What your audiobook listening speed says about you

What your audiobook listening speed says about you

In For the Love of Reading by Julia Malacoff

What your audiobook listening speed says about you

These days, lots of people are looking to increase their productivity and efficiency, even when it comes to hobbies like reading. Similar to speed reading, speed listening is touted as a way to read more books in a shorter period of time.

Plus, audiobooks have the added benefit of allowing for multitasking. With an audiobook, you can easily read while you cook dinner, commute, or exercise. Crank up the speed, and you can plow through titles way faster than you ever imagined. (Ever wonder how your favorite book blogger gets through so many books? This might be one tool they use.)

If you’re wondering what it’s like to listen at various speeds, and what your current listening speed says about you, we’ve got you covered.

1.0x: You like to play by the rules

Hey, if listening at regular speed is working for you, that’s great. You’re still getting all the benefits of listening to a book rather than reading it. “Studies have shown that audiobooks and other auditory input improve a person's information recall and retention,” explains occupational therapist Brittany Ferri. So if you want to make sure you’re absorbing all the most important points a book has to give, or if you’re an audiobook beginner, listening at 1.0x is a safe bet.

0.8x: You want to make sure you’re getting all the details

Either you don’t want to miss a word, or your audiobook has a really fast narrator. In all fairness, some people find that getting used to audiobooks takes practice. This is particularly true if you’re listening to a book about a complex topic, and you’re trying to multitask. Rest assured, there’s no shame in the less-than-1.0x game. 

1.5x: You’re a productivity newbie

You might not be ready for the super fast speeds yet, but you’re getting there. Most people find that this speed is a good entry point into speed listening. It’s fast, but not too fast.

If you’re having a hard time following a narrative or key takeaways at this speed, consider checking out a book that’s written with language on the simpler side, like a young adult novel. Then, work your way up to more complex material.

2.0x: Slow talking annoys you

One of the top reasons people listen to audiobooks sped up is because, thanks to our ever-dwindling attention spans, slow speech can be especially grating. 

If you’re listening to books at this speed, chances are you’re both practiced at speed listening and you really just want to get to the point of your audiobook as soon as possible. Fair enough!

2.5x and up: You’re hyper-focused

If you’re listening to a book this fast and understanding everything you hear, it’s likely that you’re “in the zone.” 

So how fast can you go? “The limit will vary depending on factors like fatigue and attention,” Ferri explains. If you’re not sure whether you’ve sped things up too much, watch for breaks in your attention. “If you find that you haven't really paid attention to the audiobook in a little bit, it may be possible you need to step away for a bit to take a break,” Ferri says. 

It all depends on the person and what’s going on in the background, but in general, people can understand up to 200–400 words per minute, according to Ferri. So as long as you’re engaged with what you’re listening to, chances are you’ll have decent comprehension. 

But most people can only remain super focused for short bursts. That means if you’re listening to books at this speed, you may want to aim for shorter chunks of listening time to get the most bang for your book.


About the Author: Julia Malacoff

Julia is a freelance writer and editor who holds a BA in Art History from Wellesley College, and is also a certified personal trainer and nutrition coach. Her work experience includes writing, reporting, and editing for top publications, including Shape, InStyle, Cosmopolitan, as well as leading brands like Nike, Aveeno, and Precision Nutrition. She lives in London with her husband and two cocker spaniels. An avid reader, you can find her devouring her book club's latest pick — or anything by Zadie Smith, Blake Crouch, and Jeffrey Eugenides.