Are you Listening?

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I had an interesting conversation the other day; a young man in the library asked me if I had read a certain book that he held out to me, I replied that I hadn’t but I’d read the print copy.  As you’ve probably guessed by now the young man was showing me an audiobook.  So is ‘listening’ to an audiobook just as good as holding a print copy in your hands?

I suppose the answer to that question must come from your own personal definition of reading. If reading is understanding the content of the story or the theme, then audiobooks certainly succeed.  Understanding the message, thinking critically about the content, using imagination, and making connections are at the heart of what it means to be a reader and why kids learn to love books whether they read them alone, are read to or listen to them.  Audiobooks also play a large role in bringing reading to the visually impaired and help them enter that other world all readers know and love, and I for one would never say a visually impaired reader was not a true reader just because they listened to audiobooks.

Which brings me to the crux of the matter why is there even room for the “Which is better: listening to an audiobook or reading a print book” debate. It’s inane, banal and pointless, and as long as books are being absorbed in one form or another surely it is a plus for all concerned.  The debate is based on the premise that, as a reader you can’t do both and that you have to fall onto one side of the debate or the other, pretty much like the eBook debate (but we all know my feelings on that subject).

When it comes to listening to audiobooks or reading books, it’s not actually an issue of personal preference for me. It’s not even a matter of choice rather a matter of common sense and deciding if I want to get home in one piece. I cannot choose to read a book while I’m driving; the choice here is whether to listen to an audiobook or the radio; if it’s the audiobook careful choice has to be made as to content, I want something interesting but not too engaging that I lose focus on driving.  There are many circumstances in my everyday life (and probably yours too) where by using common sense my choices are a) listen or not, and b) listen to what? There is no option to read with my eyes.

If this debate had been brought up back in the heyday of dramatised books on the radio, and at the advent of the wonderful A Book at Bedtime show that BBC Radio 4 has featured on weeknights since 1949, it would not have even been given notice, or credence.  It was the norm to read your print book, listen to your radio dramatisations and then the Book at Bedtime before retiring for the night.  I’ve even had classroom discussions about a particular book on the BBC with my English Literature teacher, who had set it as homework knowing certain members of the class would be more likely to ‘read’ the book this way, rather than having to hold it in their hands.

So stop the debate or argument, whatever you want to dress it up as. Please. For it really is neither of these things. And if you insist on still travelling down this misguided path, find a visually impaired person; ask your obtuse question of them, then come away from that conversation being thankful you have an extra sense with which you can receive information.

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Books or Gift Cards ~ Shopping for Booklovers

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Shopping for the bibliophile in your life can often be daunting enough when you are an avid reader, but non-readers are often left trying to find their way through the wilderness without a map when it comes to this task. The most obvious answer is, of course, books however, I love receiving reading or book accessories especially if they are unusual and/or fun. Below is a list of seven sites that I have personally used, not only to buy gifts for myself but for my book loving friends, and I have never been disappointed.

Audible.com 
aud_logo._CB383473417_Yes, it is part of Amazon, but for those of us who enjoy audio books, this site is excellent. They carry more than 40,000 titles in all genres that you simply download. They have two plans, each one available on a monthly or annual basis. And if you want to, you can easily cancel. The folks on Audible are extremely accommodating when it comes to cancelling and restarting membership, as I’ve done this several times over the course of my membership I can vouch for the ease of which both be done.

Big Cozy Books 
Giant upholstered furniture for kids who love to read. They focus on commercial and public places, but if your child’s room is big enough these pieces would be wonderful. Although aimed at the library or a school, these items would be ideal to give interest to a reading room/study in your own home.  We will be renovating an attic soon, and ‘The Hobbit’ book bench would be ideal for the window alcove there.

Bodleian Library Shop
The Bodleian Library, the chief among all Oxford University’s libraries,  offers a fantastic array of gifts for the book-minded including home accessories, stationery, bookplates, journals, jewellery and more.  I love this store and, although some of the items can lean towards the higher price range, you always know that you are going to receive a top-notch quality item for the price paid.  Shipping is pretty speedy too.

Hookmarks
I have a thing about bookmarks, and although I possess an irrational number of them, I have you add one of these to my collection.  Metal bookmarks that hook over the spine of a book have been named hookmarks by this company who makes a wide range of wonderful designs. I absolutely adore the treble clef hookmark, but if music isn’t your thing then they also feature ones with holiday, wedding, animals, nature, hobbies, spiritual, coin and other themes. Very nice, and not too expensive.

Library of Congress Gift Shop
Like the Bodleian Library Store mentioned above, this site has  high quality bookish gifts, and the Library of Congress is definitely worth checking out. Again, they can lean towards the pricey end of the market, but as I said for the Bodleian you will be receiving a product that reflects the price paid for it.

The Literary Gift Company
Despite this being a UK site, they do have a nifty flag that will convert all their prices into dollars. Their philosophy “We aim to be a one-stop-shop for all book lovers. We produce our own range of literary products, as well as offering a unique combination of gorgeous products from new designers, along with the best of quality brands from our partners. We are particularly interested in promoting products which recycle, or ‘upcycle’ abandoned or out-of-date books.”

Nakfactorium 
nakfactorium_banner2_01This website is an “emporium of handcrafted art objects from the hand of Pasternak.” That’s Robert Pasternak, a Canadian artist whose work is wonderfully original. Among the crafts that booklovers will find of interest are a set of Chicklet-sized books, a miniature book the shape of a stick of chewing gum, and a bacon bookmark. This bookmark is the real thing—or at least as near as you want bacon to get to your books. It’s die-cut and looks so real you may be tempted to eat it. Don’t. It’s the perfect gift since it also opens up into a greeting card.

If you don’t find anything in this small, tried and tested selection then head on over to Bibliobuffet, where they have a more extensive list which includes some of the above sites and many more.

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