The front zip pocket of my carry-on suitcase has always been reserved for a book or two — real books, the printed kind that you flip through and dog-ear to mark your place and sometimes dribble beverages onto because drinking, unlike reading, has never come naturally to you.
I've listened to many a friend and colleague sing praises about their e-readers but, despite three good tries, I just can't read on a screen for more than 10 minutes. It's not the same. Physical pages are easier on the eyes; they never run out of battery; you can Instagram the cover atop your sand-speckled beach towel for an easy 55 Likes. And holding a book above my face to block the sun has long been a key part of my summer strength-training program.
But here’s the thing about being a screen-resistant snob: books are heavy. Only once will you need to lug a Harry Potter hardback to the Outer Banks the first year your parents make you carry your own luggage to know this. Until recently, I'd resigned myself to forgoing an extra pair of shoes in favor of 3.8 pounds of creative nonfiction (or self-help or a shameless YA series).
Then, before a recent trip to Spain, I decided to give audiobooks a go and signed up for a 30-day free trial of Audible. And just like e-readers, audiobooks aren't the same as their printed counterparts, but in certain situations — and especially when traveling — they're better.
Moving to New York City made me a podcast obsessive. I refuse to commute without one now, so audiobooks were a natural next step. With Audible, Amazon’s audiobook service, the month-long trial gives you one credit, which you can redeem for one book regardless of price. With a membership, you pay $15 a month, automatically get another download credit, and you get to keep all the books you download forever.
I worried that reading via my headphones wouldn't feel as immersive, but I then proceeded to spend five flights, two train rides, and a rainy day totally enchanted by Anthony Doerr’s “All the Light We Cannot See” — without the distraction of my own very poor French and German phonetics — and now I'm hooked.
I'd even scheduled a reminder in my calendar to cancel the subscription when the month was up, but I didn't do it. Now, here I am a loyal audiobook evangelist. Here are seven reasons I’m never going back — at least while on the road.
1. Audiobooks weigh nothing. For travel, this is perhaps the most important factor.
2. Listening feels easier than physically reading. There’s something about being read to aloud that relaxes me more than reading with my eyes. Call it regressive, call it “cheating,” but only after you've tried it.
3. It's broken my bad habit of flipping ahead. I do kind of miss it though.
4. Motion sickness is no longer a concern. This only happens to me when I'm facing backward and trying to read in a window seat, but for people who always get carsick, an audiobook is a game changer.
5. You'll never have to worry about pronouncing character names incorrectly. Going back to Harry Potter, poor Hermione was “Her-mo-nine” in my head until the “Goblet of Fire,” and this grave injustice could have been avoided.
6. You can multitask. Read while driving or buying groceries — or even running, if running is a thing you do. These are all options when an audiobook is delivering the caramel-frosting-coated voice of Maya Angelou directly into your ear canals.
7. And, my personal favorite: no one can judge your book choices. Gone is the creeping desire to swap out the jacket of the latest John Green teen tale for something more capital-L literary and this, I believe, is true liberation.