Audio Books

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Audio Books – Not Just for the Blind

The Revival of the Audio Book

Audio Books – Not Just for the Blind

All my adult life I have been listening to audio books. And I am not even blind! Let me tell you how come, and why I love this form of reading.

To pass my exams in high school I had to learn pretty heavy chunks of information more or less by hearth. To excel in subjects like geography and history almost entirely depended on a capacity to parrot a long string of prefab information. Creativity was neither required nor recommended.

Now I happen to have an excellent short-term memory. So it was only natural for me to read aloud the stuff in the books and record it on my beloved tape recorder, and a few days before my exam I sprang into action. Comfortably lying on my bed, refreshments and cigarettes within reach, I listened with an alert, blank and open mind to the words, allowing themselves to imprint them on my memory.

I soon found out that simply by hearing these ‘audio books’, not even trying to remember, was the best way to remember them! Very Yin indeed! Repeating this process about five or six times as closely to the day of the exam brought me extraordinary ratings for extraordinary little effort. So this was a bit my magic trick!

Later I my life came a few years that I had to write a great amount of poetry. Regardless of the quality, which was very uneven, at least the sheer bulk of it was quite impressive. Recording the stuff and listening it back made it a lot easier to find out which ones were merely word salad, and which ones made sense, or better still, made lucidly nonsense, or transcended the sense/nonsense dichotomy altogether (The best!). I also recorded poems of good poets to appreciate their work and to be subliminally influenced by them.

Then came the years that I fell in love with Indian philosophy, and once again my tape recorder functioned as an adequate extension of my memory. How often did I play the audio book ‘I am that’ by the great Indian sage Nisargadatta, in a Dutch translation? Of course I do not know, but I recon it to be a few hundred times! Shorter and more poetic pieces like The Book of Ecclesiastics (it’s even in the bible!), accompanied by my own piano playing also proved quite palatable and interesting.

Now, do not let me misunderstood!

I like books, and it is a great thing to sit in an easy chair underneath a cosy lamp, being absorbed in anyone’s flights of fancy or lightning bolts of insight! But if I really value a book, I get it as an audio book, or I record it myself. A great advantage is that it allows the body to take any position; lying down (my personal all time favourite!), standing, walking down the street with a walk-or discman, etc. A few times one could see me reading a book while walking down the street, but this is at the same time a bit hazardous as well as a bit eccentric looking, which is ok, but maybe one should care not to look too eccentric too often in the eyes of too many people.

Audio books are safer and less odd. In one’s home it enables one to continue reading while cooking, ironing, going to the bathroom, etc. Long live continuity!

Another great advantage is that one can listen to it without concentrating on it, which, I strongly believe, allows the words to percolate in quit interesting and penetrating ways. One studies without studying, so to say. It is a bit like the way a child learns to speak. With or without specific concentration the young child hears all those grown-ups make those mysterious noises, accompanied by their no less mysterious behaviour. Somehow there is felt to be a correspondence between the two; something within the child resonates, making it to imitate the grown-ups, who have the standing of gods for the child; it starts recognizing its own name, as well as the fathomless meaning of the word ‘I’ and there you are: welcome to the Culture Club!

My guess is that this oral transmission is very powerful in allowing sub-and supra conscious energies to join the game. In this sense Audio Books are truly post-modern: the oral tradition is the archaic one, the literal tradition the modern one, and the new born audio book tradition a revival of archaic power on a higher wind of the spiral.

Self made Audio Books make nice presents too. I can say that some of my friends say they really enjoy the recordings I gave them. Well, maybe they are just polite…

Anyway, enjoyed actively, passively, or both, Audio Books are here to stay. In my opinion, one has not even to be a great fan of many aspects of modern digital technology to be fairly enthusiastic about Audio Books. I work with them most of my life, and found little or no reason to suspect them. Come on; let me hear you read this article aloud.

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