Listening to books

I received some suggestions to give audio books a try on my last post asking for ideas on reading sources. (Also see the related posts from Grumpy Rumblings here and here, which provided some additional options.)

I’ve never been big on audio books because I tend to zone out when listening to people talk. Maybe it’s because I learned to filter out stuff I didn’t want to/need to hear when I was a kid (like shouting or “angry voice” from mom), or maybe I’m just not a strong audible learner. When I attend meetings in person I always look for visuals, and when I am on phone meetings I’ve found that doing something with my hands (like writing notes on paper, or doing some simple knitting) helps me stay focused. It could also be that I’m just used to taking in media via my eyes, in general.

But “needs must” so I decided to give a few audio books a try. Red Shirts by John Scalzi was a good suggestion, but I don’t have access to it in audio book format through any of my free sources, so I had to try something else. The first book I tried was Salman Rushdie’s Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights. It was available through my local library’s Overdrive catalog, and I had heard from an acquaintance that it was a delightful book. I tried listening to it while I was doing some work in the kitchen and while I was walking the dog. I kept finding myself mentally drifting, though, and losing track of the plot and characters. Eventually, I just stopped trying and the lending period ended. So I’ll say that Effort #1 was a fail.

Effort #2 was Amy Poehler’s Yes Please. I love Amy Poehler, and she was reading the book herself, so I thought it would be a good experience. Not so much. Partly my experience was tainted by the app I was using (my experience with the different lending apps will have to be another post), and partly it was the work itself.  There was just too much motherhood in the book for me to get into it.

Effort #3 is going much better, though. Within one day I had two references to Ruth Goodman’s How to Be a Tudor pop up in my Twitter feed. One of the references linked to a short excerpt of the book, and I liked what I read there. I went looking for the book in the various lending service catalogs and found it in audio book format on Hoopla. So I went ahead and downloaded the app and item. I’ve had much better luck staying focused on this book. Maybe it’s the topic, maybe it’s the reader’s British accent, or maybe it’s the fact that I had a few hours of car time last weekend and kept this playing most of the time.

I still prefer to read from a screen, though. Last night my choice of entertainment for my two open hours before bedtime was reading an e-book I had borrowed, and not listening to the audio book. But I will be continuing to listen to the audio book when I take the dog out on walks, and when I’m making food in the kitchen over the next few days.

Seeking ideas for reading

I don’t think there are a lot of readers of my blog, but I’m hoping to get some input anyway. I’m hoping for some economical ideas for getting reading material that doesn’t involve borrowing through the library.

My challenge is that the visual acuity in my right eye is not so great for reading right now, and it may never be. As I’ve written previously, I’m dealing with a disease (I.C.E. Syndrome) in my right eye that causes swelling of the cornea and distortion of my vision. My current prescription in my progressive lens eyeglasses isn’t working for me anymore, and since the vision in my eye isn’t stable enough right now, it doesn’t make sense to get a new prescription yet. Even with a new prescription, it’s questionable how long it will be helpful to me, since this is a progressive disease.

Thankfully, the challenges I’ve faced with screen work have been addressed with the addition of a large smart TV used as a monitor, and/or using the built in app options for zooming or re-sizing items on the laptop screen. But I’m continuing to struggle when it comes to reading books.

My brain has had to go through a bit of re-training for reading, and it has become less exhausting and stressful than it used to be even just a couple months ago. However, it’s still more challenging for me to read a regular book than an ebook. With ebooks, I can blow up the text and adjust the backlighting as needed. Standard print books are things I can only read in very good lighting.

The local library is great, but the selection of ebooks is limited. I’ve asked at the local library about large print books, and they are available if I am patient about waiting for them to be located within the lending system. With large print books, I have two issues to reconcile, though: additional delay, and the bulk factor. Books in general are bulky, and large print ones tend to be even bulkier. For just sitting at home and reading, this could be OK, but I like to read on the go. I take public transit as much as possible, and reading is a great way to pass the time.

For my purposes, ebooks are really the best option. I can read them on my phone, which has a large screen (it’s an iPhone 6+), plus the benefit of resizable text in whatever reading app the ebook format requires. I always have my phone with me, so there’s no extra bulk to deal with (and that’s a bonus right now when I’m limited by how much I can lift and carry.)

There are some ebook subscription services, but the reviews and news raise a lot of doubts.

This Kindle Unlimited review notes that many best sellers are missing from their catalog. I do read some bestselling authors, and I’d like to have access to their books.

Oyster shut down.

Scribd made some big changes to its catalog last year (limiting romance books and audio book access) raising questions about the sustainability of its business model, and speculation about how much longer it will be around.

Are there other options? Maybe someone out there has an idea for me that allows me to supplement the limited supply of ebooks available through my local library and not spend more than my current book budget of $10 a month.