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Ha! I was writing about this yesterday and Jess beat me to it. Great minds think alike, and all that!

I was never really sure about audio books. It seemed like cheating, somehow. Could you say that you had read something if you hadn’t actually, well, read it? Did it count?

As if that actually matters.

Now that I spend around an hour and a half in the car each day (longer if I don’t time my departure times wisely), I’ve needed to find ways to stay alert, engaged and, scarily enough, awake. Often music is fine. Sometimes I listen to a podcast or two; sermons by Tim Keller are my favourite Christian thing to listen to, as he has a great voice (even if, when he gets excited, he sounds like a triumphant Vizzini), has good things to say and his talks usually fit into my commute time. I started off with Mark Driscoll, thinking his conversational style would actually be kind of good for driving, but he gets way too shouty and I’m not able to listen carefully enough to decide whether I agree with what he’s saying.

Eventually, I decided checking out audio books could be a good thing. Audible.com has a great range. I think I signed up when there was a free 30-day trial. Then they hook you in with $7.49/month for the first three months, before going up to $14.95/month. The monthly membership gives you one credit a month (one credit = one book). I thought $7.49 per book was pretty good so I signed up. As a member, you can also buy books for much cheaper than the list price.

And, whaddya know, their strategy worked because I stayed on even when the price went up. Listening to books as I drive has kept me focused, engaged and entertained. When I’m up to a particularly good bit in a story, I even look forward to getting back on the road so I can hear the next bit.

Audible’s got a 48-hour members sale on at the moment, which is almost over (ends tonight at 11:59pm AEST). Lots of books for $6.95 each, which is a bargain really (especially if you were going to buy, say, the audio version of the NKJV which would normally cost you $69.95 (but I’m still not convinced about audio Bibles like these, even if they have awesome actors reading the parts. The music and sound effects are quite distracting)). I found after I checked out and went to my library page, they had a special pop up with an offer to choose another book for $4.95. They’re pretty savvy with their offers and deals, I must say.

I’ve found it frustrating at times if I don’t know what I feel like listening to when I get to the end of a book. But at the same time, I have had a few pleasant occasions of serendipity. The free audiobook of Alan Cumming reading Arthur Conan Doyle’s The adventure of the blue carbuncle was excellent; I don’t think I ever would have read any Sherlock Holmes stories otherwise. Because of reviews praising the performance, I got Beautiful ruins by Jess Walter, which I probably never would have picked up in a regular bookshop, but it was most diverting while driving around the south coast over new year’s, and entertainingly performed by Edoardo Ballerini.

I am also developing quite an appreciation for a well-read/well-performed story. It is certainly an art. The best performance so far has been Lenny Henry reading Neil Gaiman’s Anansi Boys. His voice on its own is so pleasing to listen to, but his characterisations are hysterical, especially when doing the Jamaican accents.

So if you have a lot of travelling in your week, may I commend the audiobook to you? It makes what feels like a waste of time feel like time well spent. And I’ve come to accept that hearing a book counts; it’s just getting the words into your brain in a different way.