Listening to tapes while engaged in mindless but unavoidable activities, I get through about 30 books a year that I would not otherwise have read. It’s almost like I’m sneaking in an extra half-lifetime of reading in the course of doing my ordinary chores, which have a way of getting done more thoroughly as a result of listening while I work.
There is no way I can justify devoting the next two weeks of bedtime reading to Tom Wolfe’s new novel, I Am Charlotte Simmons. I have too much professional reading and course preparation to do. But I can permit myself to listen to all 25 hours of Wolfe’s novel while I am in the shower, eating breakfast, and driving to and from work.
It put me in mind of a passage of Stephen King’s On Writing, which I read earlier this year:
Of the books I read each year, anywhere from six to a dozen are on tape. As for all the wonderful radio you will be missing, come on — how many times can you listen to Deep Purple sing “Highway Star”?
Audiobooks have always seemed like a good idea to me, especially when I’ve had long bus rides to deal with. (That 13-disc set of The Silmarillion, ripped to my iPod, really passed the time on weekends when buses are slow and infrequent.) They’ve also been a godsend on long highway trips.
But at present I don’t commute. In this town, no trip on foot would get me more than a few paragraphs further along. Making the car iPod-compatible, through a new stereo deck with an aux-in or a wireless transmitter, would open up all the audiobooks available through iTunes. (Without a cassette player in the car, the audiobooks on cassette aren’t an option, though the CD versions still are. Incidentally, they’re all awfully expensive — especially the unabridged versions — don’t you think?)
Now, were I to begin commuting into Ottawa on a regular basis — a likely scenario if I get full-time work or even a short- or medium-term contract — I’d almost certainly iPod up the car and get a few of the audiobooks I’ve been eyeing on iTunes double quick. I don’t know if it’s my imagination that the CBC is less listenable than it used to be, but I’ve been switching off the radio more and more — usually as something tedious came on. So it’d be nice to have something else to listen to. I might not even mind the traffic congestion.