Audiobook Discussion: How Much is Too Much?

Image from APA (www.audiopub.org)

Image from APA (www.audiopub.org)

disussion on a bookish topic-01

There are days where I find myself able to just sit back with a good book and just read for the ENTIRE day. I could read an entire book from cover to cover and feel totally entranced and hooked the entire time.

This doesn’t seem to be the case when it comes to audiobooks. For some reason, I find that a couple of hours is my limit before my mind starts to wander. OR I start to crave silence, or maybe a different voice.

Why is this, I wonder? Is it because I’m not actually, physically reading something? Is it because my ears aren’t as in tune to listening to a story — maybe my ears and brain don’t like working together — as my eyes are? Or, maybe, it’s the story. Some stories just REQUIRE a listening break.

This isn’t to say that I can only ever listen to audiobooks little by little, but I do think that it’s my preference. There is the occasional audiobook that will have me searching for something to do while listening (go productivity!) and others have me constantly checking to see how much time is left in a chapter until I can take a break. Part of me thinks it’s a mix between the story itself and the narrator, or other times maybe I’m just not in the mood to be reading — physically or through listening.

But still, a part of me wonders if there is a limit to how much of a story a person can listen to through an audiobook before they start to think about other things. Maybe this has something to do with what a person is doing while they’re listening — for example, if I clean and listen, I can really pay attention, or even drive and listen. Other times, I’ll be checking out some blogs and listening, or cooking and listening, and I find myself not being able to totally concentrate on the book.

Maybe … just maybe … this is why some people say that reading a book through listening isn’t actually reading at all. Personally, I think that’s nonsense since some people can’t actually read for themselves and need someone to read to them — I know people like this in real life and they recall so much more from a story than I would if I physically read it.

I think, ultimately, it’s a combination of many things that makes me not able to listen to an entire audiobook in one sitting, but I know I’m not the only one who’s like this. And, really, this happens with physical books, too, where I realize that I’ve “read” a few pages without actually reading them, letting my mind think about too many things at once, rather than focus on the book. I guess it’s only human!

Do you have a limit to how much of an audiobook you can listen to in one sitting? What are some of the things that will ultimately make your brain wander while listening? 

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23 thoughts on “Audiobook Discussion: How Much is Too Much?

    • I think it depends on the book … maybe audiobooks are like physical books, if you’re totally into it you can go longer? If the narrator and the book are just completely awesome?

  1. I find audiobooks a nice change of pace from when I’ve been doing a lot of reading – especially online. My favorite way to listen is while on the treadmill so that I am really focused for those 30-45 minutes. I also listen while puttering around in my craft studio and I can do that for an hour and a half before I’m ready to move to something different. I find it surprisingly easy to stay focused on the story being read if I am crafting.

    • I agree, crafting is a great way to listen to audiobooks! The funny thing is that lately I’ll craft with the TV on, but I really should get back into popping in an audiobook — a great way to say you’ll listen to that book for, say, an hour a day AND that you’ll craft an hour a day. Two birds!

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  3. Yeah, this is pretty much why the only time I can listen to audiobooks is when I’m driving. It’s the only time I can concentrate on listening to the story and not get distracted doing other things. And even then, sometimes I still find my mind wandering (usually if I’m just generally mentally full/distracted, or if the story is in a lull).

    • I agree! Well, that and I don’t drive THAT often, so there can be a week in between listens. I need to find something I do consistently so that I can have that daily listening spot.

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  5. I have an extremely hard time listening, unless what I am listening to proves to be more interesting than what I am doing/have the potential to do. When I am at work or driving (and since I have an hour commute for work I drive a lot), I’m stuck there, so I love podcasts. I actually haven’t listened to many audiobooks yet but the concept is similar. If I’m just sitting at home though, it feels completely different. If I sit down and read a book, I feel like I am engaging in it personally and I’m reading it in my voice (even if it’s just in my head). Whereas with listening to someone else talk, it doesn’t feel as engaging if there is something shiny (usually the Internet) to distract me and help my mind wander.

    • Yes! That can be a problem with audiobooks … when I listen, I feel like I should be doing something else WHILE listening, but when I’m reading a book, I’m ONLY reading. Great point!

  6. I usually only use audiobooks as background noise when I’m doing other projects. This means that I only listen to audiobooks if I’ve already read the book, or reading the book isn’t a high priority for me. I’m just not an auditory learner, and I can’t seem to retrain myself to be one. For those times when I do try and focus on an audiobook, I can only manage it for about an hour and a half. Thanks for the post!

    • Rereading is a great reason to listen to audiobooks … that way you don’t TOTALLY have to pay attention, since you already know what happens. I’ve defintiely reread books using audiobooks in the past. I wish I would do more of it!

  7. I can only listen to books if I’m cleaning, playing WoW (since I can mindlessly do that) or just laying around in the dark. Anything else and I’m not able to concentrate on it. I might add walking to that, but I don’t really listen to books or music while walking because my daughter is usually with me. lol

    As for time limits, it’s definitely something I can only do for a few hours at a time, depending on what I’m doing while listening.

    • I tend to bring real books on walks, surprisingly enough. I’ve been listening to music while doing cooking or cleaning … I’ll have to get back in the habit of listening to a book! Devote an hour a day or something …

  8. I definitely have limitations with audiobooks. I have to choose wisely, because I do tune out and voices can really detract. I prefer reading all the way around to listening. I can’t just sit and listen. I have to be cleaning, running or driving. So I mostly choose things I just can’t get too or series I want to finish and just don’t want to devote lap time to. And occasionally I do choose for the experience the audio experience.

    • That’s like when I listened to Ready Player One by Ernest Cline … I knew I could read the book, but because Wil Wheaton was reading it, I knew I had to listen. I do like listening when it comes to rereading a book, but I’m like you — for some reason, I start to tune things out after a while. I need to find the right multitask job to do while listening so I can fully pay attention.

  9. I think I need to try more audio books. My first venture into audio books was a flop – I really struggled to follow the story. Because of this I’ve been reluctant to try again. But maybe it was that I didn’t like the narrator, or the plot that much either. I don’t know though, I tend to feel much more actively engaged when I’m physically reading rather than passively listening. Maybe audio is just not for me…

    • I totally get this! My first audiobook was a Jay Leno book and he narrated it. The quality of the audiobook kind of sucked and he mumbled as a narrator so it wasn’t entirely enjoyable. I was a little bit more picky when I chose my next listen after that — I tend to look at the length and the narrator. On Audible, you can usually listen to a sample of the audiobook, too, which is nice.

      For me, I think it depends on the kind of book I’m listening to on whether I pay attention or not. If the book is really detailed and involved, I have to read it because my mind won’t want to pay attention, but if it’s a lighter YA book, maybe a romance, I can pay better attention because there aren’t that many details I need to remember.

      Good luck if you try again!

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