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iPods, Personal Culture, and the Contempt of it All

I truthfully cannot remember the last time I read a book for my own personal gain–an actual book with a cover and pages with words on them, that is. (With exception of a super-fantastic book about blogging that my husband gave me for Christmas.)

You see, I noticed soon after having a baby that “sitting down with a good book” meant reading stories about Elmo, caterpillars, and Giving Trees. Long gone were the days that I could breeze through a suspense novel or a book about personal development without interruption.

Until I got an iPod.

So, for the past three years, I’ve been enjoying audio books. At first, I was checking out audio CDs at the library, copying them into iTunes, and then synching them to my iPod. Then I found online subscription sites like Audible, Jiggerbug, and Simply Audiobooks, which has direct downloads.

Lately, however, I’ve found that there’s a certain peculiar stigma that comes with having those famous white earbuds dangling around my head. It’s almost as strong as the hostility one feels while using a cell phone in a restaurant or a darkened theater.

For example, I’ve been listening to the epics “Pillars of the Earth” and “World Without End” over the past several weeks. (The first was highly entertaining and enjoyable, but the jury is still out on book #2.) (And I might add that I found these books WITHOUT Oprah’s help, thank-you-very-much.) The stories are highly addictive, and have me plugged in anytime and anywhere I can listen.

While at the grocery store, I left the earbuds in while checking out, even though I’d turned of the book. The courtesy clerk began to speak to me and then stopped when she saw the earbuds.

“Oh,” she said, “I won’t try to talk over your music.”

“I’m not listening to music. I’m listening to a book,” I said, somewhat defensively.

“Really?! I didn’t even know you could do that?”

“Yes. If I didn’t listen to audio books, I’d get no personal development or culture in my life at all. I’ve got two young boys at home.”

“I know what you mean. I’ve got two daughters . . . I’m going to have to give that a try.”

What was the problem? Why did it matter to her that my earbuds were in? And why did I care that she had a problem with that?

A few days later, I encountered one of my office superiors in our building lobby waiting for an elevator. Again, I’d been listening to the book, but upon seeing my boss, I turned the iPod off and engaged in conversation.

“Oh, don’t turn off your super-cool mix just on my account,” he said sarcastically.

“It’s not music. It’s a book,” I said, letting out a sigh. “It’s called ‘Pillars of the Earth’. It’s a period-piece that takes place in medieval England.”

“A book,” he said, surprised at what he’d heard.

“Why does it matter?”

“I thought you were one of those ‘I’m-too-cool-with-listening-to-my-iPod’ idiots that don’t watch where they’re walking and get hit by oncoming traffic.”

“Nope. I’ve got a much more plausible excuse to be carrying contraband. I can’t read books at home anymore, because Jake decides at the moment that I crack the book open, he wants my undivided attention. So, I listen in the car.”

“Personal culture,” he said, nodding his head, “I like that.”

That got me thinking–why was there now contempt for those who use iPods? Furthermore, why do I feel that I need to make it known that I use mine to listen to books and not music . . . as if waving a “Get Out of iPod Hell Free Card”? Because, frankly, I love my iPod. Don’t taketh it away from me, because it’s one of my only simple pleasures.

My thinking turned into digging, and I soon found that iPods, just like cell phones, have become serious–and sometimes deadly–distractions. As an avid (and SAFE) iPod user, I was completely oblivious to this fact.

But, all new-found facts aside, I still refuse to be treated like a skater just because I’m listening to an iPod. Maybe I’ll go to CafePress for all of us audio book enthusiasts and have some t-shirts made that say, “Sshhh . . . I’m listening to a book.”

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4 Responses

  1. Wow, what a great idea! I have an ipod that I don’t even use… I would be more than interested to check out listening to audio books, thanks!

  2. I understand what you mean about not having the time to read. Though still one of my favorite pastimes, I am now relegated to doing it while drying my hair, sitting in the car while at the supermarket parking lot (10 minutes takes me a couple of pages farther) or late at night when my kid is asleep. Because of this, I’ve also fallen into the books on DVD and uploaded into my IPOD. I can work around the house and listen, drive and listen. It’s a poor substitute to the actual page but better than nothing.

  3. I desperately need an Ipod. I think I’ll purchase one for myself soon. In fact, the books on pod part makes me even more excited.

  4. Wow.. Seems that alot of people would judge a person from their looks instead of getting to know them or something else first. But I have no Ipod.. Pity me!!

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