Food for thought: Reading vs listening

I used to read a lot for fun. Then I decided to go back to uni and my reading turned a lot more academic. At some stage I decided to stop buying physical books and got a Kindle, mainly because it is a pain in the ass to move houses when you have heaps of books. Then I started listening to podcasts and realised I learn way quicker this way. I also enjoy the practicality of audio: I can do it while stretching, cooking, showering, walking, etc. Of course some activities require more concentration than others, but I’ve found I can get away with listening to podcasts while working if what I’m doing is fairly mechanical (or I’m not super interested in what’s playing on my phone).

Recently I started an audible membership, that allows me to download one book per month for “free” (i.e. for the cost of the membership). That’s a good pace for me at the moment because I don’t have a lot of time to listen to stuff and I’m still subscribed to a lot of podcasts.

I’ve noticed this shift from reading to listening not only with books, but also with blog posts. I used to read most of the articles in my feed from start to finish. Now, if there’s a choice of reading or listening (e.g. articles posted in blogs like Precision Nutrition and Mark’s Daily Apple), I disregard the article and listen to the podcast episode instead. If there’s no audio version, I convince myself that I absolutely *need* to read that article, otherwise I just discard it. It might be that my information FOMO is fading off, but I think it’s just that I don’t find the same value in reading anymore. I’ve become a listener.

One thing that I miss, though, is the active part of being a reader, the opportunity to use my imagination in giving a voice and a pace to the words. On the other hand, listening forces me to pay more deliberate attention because audible information is more likely to fade away if not stored in long-term memory; printed words are more “permanent” in that sense. I have also noticed that the reader’s voice, accent and occasional mispronunciation of words have the potential to annoy the heck out of me, in the same way cheap paper or poor font choice would annoy me when reading printed books.

If you haven’t tried listening to podcasts or audiobooks yet, I recommend you try it to see how it goes for you. It can help your productivity and/or appeal more to your learning style.

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