Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Five versus Fifteen

I checked out audible.com this morning because I'm thinking about getting an MP3 player for the occasional air travel and for while I'm knitting. (I don't knit well enough to look away from it, so I can't watch tv or read while knitting as many knitters do.) However, I had a moment of shock when I read the Benefits of Membership page:

The average reader gets through only 5 books a year, but the average AudibleListener® member listens to 15 books a year.

Eek! Five books a year? I often get through 5 books a month, and sometimes 5 in a week. Getting all the way up to 15 books a year is something they are proud of?

More evidence that I'm an alien.


Stef said...

In a publishing course I took in 1983, I was told that only 5% of the population of the US ever goes into a bookstore. Some people would read books exclusively from the library, but (if the statistic is true and still accurate) presumably the percentage of the population that reads books at all is not much larger.

So if "the average reader" includes all those people who almost never read any books at all, I'm not surprised that the average is 5 books a year. (Actually I am surprised that it's that high.)

Anyone who goes to the trouble of becoming an AudibleListener member is spending significant time and money acquiring audiobooks. Note that the quote says this is how many they listen to, not how many they take in altogether. I'll bet the number of books the average listener takes in is higher than 15. (Also, the statistic might only include audiobooks acquired from Audible. Many people use both Audible and the library and other sources of audio books.)

I have been listening to audiobooks since 1989. How many paper books I get through in a year varies a lot, but I always go through a lot of audiobooks. I've been a member of Audible for 3 years and I've read 140 books I acquired from them. (And some additional ones acquired from the library and Librivox.org.)

Mark Jones said...

Yeah, that's just...mind boggling. Fifteen books a year? How can they read so few?

Irfon-Kim Ahmad said...

I don't know that I've ever read fifteen books in a year, and five wouldn't be uncharacteristically low. This year I will probably manage about ten, but that's pretty darned good for me.

I read very, very, very slowly, and I don't dedicate a huge amount of time to reading. I mostly read during my commute, which means that when the weather is nice, I get to choose between reading and cycling, and I usually choose cycling. However, the, "I read very, very, very slowly," but is the biggest part of it. Five books in a week would be next to impossible for me even if I dedicated the entirety of my free time to just reading for the week. Heck, I think it would be close to impossible for me even if I took the week off work to read.

Sometimes I kind of struggle with that. At times it makes me feel stupid, especially compared to people around me who read very fast. Other times it doesn't bother me. When I go to museums in a big group, I generally tell the rest of the group to go ahead and I will meet them back at a pre-defined time, because I like to read all the information in its entirety and it takes me so long that the other people become frustrated and bored and I, in turn, start skipping pretty much everything in order to try to keep people happy. When Erin and I went to a science museum together on our anniversary (since our first date was to a science museum), there was a timeline of science. When she finished the whole timeline and began to just loiter, I think I was on maybe the fourth label (out of probably about fifty).

But as I said, a lot of the time it doesn't bother me, and I work through things at my own pace. I'm currently reading Margaret Atwood's "The Blind Assassin," and I think I will get through it in about two weeks, which is lightning fast for me. I enjoyed Pynchon's "Gravity's Rainbow," quite a lot, even though it took me eight months to read. I haven't finished Little, Big yet -- I've sort of set it aside for a while -- even though I put nearly a year into the effort.

I was a member of Audible for a while and will probably return. I put it on hiatus because I got the 24-credit plan and when it came time to renew I had almost half of the books that bought still available. That means that for me, I read about 12 books from Audible.com. That did represent a significantly faster pace of reading than I'm used to, although at least one of those I gave up on before finishing. So their statistics and claims of speed increase are probably pretty accurate for me. On the other hand, at the pace that their narrators move along, I often find myself losing bits, and that was hard to get adjusted to with audiobooks -- that there wasn't any really good way to absorb it all the way I'm used to, and I wound up with a somewhat more superficial experience of the text.

Lynn said...

I'm not sure how many books I read in a year. Maybe 10 to 12, possibly fewer. I'm always reading something but it usually takes me several weeks to get through a book because I'm always doing so many other things. I don't often spend more than half an hour a day reading a book.