Audio Books Link Digital Education With Traditional Oral Teaching Amid Pandemic | Kolkata News

Kolkata: The history of literature shows a full circle trajectory from oral literacy to manuscript culture to the printed book to e-books, and finally to audiobooks. Increasingly, audiobooks are being used as an educational tool rather than just a device for leisure. As Kolkata gears up for its second Saraswati Puja amid pandemic, educators and students share their ideas on the role of audiobooks in e-learning and its connection with past and future pedagogical cultures.
“Oral storytelling has played a central role in Indian folklore and ancient myths. It has not only been a device for entertainment, for thousands of years it was also the primary method of imparting education. Students would learn ancient texts through oral recitation,” said Ipshita Chakraborty, student of MPhil in English at Jadavpur University. About the possible impact of the growing popularity of audiobooks on printed books, she said, “For my generation, buying books and reading books are different activities. The printed book will always exist as a collector’s item, even if readers explore different media, such as audiobooks, for knowledge consumption. One does not deny the other. Rather, they exist side by side and consolidate the need for each other.”
“Audiobooks and printed books are not competitors but rather have always existed in a codependent space,” agreed book publisher Suvankar Dey. “Conceptually, the audiobook is nothing new. In my childhood, people would gather around to listen to the radio. But it is a misconception that the audiobook will replace the printed book. On the contrary, since the pandemic, the demand for books among students has increased drastically. I started a delivery service to accommodate the needs of students. The lives of children are most disrupted by the pandemic. With most classes being taken virtually, reading mass-printed school books helps bring a sense of normalcy to their lives.”
When asked about the transition between print to digital, Dey said, “We must adapt to changing times and avail of the benefits of emerging media. I am linked with a company that makes and distributes audiobooks. I also have a Youtube channel called Dey’s Publishing in which new authors narrate their stories. But in no way do these changes pose a threat to printed books. Different platforms have different audiences, and an individual can use different media for different purposes. For example, one may listen to audiobooks for entertainment and read printed books for exam purposes.”
Raj Kumar Sarkar, an employee at an ed-tech company, lamented the limited platform for vernacular literature among audiobook makers in Bengal. “A lot of young people would be keen to engage with and expand audio literature in Kolkata, especially in Bengali. Unfortunately, the scope is limited right now. A whole team of voice actors and musicians are involved in making audio literature. This is an arena that has the potential for a great deal of growth among writers and performing artists in Kolkata.”
Discussing the advantages of audiobooks over printed books, Sarkar added, “Sometimes, audiobooks are more economical. On some platforms, one can have an unlimited collection of audiobooks for a minimal fee. In comparison, books can be more expensive and are more prone to damage and misplacement. For me, I love audiobooks because it allows me to multitask and keep my hands and eyes free. I especially love when the narrations are by the author, it really helps establish a connection between the writer and the audience.”
Speaking on the utility of audiobooks for people with disabilities, a Kolkata-based content writer said, “Audiobooks are an ideal method of knowledge exchange among people with disabilities. I have dyslexia and I find it hard to finish books because I read slowly. Audiobooks really help me save time and concentrate on the content. I know a lot of people with visual impairments who prefer audiobooks to other alternatives, like Braille script.”

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