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Why Are Audiobooks SO SLOW? (Explained & Solved!)

Jamey Muller
Updated: July 6, 2022
7 min read

There is a love-hate relationship with audiobooks. You like its convenience, but sometimes, you wish that a certain narrator could speak a little faster.

Why are audiobooks slow? How can I speed them up to my liking?

Here’s Why Audiobook Narrators Talk So Slow:

All audiobook narrators tell stories at the same speed – more or less 130 to 160 words per minute – the same speed the typical human speaks. A human's listening speed is faster – around 450 words per minute. If your audiobooks register to be so slow at times, this is why.

The pace of the narration can also go faster or slower, depending on the person narrating and how they naturally speak. 

Slow works since they have to carefully enunciate every word. If narrators speak too fast, listeners may have trouble understanding the audiobook’s content.

Pacing can also depend on the subject matter of the audiobook. 

Non-fiction and complex subjects tend to be read at 1x or regular speed, maybe even slower, so you can absorb all those technical information.

Fiction can be read faster, especially when the categories involve a lot of fast-paced action. Narrators have to pace their voices so they can fit the overall mood.

In any case, most enthusiasts do not use audiobooks for speed but convenience. If you find the pacing too slow, you can always adjust the speed to your preference.

Are Audiobooks Slower Than Reading?

Yes. Some readers think it is faster to listen to an audiobook than read an actual book, but they cannot be farther from the truth.

In actuality, you will invest more hours with your audiobook, depending on your listening schedule.

Audiobooks are undoubtedly slower than reading a book. A typical human can process and read more words per minute than an audiobook.

On average, audiobooks can spew around 145 words per minute. Meanwhile, a regular reader can read about 275 words in the same period.

You can go as high as 600 words per minute if you are a fast reader. Even those who do not read too much can still peruse approximately 200 words – more than what your average audiobook can accomplish.

Several studies have revealed that listening to an audiobook at the standard, recorded speed will take you almost twice the amount of time than if you read silently.

For example, if you usually take two hours to read a paperback, you can take up to four to five hours to finish its audiobook equivalent.

If you are an experienced reader, the difference in reading time is more significant, around five to six times longer than simply reading the same book.

The rate stays the same even if you listen to the audiobook at twice the recording speed, especially if you can read 600 words per minute.

You probably think that audiobooks save you so much time since you can multitask while listening to your book for the day.

This may be true, but if you keep tabs on how many books you can accomplish within a month, you are better off reading the old-fashioned way.


How Can I Speed Up My Audiobook?

If an audiobook narrator talks too slow for your liking, you can always change the pace. 

Most audiobook apps like Audible have incorporated speed-listening into their product design. With this, you have several options to pick your preferred speed on the narration.

It is easy to spot the speed button on your app. Usually, it is somewhere on the screen where your audiobook is playing. 

Audible has its narrator speed button in the bottom left corner of the screen.

If you listen to spoken-word content on your iPod, you can adjust the speed by going to your gadget's Settings.

After clicking on Audiobooks, you can change the playback speed of your chosen file to slower, normal, or faster.

By default, the average speed for audiobooks is 1x. The number represents the factor of acceleration of words per minute. 

You can make this slower or faster. Generally, speed adjustments range from 0.5x to 3.5x.

If you want a slower pace than the standard 1x, you can switch to 0.5x. If you want a faster narration, choose an option above 1x.

The 2x setting will be accurately twice as fast per minute as 1x.

For example, if the 1x setting of 135 words per minute is 10 minutes long, the 2x speed will cut it by half to five minutes. 3x will be about two minutes and fifty seconds.

You do not have to worry about your audiobook sounding like a chipmunk or deep underwater once you fiddle with speed.

The setting you will select will not alter the pitch of the narrator's voice.

Most audiobook apps have correcting filters that eliminate voice distortion associated with accelerated feedback.

What Speed Should You Listen to Audiobooks?

In general, audiobook listeners prefer a reading speed that picks up all the nuances of the book.

1x is the standard, but you have to accelerate the playback speed if you want a faster pace.

There is no perfect speed, but if you have to choose, it should be based on how your brain can comprehend what you hear.

Because the listening speed tends to be faster than the speaking speed for humans, most listeners are comfortable listening to audiobooks at 1.5 or two times faster than the standard speed.

Some even claim the 1.75x setting as the one that seamlessly matches your reading speed.

If you do not habitually consume audiobooks, a speed between the standard and 1.5x should be best. 

This is fast enough playback to keep your attention and make the pace livelier.

The additional speed is barely distinguishable, so you should not have any trouble understanding what you hear.

Meanwhile, some audiobook enthusiasts prefer a faster speed rate. This allows them to zip through stories with maximum productivity while staving off boredom.

If you read a one-hour podcast at 1.5x speed, you can save 20 minutes. For audiobooks with a length of 16 hours, you can consume the entire content in only ten hours.

For the handful of elites in the audiobook world who listen at 3x speed, a 15-hour audio content can be reduced to a total listening time of just five hours.

If you want to crank up the narration speed, you should start slow. 

You should start at the speed you are most comfortable with. This is usually the one that comes close to the pace of a normal conversation.

Once you have got the hang of the setting, gradually move up by 0.25x. This strategy will allow your brain to adjust to a slightly faster speed.

If you jump from 2x level all at once, everything will likely come out as gibberish.

Of course, comprehension is critical at this stage. There is no point in using a fast-speed setting in your audiobook if you no longer understand it. 

You should never compromise just so you can be done quicker.

Meanwhile, a study on brain activation and speed listening reveals that you have a better shot at comprehending and retaining information if you are already familiar with the topic you are listening to.

If you listen to an entirely new subject at a faster than average playback speed, your brain is forced to recruit additional areas to process all the data.

This extra work is taxing to the brain since it is forced to work harder. As a result, your level of comprehension during that time may be affected.

If you are about to listen to a technical audiobook, you should ensure that you have enough background knowledge on the topic to aid in your learning.

It also helps to prepare yourself for speed listening by reflecting during and after the process. This way, you can get the most out of your strategy.

A human brain needs time to manage new information. For instance, the depth of processing hypothesis indicates that your ability to store data in your long-term memory is dependent on how profoundly you can reflect on the content.

When your brain attempts to make sense of new inputs, it links them to things already learned or experienced.

Hence, focusing on these connections when speed listening can strengthen the retention of unfamiliar ideas.


With enough practice, you will soon get used to faster narration in your audiobooks.

There are benefits to speed listening. Aside from saving time and devouring plenty of content in such a short amount of time, listeners assert that the faster speed helps them focus.

When listening to fast speech, you are forced to concentrate and immerse yourself more to make sense of the content.

With slower narration, the pacing can make your mind wander, and you have no option but to rewind the audiobook to find your place again.

Whether you opt for a slow or fast narration, speed is your choice ultimately. Until you find the best setting for you, you can always experiment with playback speeds.


The New York Times: Adjusting the Pace of Your Audiobook
Audible: What's Your ‘X' Rating?

Written by
Jamey Muller
I'm the head-writer @ Knowledge Eager (or, in plain English, I'm the guy writing the majority of the content here). Addicted to the stock market, football, sushi and tacos.
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Jamey Muller
I'm the head-writer @ Knowledge Eager (or, in plain English, I'm the guy writing the majority of the content here). Addicted to the stock market, football, sushi and tacos.