Saturday, December 13, 2008

Why I listen to podcasts

It started over a year ago with just one weekly podcast, and gradually increased so I now subscribe to 14 podcasts. This number may grow even further, as I explore the vast range of podcasts available.

On the content side, I listen to the sort of subjects I read: science fiction, and a large range of non-fiction subjects, including language, business, self-improvement, science and technology.

However, what is significant here is the medium itself. Since I read a lot anyway, I'm not one of those (many) people who prefer podcasts (and audiobooks) because they don't like reading. So I have been wondering what is so special about hearing compared with reading.

I realized that I like listening to human voices. I enjoy lectures, and at university I often attended lectures on various subjects by guest lecturers, which were not necessarily relevant to my studies. I now go to lectures related to my business. So I do feel that hearing people speak has some added value compared with reading.

I like the fiction podcasts, where the stories are read out or even acted. Sometimes I hear podcasts of stories I have read, and the rendition by the reader can change my perspective, subtly interpreting the story or characters in a new way. All this is achieved by the voice reading out the same words I had earlier read from print, hearing the words in my own voice in my mind.

The non-fiction podcasts come in many different forms. Some are just one person talking about a subject. Others are interviews. Some are group discussions. A few are actual radio programs, while some are a lot less formal. The more educational podcasts give tips, which I write down in my notebook for future reference (I also do this while reading certain types of material).

I can't listen to podcasts while I'm working, though I do listen to music. But I listen to podcasts while doing other things that require less concentration, or at least not verbal concentration. This saves some time, unlike reading which can't be multi-tasked at all.

One other thing I like about podcasts is that they are available when I want to listen to them, and can be paused and replayed. I don't have a television, for many reasons. One reason is that people who watch television are restricted to spending particular times of the day doing only that. If they get an important phone call, they can miss a whole episode. I like my time to be flexible.

Oh, and they are free!

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