Kes: This article manages to sum up in a relatively small word count the three major distinctions which paper fetishist repeatedly make between the audiobook and the "book-book."
Wired for Sound.
By John Schwartz http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/27/books/review/wired-for-sound.html
1. "When I talk with one friend or another about books we've both read, I often have to admit that I read the particular work in audio form. Although I'm not especially perceptive, it's pretty easy to translate my interlocutor's expression. It's a blend of surprise, condescension and an unmistakable dash of
]Kes: although, in my case, most people will say, in a gracious tone, that of course I read books in audio format for accessibility reasons, implying that some reasons have more validity than others.]
2. "A prime skeptic is my wife, Jeanne, who also happens to be the principal recommender of the new books I read. She is not unalterably opposed to aural reading; in fact, she's a fan of recorded lectures. But when it comes to fiction, she insists on holding the printed text in her hand. Also, she has a problem with that alien Other -- the intervening reader who takes command of the entire text.
I want the voices in my head for the characters,' she once said. I don't want that person in my ear.
We developed a retronym: if I slipped a book -- the kind with covers and pages -- into my backpack for the train or to get started on at home, that meant I was reading a 'book-book. Of course the term itself reinforced her belief -- I won't call it a prejudice -- against audio reading. It was firmest in
the case of novels, which she thought I couldn't possibly absorb, especially if they were complex narratives. Not that we argued or fought over this. I would never say such a thing. Out loud.
[Kes: This reminds me of my orientation for grad school, where we went around and introduced ourselves and our interests in media. I was second-to-last, and mentioned my fascinationw ith the intersection of books and media, such as audiobooks andnew media formats. The final student spoke right after me, and her first sentence was, "I'm not like the rest of you: I read books." I guess I read baloney slices?]
3. "At this point it occurred to me that what divides us on this issue may involve more than our preferred methods of reading. It may, in fact, be a matter of how we each best absorb difficult material. When I was in college I always got more out of lectures than out of the reading, and now I work in a trade, journalism, that is largely about listening to the spoken voice. And this, in turn, led me to wonder whether I'm wired in some way to listen rather than read.
And so I did what reporters are trained to do. I consulted an expert, in this case Howard Gardner, a professor of cognition and education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Gardner is celebrated for his theory of multiple intelligences, which holds that there are many different kinds of smarts and learning. In his work, Gardner has parsed linguistic intelligence from logical-mathematical and musical intelligence, and has also described other
kinds of intelligence linked to interpersonal relationships and the body.
In a recent e-mail, I asked Gardner whether his theory could apply to an affinity for audiobooks. I get tremendous pleasure from audiobooks,' I wrote. My wife gets none at all, and spends her evenings holding by-God books.
Gardner responded quickly. This is very funny,' he said. Reading approaches in his marriage were the exact opposite of those in mine: his wife 'loves audiobooks and listens to them endlessly,' while 'I never listen to audiobooks. He is married to Ellen Winner, whose resume resembles his. She is chairwoman of the psychology department at Boston College, and a senior associate at Project Zero, an arts-education program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Gardner suggested I speak with both of them that evening by phone.
When I called, Winner said she listens to books while exercising, grocery shopping or waiting in long lines at the airport. And what kinds of books? Great literature, classics that I would not have the time or patience to read if they were in print. She has happily worked the treadmill to 'Bleak House' and 'Daniel Deronda,' 'Crime and Punishment' and 'War and Peace.
I want to just sink into a fictional world,' she said. She could have been speaking for me.
Gardner, for his part, sounded a lot more like Jeanne. I like to provide my own soundtracks in life,' he said, adding that he loves listening to classical music, and not as a means of escape. I'm not trying to get away from anything,' he said.
[Kes: so people who read audiobooks are reading for escapist reasons, rather than the more intellectually-challenging immersive experience? And how does what the wife said about "sinking in" to a book different from the husband's "immersive"? Isn'the real issue that book-book types want to keep insisting that what they do is different from what audiobook types do, that your preferred format not only says something about your identity, but that it reflects a different aesthetic, a different kind of reading?]
As a practical matter, Gardner went on, he wants to read at his own pace, and to be able to flip back to earlier passages -- no easy feat on an iPod. To
me, reading is something I do with my eyes,' he said.
At times during our conversation, the couple seemed to grow somewhat heated. Not that I would call it arguing.
The truth, it seems, is that the way we read, and our reasons for loving or disliking audiobooks, are deeply personal. They are expressions of self, so
tied to who we are. If you belittle the way I read, you're belittling me.
When I pressed Gardner on whether multiple-intelligence issues might enter into these differences, he said he had not heard of any research in the area.
We don't have enough of a sample to make a decision,' he said, 'but there could be something in that.