I’ve spent much of this year listening to audiobooks. Hundreds of hours (Thanks, Libby!).

My exploration of audio began because it was more restful to listen to a book than to make my eyes work, and a lot of this year has been trial and error in finding ways to deal with my fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue.

But, the other amazing thing about audio? You can listen while you do anything… I’ve read over 250 books this year because I can listen while I drive, cook, clean, weed, walk, hang washing and the like. I can listen a lot more than I can sit.

Which kind of defeats the ‘more rest’ purpose I had to begin with…

So, I’m making a determined effort to read print again, and touching base with the physical page this month has really made it hit home what a privilege it is to read in print.

First up, print books are EXPENSIVE. If you’re reading this from somewhere outside of New Zealand, you might be scratching your head wondering what I mean, but down here it routinely costs $30 a book, for paperback. I don’t even look at the pricing on hardcovers. Of course, you can get them from the library, but if that’s the case you also have to have the ability to get there and back in order to select and then return that book. I have a car, but it’s damn hard making it to the library on time. I’ve incurred so many fines in the past that I had to stop. I just can’t reliably do it due to energy or pain levels.

Over the past two years, thanks to the stipend I received as a result of the Te Papa Tupu mentorship programme, I’ve added stacks of print books to my shelf. Literal stacks. I do not want to count all the books I purchased even though a lot of them are research and learning related. I spent money I wouldn’t normally have on books I would not normally be able to buy, and for the most part they have been well worth the purchase. It was such a luxury to be able to do so. Normally I need that money for food or petrol or kids shoes and clothing.

This months Kiwi reads

Scratch that, normally, I don’t have that money at all. It was like this beautiful free pass to go wild on investing in my career, and go wild I did. I’ve had to stop buying print books, but I’m blessed to have a pile of awesome stack to read.

You know why else print is a privilege? (And, I guess this does go for digital too, if you’ve got a dedicated device.)

Because you can’t do anything else while you read a print book. You have to take the time to stop doing all the other things and look at the words and read and process them. It’s rare that people have that time for this. Reading on my phone there are notifications and the like that easily distract me, and as outlined above, with audio I can do just about anything else while ‘reading’.

But not with print.

There are really valid reasons why so many people don’t read. Life is busy. Mentally busy, not just physically. I know a lot of people who get to the end of the day after working or studying, house work, making food, caring for loved ones (human or non-human) and only have the energy to mentally engage with stories via TV shows and movies (I’m in this group of people plenty!). Sitting with a book, ignoring the never-ending list of tasks, mentally engaging with text? That can be hard work. It can be impossible.

I am very privileged to have the time and the money (well, past tense money, I just have books now lol it’s a trade I’m happy with!) to read in print. It’s a deeply luxurious, self-caring kind of thing for me to do, curling up in bed with a book for an hour or two (or most of the day on Sunday…). And I am super lucky to be able to do that from time to time. Not only is stopping all the other things and focusing just on a book important for my health and well-being, but it makes me really appreciate what a privilege it is to be able to do that. Sure, I’ve done the work to make this happen, but so many people don’t have the opportunities I have, and I can see how it’s not a choice millions of people have the luxury to make.

I am blessed to have books to read and curl up with (and sniff…), and have worked hard to get past the noise in my brain that tells me I should be doing all the other things in order to take the time to sit and dive deep into a story in this way. It’s so good for my brain. It’s so good for my body.

And it turns out that holding a book and making my eyes work is actually more restful than audio, although I’m never going to stop listening to a book while I get the housework done 😉