May 30, 2012
I use Audiobooks, recorded lectures and podcasts to learn to a massive extent and I find them extremely useful. I haven’t heard them discussed on here much, so I thought I would broach the subject. Here on lesswrong in terms on scholarship textbooks are widely favored and textbooks on math are especially encouraged. I’ve listened to some textbooks that worked well in audio and even if you can’t learn math very well with them, there are plenty of other useful things to learn as well.
One barrier to using audiobooks that a lot of people have described to me is that they can read much faster than they can get through audiobooks. It’s pretty easy to find applications that speed up audio, though, so this doesn't seem like a great reason. Another barrier is that it is harder to find audio sources of things, again, clever use of the internet can still find you most things.
The two main benefits that I would expect most people to receiving when listening to audio rather than reading are:
(1) That you can accomplish some other manual task while listening to an audiobook.
I work at a manual job so I have more time available to listen than the average person, but I think that most people underestimate the amount of time that they could spend at activities that you can listen to audiobooks while doing. Some examples are commuting, cleaning, making things, sports, shopping, shaving and falling asleep. Doubling you productivity is just not something that can be overlooked.
(2) That listening to audiobooks is less effortful than reading.
This has definitely been my experience and I would be interested in hearing what other people’s experiences are to see if I really am typical in this respect. I love reading, but it’s the sort of activity that I have to take breaks from and whereas with audiobooks I can actually just happily listen to them with all of my waking hours. I remember being read to as a kid and it’s just like that.