Our modern world is truly amazing. Never before have humans had access to the wealth of information that we each enjoy today. With the click of a button or a tap of a smartphone screen, we can consume knowledge at rates our ancestors could have never imagined. And as a writer, this is of particular interest to me.
My job is dependant on my consumption of information. Otherwise, there would be absolutely nothing for me to write about except unfounded and unresearched opinions. This means I am on a constant quest to digest as much info as is possible. And while a healthy portion of my work has been inspired by pop culture—Netflix shows, music, and films—my favorite vehicle for knowledge is the written word.
That being said, the written word takes a long time to consume. And as a blogger writing several posts per week, time is not always on my side. Thankfully, audiobooks have been a complete gamechanger.
Audible and Digital Information
Thanks to the wonders of the digital audiobook, I am able to devour an average of two books each week, something that would have been impossible in years past. By simply purchasing an “add-on” subscription through Amazon, I have access to over 100,000 different titles. And with each monthly payment of roughly $15, Audible gives me one credit that can be redeemed for any book of my choosing. And with the click of a button, the digital file is sent to my iPhone where it can be listened to at my leisure. But there is another feature to this service that is particularly enticing to consumers.
Audible lets you change the speed of the file. This means that the consumer is in control of their rate of knowledge consumption. And while this may seem uninteresting to some, when compared to previous historical eras this is quite incredible. And this control is one of the signatures of the digital eras.
Controlling the pace at which one learns can have far-reaching implications. To put the magnitude of this into perspective, consider another popular digital information platform: YouTube.
Rather than waste an entire semester and hundreds of dollars taking a prerequisite course during my undergrad, I once made the decision to opt out of the traditional classroom and instead utilize YouTube.
A California math professor had recorded his entire course catalog and offered it on the streaming service. Not only was this professor the single best math instructor in my personal experience, but since I was able to get through two-three lectures per day, as opposed to a few lectures each week offered at my university, I was able to complete the entire course in a matter of weeks. This allowed me to test into the course I needed without having to sacrifice time and money.
However, while many, if not most, of us, see this newfound control of the rate of knowledge consumption fascinating, others see it as “cheating.” With the increase in popularity of audiobooks, many physical book “purists” like to accuse Audible listeners as taking a shortcut. But we read or listen to, books to consume information, whether that be for entertainment or educational reasons, and that should be the bottom line. So while personal preference for “real” books is understandable, digital platforms like Audible do not downgrade the level of information we are obtaining and thus, should not be thought of as taking a shortcut.
Additionally, for those who use Kindle, Audible lets you sync your listening with your reading. So if you decide you would rather read a digital copy, you can pause your listening and pick up right where you left off. Also, listening to books allows you to go about other tasks while still learning. I cannot do the dishes or vacuum with a book in my hand. I can, however, put on some noise canceling headphones and put on an audiobook while completing these chores.
Some of this hesitation towards digital audiobooks comes from the fact that this is a new trend. Sure, audiobooks used to be around in the form of cassette tapes or CDs, but access was severely limited, making the widespread use of Audible all the more revolutionary.
Access to Audiobooks
Purchasing audiobooks used to be a pain. In fact, there is an entire Seinfeld episode centered on the plight George Costanza must go through in order to find the audio version of a book his boss has assigned him to read in a short period of time. In true George fashion, the situation eventually grows so dire, he pretends to be blind in order to gain access to the treasure trove of audio cassette.
And while things have come a long way since the 1990s, even a decade ago audiobooks were still hard to find. And when you did manage to locate the book you wanted, the costs were astronomical.
When the final Harry Potter book was released, I was commuting an hour to and from work each day. Unwilling to wait to find out how the series was going to end, tracked down the audiobook CDs to listen to in the car. To my surprise, the cost was over $50, a high price for a college student to pay.
That same series how is available with one monthly $15 Audible credits. Plus, since technology is now digital, there is no need to lug around a bunch of CDs. But before this piece begins to sound too much like an advertisement for Audible, it is important to highlight that this service is not the only game in town. Audible is the most widely recognized audiobooks platform and much of this is probably due to the fact that many of us use Amazon for everything, making it convenient. But Audible has some stiff competition, and as consumers, we are reaping all the benefits.
While Apple’s iBooks has been offering consumers an alternative to Audible for some time, it hasn’t been quite as successful. However, Google recently introduced their own audiobook platform, giving consumers even more options. Plus, since Google is trying hard to compete in this new market, it is offering extreme discounts on new releases and 50 percent off your first book.
This demonstrates perfectly what happens when different companies begin competing for business: everyone wins.
A New Digital Frontier
There is a lot to be grateful for in our digital era. With each new technology, our lives are getting more convenient across the board. On its face value, a digital audiobook might not seem like an information revolution. But if we step back for a minute and see how far we have come, we can truly appreciate the way technology has changed the way we learn for the better.