By Jim Poling Sr.
It’s the time of summer craft sales and I find myself in a sunlit park helping a daughter display and sell some of her artwork. I’ve tossed some of my own work on the display table – books that folks might find interesting summer reading.
A guy approaches, picks up a book, looks it over closely and says it is something he would like to read. Then he puts the book down and says he would love to read it but just doesn’t have time.
“I can’t seem to find time to read these days,” he says.
I agree. Finding time to sit with a paper book or a tablet copy is a struggle.
“Is it available as an audiobook?” he asks. “I find that’s the easiest way to do my reading these days. I can listen to the book while doing other things.”
I’ve never considered publishing any of my work as audiobooks. In fact, I have never listened to an audiobook because I don’t understand how anyone can focus on two things at once.
It appears, however, that I am out of touch.
The latest sales survey for the Audio Publishers Association (APA) says that nearly 74,000 audiobooks were published in the U.S. last year. That’s an increase of six per cent over 2020, when 71,000 were published, a stunning increase of 39 per cent over 2019. Audiobook revenue increased 25 per cent to $1.6 billion last year.
Twelve years ago, in 2010, only 6,200 audiobooks were published in the U.S.
Canadian data is sketchy but in 2018 audiobooks made up only 3.6 per cent of book purchases in Canada. That figure rose to five per cent in 2019 and corresponded with a slight drop in hardcover sales.
All said, audiobooks are becoming very popular, quite rapidly. The majority of users are younger people, mostly under 45. Almost one-third of audiobook listeners are ages 18 to 29.
I’m still skeptical about how you can focus on a book while driving or washing the dishes. I’m not alone in my skepticism. Studies over the years have found that people are slower and less accurate when they do two tasks at once.
These studies have shown that when you switch your attention from one thing to another, a bit of your mind is still focused on the previous thing. When you switch back, you have to remind yourself where you were.
People who don’t like audiobooks have two main criticisms:
You can’t easily skip sections or underline or highlight good quotes or thoughts you might want to look at later. Secondly, you have one voice doing all the characters. Also, voices vary and the narrator of your audiobook might have one you find irritating.
Audiobook listeners who have been surveyed say they prefer professional narrators over author-read books.
On the plus side, audiobooks are a blessing for the visually impaired. Paper books can be difficult in low light conditions or when smaller type leaves the reader straining. They also are good for people who have difficulty holding a book.
I’m going to join the trend and try an audiobook. I suspect I’ll find I like listening to novels but will not do well with a non-fiction book from which I want to get information.
But the problem of finding time for books likely will not be completely cured by audiobooks. Finding time is a problem for most activities these days.
Successful people say the real answer lies in how we allocate our time. Allocating time is how successful people increase productivity.
Allocating time comes down to making choices. The time is there, it’s just a matter of using it for the things you decide are most important.
It is said that the average person spends 28 hours a week watching television. That is 1,680 minutes a week.
A person who reads a page a minute could read 1,600 pages or roughly three pocketbooks in that time.
That’s not to suggest that we give up watching TV. There are many little ways to change how we use our time and allocate more to things – like reading – which are important but don’t get enough of our time.