Chris Biscardi

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Listening vs Reading

Last year I had a goal to read 30 books over the year. I hit double digits but didn’t make it through all 30.

Something else happened last year too, I started listening to podcasts more… and as I listened to podcasts I started bumping the speed on those podcasts, eliminating the whitespace, etc. This led to a training phase of my brain where I could listen to, comprehend, and retain more content faster than I could read. Part of this effect was that I could listen to podcasts while I was walking, Lyft’ing, cooking, or playing video games. I’ve always found it a pain to read a book in a car and I don’t think I have enough hands and eyes to read while cooking. So it’s not necessarily a speed advantage, but a space advantage that leads to more content ingested over a shorter total period of time.

This led me to audiobooks which I feel are a fairly polarizing topic. People tend to either love audio books or heavily prefer paper books. I’m someone who loves paper books but has a hard time coordinating time and space to read. For me, an audio book is significantly more convenient: I can see a recommendation on Twitter, download it before a flight, and start listening as I board.

This past Saturday, for example, I listened to Company of One because I’m trying to bootstrap a sustainable business helping open source maintainers by providing analytics. The book is approximately 300 pages, so if I read it fast and assume 100 pages/hour I could finish in 3 hours as a lower bound. During this time I can only read, which is fine because I have a really big lovesac that’s quite enjoyable for this kind of thing. I listen at 2.0x speed right now, so my full listening time was 4 hours. Not too bad considering I went to the store, picked up a delivery, and wrote a couple blog posts while I was doing that.

So my new goal this year is still 30 books, but I’ll be listening to the vast majority of them. I’ve listened to two books so far this year: Emotional Intelligence 2.0 and Company of One. If you want to follow along with what I read and tell me what you think sign up for my newsletter, where I’m currently posting weekly. I don’t repost my weekly newsletter anywhere so the only people that see it are the ones on the mailing list :)