Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

Listening to books

Exam time again...

Those who know me well know that I don’t ‘do’ books. I’m never find reading a book – it’s always either a magazine, or, most likely, a phone or computer screen. And I particularly don’t do fiction – what I read tends to be factual, news, or opinion pieces.

However, this does not mean that I completely ignore books. One or two books have come out recently that have intrigued me, but I don’t really have the time to read them. Thankfully, someone came up with the idea of the audiobook; you can listen to someone – usually the author – read the book to you, so you don’t have to.

This may seem lazy but there are times when having your head in a book is impractical – like walking to work, or at the gym. This is why I’m growing to like audiobooks – you can do something else whilst listening (although, in my experience at least, nothing that requires a large amount of concentration).

I’m only on my second audiobook so far, which I’ve downloaded from Audible, Amazon’s audiobook store. The first was ‘How to be a Woman’ by Caitlin Moran (Amazon Link). You may wonder why a heterosexual male like me has any interest in a semi-autobiographical feminist book, but I would call myself a feminist, since anyone who believes that men and women should have the same rights and opportunities can call themselves a feminist, whether they themselves are male or female. Plus, it’s a very good read – or, listen, in my case – and may have you laughing out loud.

Having finished that, I’ve started on ‘God Collar’ by Marcus Brigestocke (Amazon Link), another lefty-liberal book, but this time on religion and atheism in particular. So far I’m only around half an hour into it, but as someone who enjoys Marcus’ stand-up routines I’ve not been disappointed.

Both books are around the same length – about 8 and a half hours – and the first took me exactly a month to listen through. Unfortunately, some days I can only fit in around 20-25 minutes of listening as I walk to and from the railway station, so it’s only when I go to the gym that I get to listen in longer stints, which hasn’t happened as often as it should lately. In fact, Saturday was the first time I’d been to the gym since, um, February. Ooops.

With this in mind, I’m on Audible’s 1 book credit per month package at the moment, whereby you pay a monthly subscription and get one free audiobook included with it. Subsequent books bought in that month cost extra, and that can be a big extra cost – although there’s a sale on, to buy ‘How to be a Woman’ at full price would set you back over £20, as opposed to £7 for the dead-tree actual book and only £3.67 to read on a Kindle. That said, the 1 credit package is £8 per month – cheaper than £20, but still quite a bit of money to pay every month. If I’m able to get through one audiobook a month, and don’t run out of things to read, then I suppose it’s worth it, but it’s not cheap. I’ll see how I go.

Playing back audiobooks from Audible can be done in a couple of ways. Support for Audible’s .aa format has been built into iTunes for a few years now and so audiobooks can be played back on almost all iPods, including those that don’t run on iOS. For those that do run on iOS, you can either use iTunes, and play the audiobooks in the Music app, or you can install the Audible app which runs on the iPhone and iPod Touch (but not the iPad as yet). The app lets you manage audiobooks on the device without having to involve iTunes, and has a few advanced features like stepping back 30 seconds if you get briefly distracted. It doesn’t, however, let you purchase more audiobooks from within the app – presumably because Amazon doesn’t want to give a 30% cut of its sales to Apple.

So, that’s me and audiobooks. If you have any suggestions for other books that I should be listening to, let me know in the comments.

2 Comments

  1. Good update Neil! Audio-books are awesome, as long as they are read out by a confident speaker. For my audiobook needs I’ve been using http://librivox.org/. The quality does vary but if you persevere you usually end up with a confident reader. Go, explore, enjoy. Also, it’s FREE as all the books are in the public domain.

  2. Neil stopped reading books at the age of 13 as he had decided there was nothing left worth reading. Prior to that time he read a lot.
    After 13 his reading was mainly New Civil Engineer and The Guardian.