What Does Your Audiobook Speed Say About You?

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Happy summer, Cape Girardeau! We are just about a third of the way through our summer reading program this year - 3 weeks! Can you believe it? A question I often get asked when patrons in the community come to sign up for our summer reading program is “Do audiobooks count as reading?”. And I always answer enthusiastically that they do! 

June is Audiobook Appreciation Month. Though not the only non-traditional form of reading, audiobooks have made reading more accessible to a great number of people from the visually impaired to those with learning disabilities . And being a conveniently  transportable format, reading on the go has become so much easier as well. I listen to them in the car as I run errands, but I have also been known to pop in my headphones and listen to Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas while on a nature hike deep in the woods. Honestly, audiobooks are game changers that have seriously helped my reading goals over the past few years.

So what about reading or listening speeds? There has been a lot of talk the past few months about reading speeds, what the perfect speed is, and what these settings mean. Scientific studies are even being conducted to see what impact these different speeds have both critically and cognitively when it comes to reading and comprehension. 

But I am not a scientist, so here are some fun interpretations on reading speeds and what I think they say about us as audiobook readers. Interested in testing it out? I have included some reading recommendations that I think would be fun for each speed group. Feel free to give them a listen, or find something else that catches your interest. Bear with me, this might be a longer one!

Default/Normal Speed:
These readers like to be in the moment of the story as it is being presented to them. They are comfortable focusing at conversational speeds and don’t feel pressured or rushed to consume content. Most of the people that I have talked to that read at this speed tend to listen to the fiction best sellers.
Recommendations: Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus (Fiction); The Wager by David Grann

1.2-1.5 Speed:
These are the readers that want to be in the moment of the story as the narrator tells it, but tend to have trouble focusing at too slow of a speaking rate. Normal levels are doable, but the sweet spot to keep their attention is just a little faster than that at 1.2-1.3 speeds. Those of us that feel the constant need to consume media can listen at a 1.5, but anything faster than that and we are back to being unable to focus on the content. These readers tend to have a wide range of reading taste, but tend to read more of their favorite genres rather than branching out more. 
Recommendations: Fairy Tale by Stephen King (Fiction); When Women Ruled the World: 6 Queens of Egypt by Kara Cooney

1.75 Speed:
These are our go-getters, our multitaskers who -in order to keep up with the constant overhaul of media and information have adapted to a higher listening speed. These are our organized creative types. They are our designers, marketers, public relations managers, etc. These readers have a critical eye for presentation and a brain that can keep up with the challenges and changes the world presents.
Recommendations: Reckless Girls by Rachel Hawkins (Fiction); River of the Gods: Genius, Courage, and Betrayal in the Search for the Source of the Nile by Candice Millard

2.0 Speed:
These are our readers who have a difficult time focusing at the normal rate of narration. Faster audiobook speeds force their brains to focus so they don’t miss a single detail. Because of this, these readers need books to capture their attention quickly and keep that hold until the end. Slow narration could kill a book for them. Because of their reading speed, they typically have a wide breadth of understanding and knowledge about books (especially what is new, fun, and maybe even a little out there). 
Recommendations: The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern (Fiction); Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs? Big Questions From Tiny Mortals About Death by Caitlin Doughty

Varied Speeds (from 0.9 to 1.0 to 1.5):
The readers with varying levels of reading speed probably have the most variables in play when it comes to choosing and sticking with an audiobook narrator, author, story, and/or speed. How a narrator reads might increase or decrease the speed of a book. A slow narrator might need to be sped up while a fast narrator would need to be slowed down some. It's a similar issue with plot pacing (I am guilty of speeding up my books if they feel too slow and then bringing them back down once it picks up again). These readers do enjoy fiction, but tend to read more NF, focusing a lot of time on biographies. Biographies are often read by their authors who may or may not have experience with reading out loud for audiobooks. This is why the speeds change consistently depending on what a person might be listening to at the time.
Recommendations: I’m Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy (Biography); Taste: My Life Through Food (Biography) by Stanley Tucci


Check out a few of the featured items below for some of my most recent favorites on audio!


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