in January, I wouldn’t have expected you to find it πŸ˜› But yes, we definitely do agree on this! And the pacing thing can really add to the experience of the book. Thanks, and thanks for checking it out!