'The New Thing party I’ve just arrived at unnoticed, is the audiobook'

'The New Thing party I’ve just arrived at unnoticed, is the audiobook'

I’ve discovered a New Thing. Well, when I say ‘discovered’, I mean I’ve realised nearly everyone else is already using it. Regular readers of this column will know that, when it comes to the New Thing, I’m generally late to the party. And not late in a cool way. Not like the way the Beastie Boys arrived at the nerds’ party in the video for Party For Your Right to Fight: kicking down the door, throwing pies, announcing that This Party Starts Now. I usually arrive at a party when the cans are ashtrays and the first taxis are leaving.

The New Thing party I’ve just arrived at unnoticed, is the audiobook. I’m only one hundred and fifty years late.

Thomas Edison said that audiobooks would be one of the uses for the phonograph he perfected in 1877

It didn’t take off quite as quickly as he thought but I’m sure he’d be happy enough I’d finally got around to it.

I’ve arrived just in time. I’m finding reading difficult these days. The perfect storm of Social Media Induced Attention Span Deficit and small children (who are like human social media notifications that you can’t mute) has meant that books are read and digested at the same speed as if I were transcribing them with gold lettering in a monastery.

The safe spaces to read are being reduced. The old wifi-free places are no more. Even the train wifi refuses to let us down as much as it used to. Obviously I could exercise free will but yeah like that’s gonna happen. So while I’m waiting for a new brain, I’ve started listening to audiobooks as the next best thing.

I have just finished completed my first. It was 21 hours long which seemed more manageable than the 500 written pages. I even saved a few hours by speeding up the person’s voice by 35% — you can do that — which made them seem more urgent and got my attention more.

The voice of the narrator is the clincher. I’m sensitive to annoying noise. I can hear a banana being eaten open mouthed from a distance of a thousand feet. If the narrator — male or female — has so much as a hint of vocal fry, they could be telling me future lotto numbers and I wouldn’t stay for the 6th one. I can’t help it. Verbal tics really annoy me, jenoadameanlike? Like, why can’t people just say the words that are strictly necessary like. Like I do, like.

The audio book provider I use is Audible which is owned by Amazon. But if you don’t feel like being one of the people who help increase Jeff Bezos’ wealth by 10 milliion dollars an hour, then there is of course the public library. Yes the library! Once again, while we were all looking the other way, the library has quietly been doing cool things without fuss or overspend. You can download an app called Borrowbox, log into your library and borrow an audiobook. (Or just get them on cassette or CD if you’re old school.)

The only downside to the audiobook means that people won’t always know what you’re reading. This reduces the opportunities that will occur at dinner parties for very interesting people to point at your shelves and say how interesting you are. But we won’t have dinner parties for another 15 years anyway so it’s not a huge loss.

It’s changed the way I fall asleep with a book too.

Normally I read and then fall asleep on my back open-mouthed, snoring like a mating hippo. But with an audio book set up to fall asleep after a certain amount of time, I drift off on my side, like I used to drift off years ago listening to BBC Radio 4 Book at Bedtime.

My relationship with audiobooks isn’t exclusive. We’ve both agreed I can see other people. There is no substitute for curling up with a book and ‘waking up’ hours later. But for now, listen, it’s not the worst way to get your lit-amins.

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