Me + Audiobooks: The Love Story

I fell in love with audiobooks, but not before abandoning books completely.

Story time. One day a long time ago (in a galaxy far, far away) I cold turkeyed all my podcasts and audiobooks.

Not because I hated them. No, quite the opposite - they were great! Yet I realized I'm listening not because I like them, but to block out my thoughts. Great books and podcasts reduced to background noise, zero information retained. So I quit. Fun times.

Pro tip: thought suppression is no good for anxiety and depression. I suggest mindfulness and CBT/psychotherapy instead for a start. Not a medical advice.

But here's how my relationship with audiobooks started:

I grew up around books, in fact we had a wall of bookshelves when I was a kid. More than Tai Lopez in his garage. Did you know bookshelves make for great climbing walls and even better paper target stands when you're like 5 and practicing BB guns and knife throwing? Well now you do.

Fortunately, I lived long enough to actually read them. And while I enjoyed the early Nintendo and Sega consoles way more than books, I would still read regularly. Winnie the Pooh & Co., The Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland. Then the Donald Duck comics that I waited for religiously every Wednesday. Still have a hundred or so gathering dust in my closet. They're like little time machines now: open one and get an instant trip down the memory lane.

As I grew, my reading (and gaming) grew with me. In high school, Shakespeare and classic Russian literature had to compete against everything from Duke Nukem and Doom to HoMM, Warcraft II, StarCraft I and beyond. And yet I never quit reading completely.

Then adulthood happened, and that's when things got knocked into twelfth gear. The early jobs, then freelance, then the first "business" venture, and suddenly there was no time left for physical books. I'm sure I still have a couple business paperbacks keeping Donald Duck company in that closet. I only managed to go through a few chapters before I had to admit physical books aren't for me anymore.

Podcasts weren't a thing in my world back then, and audiobooks were something you had to hunt for on torrent trackers. The ones I was interested in were never available, and in any case the shitty UX was just not worth it. And so I never even bothered to give the audio format a try.

A couple years later I stumbled upon Audible and got the first book for free as part of the trial. It was Ashlee Vance's biography of Elon Musk and I was going through my startup craze phase, so it blew my mind. I can't say it changed my life, but it did leave a lasting impression and made me a Musk simp for a while. And to be fair, he wasn't yet quite the Elon of today (fortunately?) and I wasn't yet the Martin I am now (sadly?).

In any case, the book hooked me on Audible. The ability to go from hearing about a book to having it on your smartphone 10 seconds later at a modest fee was insane. It made all the problems I've had with physical books disappear in an instant.

A new chapter of my relationship with reading had begun. In fact, I've found Audible's value proposition and UX so good I'm still a subscriber all these years later.

My relationship with audiobooks isn't perfect of course, just like any (?) other relationship. Information retention is one of the big things I still struggle with when it comes to audiobooks. As a fan of note-taking, I feel like the audio format just isn't that well-suited for the task compared to physical books or ebooks. I think I'm pretty close to figuring it out, but not quite there yet.

That said, audiobooks definitely changed my life, even if they aren't perfect. I can't imagine missing out on even a fraction of the books I've listened to over the past years.

So if you're one of those people who just can't listen to audiobooks, my heart goes out to you. And if not - welcome to the club!