It was my friend Pam Varley who got me hooked on audiobooks, and you can read why she thinks they are so terrific here. These days I get most of my audiobooks from Audible.com, and I can spend hours poring over their website, adding and subtracting books from my "wish list," and selecting my allotted two audiobooks each month. (The last round brought me Sense and Sensibility, which I'm finding hard-going, and Michael Connelly's The Narrows, which is a little more procedural than I like my detective novels, but I'm not ready to give up yet. If I can get through Memoirs of a Geisha, I can listen to anything.) But while I number myself among Audible's biggest fans, I have to say that their latest ad campaign, "Don't Read," has me seriously steamed. The campaign's posters mimic the American Library Association's venerable "Read" series, making a joke that it depresses me to realize probably most people won't get. And I think that the people who will understand the reference are also those most likely to be offended by the joke.
Some will be offended by the campaign's smart-alecky digs at reading (from the site's mock FAQ: "Should I burn my books? No, a stack of burning books pollutes the air, and worse - it kinda thumbs its nose at the First Amendment") but I think you have to take yourself awfully seriously to get ticked off at what is a harmless if sophomoric joke. What bothers me more is the campaign's nose-thumbing at audiobooks. By playing up how much easier and hipper listening is than reading, emphasizing the difference between the two experiences, Audible is inadvertently buying into a line that we audiobook fans hear often and hate heartily: listening to an audiobook is not really reading. As Pam rather more elegantly and eloquently argues in her article, them's fightin' words.