Listening to a book

Semi-weekly columnist examines the relative merits of audio, versus traditional books

My kids live in an electronic age where a hundred books can be stored on a single thin computer device and carted about quite easily. I tell them that I still like to hold a book in my hands. They indicate that I need to change, and so I’ll probably get a gift of a kindle or its equivalent some time soon.

In the meantime, in an effort to get into the modern age, recently I checked out a “listen to” book from the Castlegar Library. I chose one of my favourite mystery authors, Lee Child, whose newest novel The Affair came in a package of 11 discs.

I decided I would listen-read this book in my van as I was wandering about our fair city. This was happening mostly prior to the municipal election, so as I was listening, I often stopped to replace one of my candidate-signs.

Then I’d get back into the vehicle and continue my listen-read experience as I followed the protagonist Jack Reacher into Northern Mississippi. A couple of times I left the van running, but when I returned, I had missed portions of the narrative.

I tried unsuccessfully to go back to where I was when I left the van. With a book, this is an easy process as you simply turn back the pages. With a cd, it was more difficult. The vehicle cd player would only take me back to the previous chapter, so I had to listen to part of the narrative again until I found my place.

On the second night, I arrived home while listening to Chapter 16, and the story was beginning to get exciting. Reacher was in the small town of Carter Crossing, Mississippi near an army base, and three murders had been committed.

In my driveway, I turned off the vehicle motor, but kept the ignition on so I could hear the story. Soon the vehicle was cold as the temperature was below zero on that evening.

I sat out there for over an hour getting colder as Reacher got hotter, linking up with the town’s lovely female sheriff.

The next day, I accidentally ejected the disc and lost my place. Then I had to start again at the beginning of a chapter and slowly listen-read to find my place.

Getting through this cd-novel was taking a long time. Some nights I wanted to listen some more, but I had to go in and get ready for bed.  With a regular book, I would have read some more in bed before falling to sleep.

So, I decided to take the cd book into the house and listen to it on our stereo.

My wife complained. She didn’t like the voice of the narrator on my cd-novel. And she didn’t want to listen to the brutal depiction of murder while she was knitting a Christmas stocking for our new granddaughter.

I turned down the volume and tried to find where I’d left off. After some adjustments, finally I was listening to Chapter 33. And then I fell asleep.

I fell asleep three nights in a row, so I gave up on the stereo. I tried listening to this cd-novel on my computer. Again, partway through Chapter 42, I fell asleep.

If I put the disc on “pause” I could sometimes resume from where I’d left off, but often if I stopped, I lost my place.

Eventually, I took the disks back to the van and continued to listen-read. It took me 10 days to complete the reading-listening.

I enjoyed the novel, but I did not enjoy the process. I would have read a “regular” book in a couple of days.