You might think the title of this review is a mistake. But it’s not. We’re not reviewing an audio book, but rather the whole concept of the audio book. This is, therefore, a review of every audio book, past, present, and future, actual and potential, whether conveyed by means of a CD, magnetic cassette tape, adhesive tape, MP3 file, or clay tablet.
“Why,” you might ask, “does the Audio Book as a concept need to be reviewed? Isn’t it true that everything that is an Audio Book is also a Book? Why not just have a Books review?” Well, that’s actually a pretty good idea. We may have to get around to reviewing Books someday. But the Audio Book adds something new to the Book, namely, Audio. This leads to two particular problems with the audio book. First, the Audio aspect of the Audio Book means that, whenever you use an Audio Book, everyone else can hear too.1 My children, for example, are in the habit of listening to Audio Books on the back porch, with the unfortunate result that everyone in the neighborhood is now an expert on Captain Pukehead®, The Dull and Unbelievably Boring Adventures of Three Juvenile Delinquent Squirrels™, and other similar interminable Audio Book Series. I can hardly go out my front door without the neighbors quoting lines about intestines and zombies at me.
Second, it is also very easy to keep listening to an Audio Book after you’ve fallen asleep. This might not be a big deal if the Audio Book is something merely stupid and inane, like Zombies v. Abraham Lincoln or Disgusting Stories About Your Internal Bodily Organs. But if you are listening to a potentially more dangerous Audio Book, such as How to Get Your Pre-Schooler Hooked on Heroin, Really Bad Things to Do, or Really, REALLY, REALLY, REALLY BAD THINGS to Do, this could be a more serious problem. This sort of book is not the kind of thing you want to have pounding on your eardrums and insinuating itself into your subconscious mind while you sleep.
But perhaps this second concern is exaggerated. Evidence from The Edward N. Collins Audio Book Research Foundation suggests that as much as 91.2348% of young people don’t even pay attention to the words they hear when they listen to an Audio Book. As Nancy R. Lewis, a sophomore at Alice L. Pollard High School in Raleigh, NC says: “I don’t listen to the words—I just like the beat.”
- You could, of course, lock yourself up in a small room or put tiny plastic speakers into your ears, but who wants to do that? ↩