A friend asked me to please make an audio version of my latest book. He has “long Covid,” symptoms that continue indefinitely after a person is no longer infected with the virus. My friend has trouble reading text.
Also, different people learn best in different ways. An audiobook would make all the difference for those who naturally learn well by listening but not by reading.
If the only people who listened to an audio version of my book were those who can learn better by listening, I would certainly make that audiobook. Women Can Renew the World If…and So Can You, however, is not appropriate for those who like to listen to books while they’re doing something else, such as household chores. You might do that with a novel, but not a meaty nonfiction work. Multitasking is a myth. When we try to do two things at once, the brain allocates resources. It does not, indeed can not, give full attention to either of the two tasks.
So what’s wrong with that? Wouldn’t I rather someone at least pick up a few ideas from my book than none at all? Therein lies the first dilemma. Women Can Renew the World If…and So Can You is such that missing some words, or even whole sentences, can lead to misunderstanding. One sentence may qualify another. Most passages are needed to understand later passages. If you only take in one concept, but not related concepts, you not only won’t get the picture, you can get the wrong picture.
What’s more, this is a teaching book. Most of the How To segments include exercises. You need to make note of your answers. You can’t do that while loading the dishwasher.
The Dilemma Becomes a Moral One
Even so, I would tip the scale in favor of the audiobook except…. Click here to see a small portion of an Oprah Winfrey TV show that dramatically influenced my life. YouTube published the show in segments. The link I gave just above is to Part 4, but I encourage you to watch the other parts as well.
About three minutes into Part 4, Oprah calls on an audience member to illuminate the brain science. He shows a slide of a view through a car windshield when the driver is not talking on the phone. Then he shows the same view when the driver is on the phone, even hands-free. The way the brain allocated resources with the driver on the phone was to narrow the peripheral vision. The man showed another pair of slides as well. In the no-phone slide, one can see objects, such as a bicycle, that we can’t see in the on-phone slide.
The slides were the heaviest incentive in the show for me to take Oprah’s “no phone zone” pledge: I don’t talk on the phone while driving, and I don’t talk to anybody else while they’re driving. If I believe so strongly that even talking on the phone could result in a serious or fatal accident, how can I, in good conscience, make an audio book? The distraction of phoning pales in comparison to the distraction of focusing on a meaty book, full of information and exercises.
Some Ideas of My Own
I thought of making the audiobook script begin with something like this:
Author’s Note: Thanks so much for purchasing Women Can Renew the World If…and So Can You. You’ll find this book packed with information you’ll want to remember. The information in one passage helps you understand the next. You won’t want to miss anything. You’ll want to work the hands-on how-to exercises. So to get the most out of Women Can Renew the World If…and So Can You, please listen when you can devote your full attention to the text and be prepared to make note of your exercise answers. I especially implore you not to listen to this book while driving. Even talking on the phone hands-free while driving causes the brain to narrow your peripheral vision. Imagine what the brain will do if you drive while concentrating on an instructional work. I want you to get the most out of this book, and I don’t want you to hurt yourself or someone else while trying to do so behind the wheel. So, please, save it for when you’re not on the go.
Studies, however, indicate that many people think others should not talk or text while driving, but that they themselves can do it safely. If I make an audiobook, I believe some people will still try to listen while driving. Some might even take the Author’s Note as a challenge to prove they can multitask. Some may think they’ll get enough if they only catch certain phrases here and there (which they won’t), but even then, they are still far more distracted than one who’s on the phone.
I’m wondering if there might be a way for a person who clicks to buy the audiobook get redirected to a page with some of the information above and asking them to click “Agree” to not listen behind the wheel. Taking a stand in writing can be a powerful incentive, but even so, some would probably ignore their agreement.
As you can see, I’m undecided. This is a blog post in which I hope to learn from you.
I’d like to hear what you all think about my ideas just above. Even more I’d like to know if you have other ideas for me to publish an audiobook safely, with a clear conscience. You can use the comment space below, the contact page of my website, or direct email. Or just let me know if you would rather discuss your ideas by phone.