Tuesday, January 06, 2004



The only place where one can find a good selection of audiobooks is Borders in Singapore. I used to be a regular customer there. In most other bookstores, at most you can only find some self-improvement tapes.

Audiobooks are great because you don't have to use your eyes to "read"--you can even do so in the dark. That's why they are such good companions to me whenever I need to go on a long journey by train or bus.

In Singapore, most people in the MRT subway have their ears plugged into their Walkman if not their cellphone anyway. Why not listen to an audiobook? You make better use of your input channels that way.

In Jakarta, I rarely get a chance to listen to audiobooks on the road, because my journeys are usually short ones by taxi. Audiobooks have instead become my bedtime "reading". I am often lulled to sleep by Vivekananda's Yoga aphorisms or Karen Armstrong's narration of Jerusalem: One City, Three Faiths. Sometimes it'll be poetry by Yeats. You can listen to an audiobook that way for years and never get to reach the end of the book!

Many actors and actresses do readings of popular books; my favourite is Peter Coyote. His reading of the Horse Whisperer by Nicholas Evans make tears stream down my cheeks. I normally would not buy popular bestseller fiction like the Horse Whisperer, but in this case, I listened to the book, because it was read by Peter Coyote. It is also a joy sometimes when the author himself reads his own work. Karen Armstrong is a good example and I'm such a big fan of her British headmistress voice!

I am surprised why audiobooks are not as popular as they should be. Most people find reading books tiresome and boring. Try listening to one instead--it is a less strenuous task and can even be quite entertaining.

KL folks spend a lot of time on the road listening to the idle chatter of radio DJs and the constant repetition of silly Manglish commercials. To me that's wasted bandwidth. And we complain that we do not have enough time to read. Why not make better use of one's time by listening to a book while driving?

And for avid readers, one can easily double one's intake of books by using those bits and pieces of time while commuting or doing household chores by listening to audiobooks. Information, unlike food, can be absorbed through many different channels. So, teach your ears how to read too.

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