Reading Vs. Listening


I admit that I am somewhat embarrassed to admit this, but starting about 2-3 years ago, I have “read” more books by listening to them than by actually physically reading them. I mean just sheer page-number value. I don’t know if I could choose one format over the other, and yes not too many philosophical classics are available on tape, but I am certainly leaning toward audio format (or audio first, then actual text). Let’s face it, regardless of how much time I have to dedicate to reading books, there’s always going to be more time for listening to them – on the train, in the car, on the walk, while pretending to listen to wife, in the waiting room, while shopping for groceries etc etc. There’s just no competition here in terms of volume. Let me give you an example – I have listened to the following books on tape just this last year:

Antony Beever, Stalingrad (560 pages)
Antony Beever, The Fall of Berlin (530 pages)

Richard J. Evans, The Coming of the Third Reich (650 pages)
Richard J. Evans, Third Reich in Power (960 pages)
[I have the third volume as well, but I’m taking a break from all things Nazi]

Robert Harris, Enigma (380 pages)
Robert Harris, Pompeii (300 pages)
Robert Harris, Imperium (300 pages)

And then there’s an innumerable Russian books I’ve reread, including Dostoevsky, Nabokov, and even some Herzen. My point is simple: there’s so much “dead time” in one’s daily existence that, if filled with books on tapes (well, on iPod), it is literally long hours of fun.

But these are all non-philosophical books, you say. This is where my great Fatherland comes in with its newly acquired love for audiobooks. Not only do we have most of the classics on audio (there are professional actors recording and sometimes dramatizing these books, not some amateurs reading them for librivox), I have recently discovered the following philosophical books on tape (in Russian):

Kant, Critique of Pure Reason (32 hours)
Kant, Lectures on Ethics (26 hours)
Hegel, Lectures on the History of Philosophy (89 hours)
Marx, Das Kapital, abridged (18 hours)

Now, surely this is not going to be an easy listen a la exciting WWII stuff, but it beats actual reading! Especially since not being particularly patient with sitting down for long stretches of time, I find the idea of listening to Kant’s “argument against idealism” while taking a walk in the park to be especially delightful.

I think the books of the future should be sold in bundles: physical book + searchable PDF [no need to index] + audioversion [surely technology can develop to the point of doing this by computerized voice that does not sound odd]

2 thoughts on “Reading Vs. Listening

  1. Hörbücher are also big over here, more so than in other countries I’ve visited, and there are some quite good sites for free downloads, such as Vorleser.net. I support your call for more philosophy books in audio format.

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