Audiobooks are Awesome

I’ve written about podcasts before, but I want today to write about audiobooks in particular. Here’s the TL;DR:

Get an audible.com account, get your library card set up to borrow audiobooks, and get headphones you like to use with your phone while on the go. Do it now.

If you’re interested in knowing why I recommend those things, read on.

Recently, I’ve been listening to lots and lots of audiobooks, either through audible.com, or through my public library. I cannot overstate how much I enjoy having audiobooks.

Why To Read Audiobooks

First, eye fatigue. I find that after a long day of writing code, reading code, reading blogs about code, reading emails about code, reading compiler errors, and probably reading Twitter, I am ready to not read any more. My eyes are tired, and reading feels a bit like work. Audio content to the rescue! I can keep learning and rest my eyes at the same time.

Second, commuting. It turns out that reading while driving is illegal, reading while walking is dangerous, and reading on the metro is hard. But doing audiobooks in all those situations is fine. (Note to cyclists: In some places it is illegal to wear headphones in both ears while biking on the road. I know some people who wear one headphone while biking. Personally, I’ve always found that cycling in northern Virginia traffic is stimulating enough without added audio content.)

Third, enforced variety. It turns out that reading code samples aloud doesn’t really work, so audiobooks are necessarily not the same as programming textbooks. And over-specialization in content you consume can result in being unable to imagine solutions outside your industry’s standard practices. Different programming languages are good at different things. Biographies of physicists might expose you to a new way of thinking. Analogies in general are a powerful way to augment human understanding, and consuming audiobooks helps with variety. Audiobooks provide a low-risk, low-cost way of adding variety to the information you get.

How to Get Audiobooks

The most obvious answer is Audible.com. This service runs $15 a month, and every month you get a credit, which is basically a free book. Additional books are typically about $20, so I try to optimize my use of the credit and only spend additional money if the book is needed immediately, or is much less than $15. (I have also heard that audible.com has a generous return policy, but I’ve never tried it myself.)

Another way is through public libraries. At all the library systems I’ve belonged to recently, you could install OverDrive Media on a mobile device, type in your library card number, and then download audiobooks borrowed from the library. This process is pretty easy, and its free. The app just silently erases content when the loan expires, so you don’t need to worry about late fees, and the app works from anywhere, so you don’t need to go to the library.

I find that if I supplement my use of audible.com credits with borrowings from my public library, I can fill all available time with audiobooks for only the $15/month that audible costs. This is a good deal, and I highly recommend it.

What Verb to Use with Audiobooks

Every time I wrote that I “read” an audiobook in this blog, I felt a little weird. But “listened to” sounds temporary and has too many syllables. “Consumed” sounds like it works with any media, but it also works with food and medicine so it doesn’t seem specific enough. Maybe “enjoy” is the right verb for audiobooks, at least if they’re the right books?

Anyway, go enjoy some audiobooks. Till next time, happy learning!

-Will

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