Audio Book vs. Book Book – Passive vs. Active; Receiving vs. Pursuing – thoughts on how to learn (from books especially)

Maybe there is a difference between reading to enjoy vs. reading to learn…


A few days ago, someone asked me if I thought that listening to an audio book was as good as reading a book.

Confession:  I have never listened to an audio book.

But…I have read about the experience.  And I have listened to plenty of podcasts, and watched way more than a few TED Talks.

And, to state the obvious, I have read many, many books.

So…what I said in my answer to the question was that it depends on one’s intention.

I can imagine that listening to an audio version of a book that is a thriller would be every bit as good as reading the book.  Maybe, in some ways, better.

But, if your goal is serious study and interaction with the material, I do not see how listening to an audio book would be as useful as reading the book. – Maybe, if you took notes as you listened, it could be.

When I read a book to prepare a synopsis, I highlight many, many passages.  I write notes to myself.  (Note;  in the old days, I would write in the margins.  Now, I hit the note button on my Kindle app).  I copy and paste my many highlights into a Word document, and then go through my process of choosing the ones to include in my synopsis handout.

In other words, I carefully and thoroughly study the content of the book, and actively interact with it; I don’t simply read through it.

I consider this an active approach.  And, I suspect that just listening is more of a passive approach.  One approach is more of a “receiving” approach, the other is more of a  “pursuing” approach.

Now, I am a fan of diversity of approach.  Do whatever works for you.  Listen to a book; read a book; study a book.

But, if your goal is to learn well enough, deeply enough, to find the lessons to put into practice, it seems that some form of
note taking,
and content remembering,
and recall,
and interaction, is critical.

Those are some of my thoughts about simply reading vs. studying to learn.

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