Audiobooks Vs Traditional Books

Few years back I came late across the concept of podcasting, and it was what it was to me of time utilizer and mind opener. I gradually started to develop a habit of boredom then, and decided to try what everyone seems to be talking about in those podcasts, and to see the specific book my friend recommended. It was then that I really got into Audiobooks.

So what’s an Audiobook?

An Audiobook is a recording of what is usually a printed material, e.g. book or magazine, but not necessarily limited to it. (Wikipedia for more)

What’s so good about these Audiobooks?

1- Utilization of time: For most people there is a daily minimum driving time that is usually not less than an hour or so. That time is mostly wasted, or not utilized fully to your needs. How many untouched books do you have in your personal library, and how much do you like to read them? This is what Audiobooks do for you. Every day, instead of wasting your driving time and getting nervous about the traffic, you can use it to your advantage as a reading (or listening) time, allowing you to easily go over 1-2 books every month. Driving becomes more of a fun time then.

2- Storytelling style: With luck, you will land over audiobooks with skilled narrators that reads it in a story telling style, keeping you concious and attached to it, sometimes living it. This is exceptionally the case when the narrator is same as the author.

Sounds cool. Any downsides?

You knew the answer to that question didn’t you? NO… I mean, Yes.

1- Stickiness: What you read sticks in the mind more than what you hear. It is why many people develop the habit of even writing things they won’t ever read during lectures, since listening is not as good for memorization and digestion. I can tell a huge difference in memory between books I read and listened to. Sounds like a deal breaker, but assuming you already have more books to read than you have time to read them, so you’re better off with listening to what you can’t read than never reading it.

2- Distraction: Assuming you listen to audiobooks while driving, there will be times when your phone rings, you’re looking at the roads, or something like that. It’s not always in your reach to pause easily and resume later while driving.

3- No Flipping: How much do we like to flip pages while reading? Go back and forth. Read some quotes over and over to live the moment. That’s not possible (or as easy) in audiobooks. I still do it a lot though. Pause, seekback, listen over and over.

4- Quotes and Notes: When reading, you come across a lovely quote and you write it down, or you note down a url or piece of information, a word you wanna lookup the dictionary. That’s not the case with Audiobooks. I sometimes keep a quote in my head till I park, note it in my phone. Else, I sometimes download a coughpiratedcouch copy of the book under fair use flag to dig out pieces of information that are hard to seekout from the audiobook. Got a better way? Allow bookmarking the audibook and I won’t do it! Or the least, allow with every purchase of audiobook, a text or digital copy for a symbolic price.

5- Cost: Audiobooks by nature are slightly a bit more expensive than regular books, which might sound odd since it’s less common, and doesn’t include the extra printing costs as regular books do. I guess it’s the overhead of recording, and a bit more to overcome the losses of pirated content that will occur… Maybe!

6- Exchanging audiobooks: This is the worst part for me. Since digital content is easy to share, these audiobooks are usually sold with DRM on top of it, disallowing the share of the book, or reselling it, stricting the value of it for you mostly, since I doubt two people would arrange to listen always together to the same book. This is where I think the price should be dropped the most. It’s a one time thing mostly, more limited.

7- Not good for all kind of content: While it might be dazzling for novels, which I never tried personally, audiobooks could fail miserably, or by a great gap for other type of books. Books of self-improvement usually require more attention and thus do not suit the driver. Biography and history books with lost of names and dates in them. Scientific books where drawings and formulas are a necessity. The list goes on and on.

While the downsides seem a lot more in my list, the one first up side still makes it a valid deal for me. Interested?

Where can I get it from? is the brand name for audiobooks that everyone speaks of. Through single purchases, or by registering for one or two books a month, at a discounted price, you get to buy your audiobook from a thousands of audiobook collection. They offer constant discounts and give voucher gifts as well. You can pause or cancel your subscription anytime. Gifting books, vouchers, or subscriptions is also so easy, and I won’t mind it ;). You can use my Chernobirthday as an excuse :P.

The sad thing however is, Audible does impose strict policy on the sharing of sold material, and have taken strong legal actions against any software manufacturer trying to break into their DRM.

Audiobook Examples?

Internet Riches (Amazon link): My first audiobook. A nice guide for online entreprenuers that have no technical background. I do have my takes on it from the ethical standing point, suggesting literally stealing of copyrights and privacy policies from other sites as a quick way to get started. Still, good for starters who need basic knowledge. Doesn’t go so deep, not so helpful for experienced technicals with good knowledge about the online business, but perhaps motivational. As an audiobook, this one is perfectly fine and was a good push for me to try another.

Getting Things Done (Amazon link): Being as famous as it is, I managed to get bored and wait for it to finish. Was it the book or the audiobook? Perhaps a mix of both, and my misinterpretation of the book content.

How to Win Friends & Influence People (Amazon link): This is a really great book I read before. Listening to it was also quite inspiring, with a good narrator. But still, at times, you wanna stop and seek back, or flip and read it as you like in a regular book. At all rates, I don’t think it helped me personally make a lot of friends. It’s not the book though!

ENIAC (Amazon link): The story of the first general purpose programmable computer and his founders, who made neither fame nor fortune. They had their large share of grief however over the years. This is probably the worst narrator and audio quality I got, but the story is so thrilling I enjoyed it. I did get lost with the dates and names at times. Also, I now remember my stupid iPod was skipping over and I couldn’t finish the last hour of the book. Now I’m out of the mood and have to listen to it all over. That’s iPod issue though I believe, not Audible. And it’s a recommended reading for people who like to know more about origin of computers.

Confessions of an Economic Hitman (Amazon link): What can I say? I’m not into politics or economy. I took my friend’s advice, and wasn’t hoping for that much. The moment John Perkins, the author and narrator, starts reading the preface about Economic Hitmans (EHMs), his confessions of  how they cheated countries out of their billions of dollars, and marked them as part of the global US empire, you just can’t stop and hope the road would never end. The story was so attractive, being true confessions of an ex-EHM, and his voice and style are so great. This one is the best audiobook, and one of the best books I’ve gone through. I listened to the book, bought a physical copy, gifted another, and already listening to it over again.

What Got You Here Won’t Get You There (Amazon link): This is an OK book to me, good narrator, and if you like it, not bad as an Audiobook. Though I hated the author’s repetitve me, My, and I.

The Google Story (Amazon link): The story? Lovely, motivational, inspiration, with lots of business lessons. Learn how Google thinks of the users first, giving the value, before asking for the money. How they created the company culture and maintain it. See how a company for the first time, offers an executive position to a chef!… and Why? Narrator was so good as well. This is a book you would want to hear or read. I listened to it, now don’t feel the urge to read it really, though there were some dates and sections I wanted to get back to.

$700 Billion Bailout (Amazon link): OK, this was cheap and catchy item so I got it to see what’s going on with this bailout. Not bad at all, though I needed to know certain terms and facts to understand it more. This is where regular books serve you better with dictionaries and the internet nearby.

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  • Nosayba

    Interesting post, Bashar. Very informative. To be honest, I have a number of audio-books but never listened to any of them yet. I’m discouraged due to the drawbacks you mentioned in your post (I can totally relate). But, it seems that I’ll give them a try while driving the car back home from work. Thanks for all the links!

  • Bashar

    Nosayba: Don’t mention it. Yes there are drawbacks, but again, can you read all the books you want? pick the ones most suitable for listening and let it go :)

  • nemo

    Wow Great Review :)) I tried one audio book only :p and it was from a friend (i logged in with her account to

    thanks for the recommendations .. i’ll create an account and probably try one of your recommendations, maybe “Confessions of an Economic Hitman”

  • Bashar

    nemo: I think you should :)