I don’t read! I’m listening

Defenders and opponents

When a new phenomenon emerges that shakes habits, it often has a knack for dividing the audience. There are those who gladly accept it, but there are also those who reject it and insist on its harmfulness. This is also somewhat the case with the audiobook. Lukáš Vavrečka does not hide that the book he wrote with Klára Smolíková is, among other things, a kind of advocacy for the audiobook and an attempt to defend it against its opponents:

Lukas Vavrecka |  Photo: Tomáš Berný, ČRo

“Our book is not only intended for lovers of audiobooks and reading aloud in general, but also for all those who encounter these kinds of books and are forced to face this phenomenon. For many, this is a new situation, and they don’t know how to handle it. Our book is intended for librarians who see the number of audiobooks in their libraries increasing, for teachers who can and are already using audiobooks in education, for parents whose children do not read but can listen and who could. a path to reading and literature. And it’s also a book for people who want to read, but either don’t have the time, or have too tired eyes and don’t want to focus their eyes on a text anymore. »

A phenomenon as old as human civilization

Klara Smolikova |  Photo: Milan Bajak, ČRo

First of all, it must be said that the audiobook is not a new phenomenon and is just the culmination of a long evolution. Lukáš Vavrečka and Klára Smolíková follow this evolution in their book and show that the orally transmitted stories are as old as our civilization. Indeed, the oldest stories were told by their authors, and only much later do we begin to preserve them by writing and reading them. Great progress in this field will be achieved after the invention of the technical means that make it possible to record the voice. In this context, Lukáš Vavrečka draws from obscurity an important historical event:

“Towards the end of the 1880s, Emile Berliner recorded a ballad by Friedrich Schiller on a disc. This is most likely the first audiobook. And what is most interesting is that it is the oldest recording that has survived for us. So we can say that the oldest sound recording is an audiobook. »

Result of a long technological evolution

It is radio that has largely contributed to the promotion of what we might call ‘sound reading’. From the first half of the 20th century, listeners could listen to radio plays, as well as read stories and novels that were divided into episodes and presented in serial form. Many of these programs were recorded on discs or later on cassettes. It is the compact disc, and later the digital files for downloading, that will bring about a real technological revolution in this field in the first decades of the 21st century.

Illustrative Photo: Felix Lichtenfeld, Pixabay, Pixabay License

Now a voluminous thousand-page novel can be compressed onto a disc or downloaded onto a mobile phone, opening up new possibilities for the audiobook. However, this also causes some concern and the mobilization of those who are hesitant about these new technical means. Lukáš Vavrečka lists common arguments against the audiobook:

“We’ve heard a lot of opinions from people who think that listening to audiobooks might not be completely unreasonable, but who would rather read than listen. And we found that many of these arguments were based on questionable facts and outdated opinions. For example, it is said that passive listening rocks and puts you to sleep, and that it should be banned while driving. Other reluctant believe that listening to audiobooks is only good for people who are blind or partially sighted. And sometimes people say to me, ‘But you, you see it right, why are you listening?’ These myths had to be debunked and that’s what we were trying to do. »

'I don't read!  I'm listening' |  Photo repro: Lukáš Vavrečka, Klára Smolíková, 'Nečtu!  Poslouchám'/Universum

Listen while you work, work while you listen

It is not easy to explain to readers who want to concentrate fully on their reading, who want to forget the rest of the world and plunge into the universe of romance, that they can listen to a novel while doing practically all the housework. and even while driving. The argument that a lot of time can be saved in this way may seem insufficient to them. However, Lukáš Vavrečka insists on this aspect that, in his opinion, would allow us to know many more literary works:

Illustrative photo: Lukas Hartmann, Pexels

For example, listening to a 300-page audiobook takes ten hours, but in that time I do the dishes, cook dinner, fold the laundry, and even manage to take a dip in the supermarket on the corner for a bottle of wine And all the while I wear headphones and manage to listen to several chapters of a book.”

Children and the audiobook

Lukáš Vavrečka goes so far as to affirm that light household chores done mechanically keep our minds alert and sometimes allow us to concentrate better and better understand the text we listen to while we work. And he especially argues for more use of the audiobook in the education of children:

“For example, it is said that if young children listen too much to what is being read to them, they will never learn to read well and their relationship with books will never be strong enough. But we forget that children learn to read and develop their interest in reading thanks to parents reading books to them. The audiobook also has the advantage of being interpreted by professionals who present the texts in a way that parents would not be able to, thus capturing and holding the attention of children. »

'I don't read!  I'm listening' |  Photo repro: Lukáš Vavrečka, Klára Smolíková, 'Nečtu!  Poslouchám'/Universum

The twin brothers

Lenka Zizkova |  Photo: Radio Prague Int.

Anyway, the existence and growing popularity of the audiobook is now a fact to be reckoned with. Lukáš Vavrečka notes that public libraries reserve special sections for audiobooks, and the publishing houses that include them are increasing. Reading audio books becomes a special artistic discipline that has its stars and companions. One wonders what the best way is to present this kind of reading, whether these texts are read with dramatic accents or in a fairly neutral voice, or whether music is added to them. We wonder to what extent the interpreters can intervene in the texts and whether they should be read with one, two or more voices. Now the audiobook is considered the twin brother of the printed book.

'I don't read!  I'm listening' |  Photo repro: Lukáš Vavrečka, Klára Smolíková, 'Nečtu!  Poslouchám'/Universum

However, Lukáš Vavrečka and Klára Smolíková admit that they also like the classic book a lot. In order to present the audiobook to the readers, they have also opted for the form of a printed book, hoping to release it in audio form soon as well. It’s a paradox that shows that the print book and its audio brother are destined to coexist, but that doesn’t stop them from vying for public favor.

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