Written by Francisca Goldsmith on Thursday, September 26, 2019
As audiobooks become increasingly available as a method of reading, we're seeing more people announce, usually with pride, that they listen in a hurry. That is, they crank up the playback speed and, in effect, alter the audiobook from what was performed to an experience they've converted to a means of consumption rather than one of experience.
As someone who supplies advisory support to library members and who teaches other library staff and teachers to help community members find reading, listening, and viewing options that best suit their own personal tastes, I've come to see this speeding to be, as with traditional print speed reading, a real time waster. If one doesn't want to be taken up by what has been written and performed and instead wants to avoid doing more than skimming across its surface, maybe the text or performance is just the wrong one for this would be reader or listening reader. Speed here isn't saving time; it's avoiding the substance of the work while actually spending time breaking it.
Here's a parallel that I think most will understand: imagine you are listening to music, whether recorded, broadcasted, or streamed. A song comes on that you are not interested in hearing and which is not essential to the larger whole of what you are trying to listen to; it's just one song in a playlist that stretches on practically infinitely (as do our library collections). Do you speed through it to catch odd phrases of music and words here and there or do you skip past it completely? Why would you do the former when your goal really is to move past the song rather than consume it in random and choppy bits and pieces?
Wanting to speed through an audiobook is a clue: this audiobook is not for you. Whether your reason for that is well-placed in the content or performance style, or borne of simply not having the time right now to give it as potentially rewarding for the effort of expending time on it now, better to put it aside and turn to something that you can give yourself to meeting and experiencing. The need for speed is really the need to question: is this working for me?