My Half-Baked Hypothesis About Audiobooks and Reading Speed

Maybe why you don’t listen to audiobooks.

June 4, 2015
Audiobooks changed my life.
You don’t listen to audiobooks.
Audiobooks allow me to read many more books, as I listen to books while I’m doing something else.
For you, listening to audiobooks is torture.
Based on a sample size of 2, I’m going to suggest a hypothesis of why you don’t like audiobooks. (My sample comes from my wife, and a cherished colleague who I will call Michael S. Evans).
You read too fast.
My half-baked hypothesis is that audiobooks are just too slow for really fast readers. An audiobook, at non chipmunk speed, goes by at about 150-160 words per minute (wpm). The average reader reads words on a page at about 300 wpm. Very fast readers, so I understand, read by looking at the text more as a whole - and then by pulling together all the threads to form a narrative. In other words, very fast readers are less linear in their reading. According to one source I found, the average college professor reads at about 675 wpm, and true speed reader can read at about 1,500 wpm.
You can check your reading speed here.
If you are a nonlinear reader, and your brain requires a very high throughput of information to stay happy, then an audiobook probably will not work for you.  The audiobook information delivery is too linear and too slow.
How people’s brains work and how they like to read books seems like a rich field of study. 
In my sample size of 2, both subjects not only shun audiobooks - they also don’t like e-books. Reading with an e-book reader is not so great for people who move through pages quickly - and who may skip around in the book.  The tactile sensations paper reading - turned down pages and the feel of page thickness from the back cover - are key tactile enablers of nonlinear reading.
Can we design non-paper reading systems for fast readers?  What would an audiobook or e-book look like that would work well for nonlinear readers? Is there any research on cognitive processes, information intake preferences, and reading platforms that you can point us towards?
What can we do so that our students can read the books that we assign in the platforms that work best for them? (I would have read many more books in college and grad school if I had a synced audiobook / e-book option).
How fast do you read?
What is your most (and least) preferred method of reading?


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