I am using the double time (2X) feature on my iPod more and more often when listening to podcasts or books. This is not a good thing. Sure I am taking in the information faster, but there is no question it is less enjoyable. I do not think my motivation is from a time maximization neuroses -- but rather an impatience with poor quality recordings.
There are many benefits to audio books, but the one significant new element that too often is a drawback, is the addition of the style of the person doing the narration. A good narrator is of critical importance to the success of an audio book. And it appears that good narrators are hard to come by. I have abandoned many books based on the quality of the narrator. I always think I am going to go and get the printed book, but often that does not ever happen.
To all of the authors out there -- do not read your own books. Good authors do not often occupy the same bodies as good narrators. The two exceptions I have encountered are Steve Martin and Michael J. Fox. If you are an author, and your skills as an entertainer are as good as these guys -- go to it. Otherwise leave it to the professionals.
Right now I am a few hours into David Kirkpatrick's "The Facebook Effect". The book is good, narration -- terrible. I am quite interested in the subject, so I am sticking with it at double time. At that pace the large inhales between sentences are less distracting. Ever notice how something like that will charge into your brain and get louder and louder until you are ready to jump off the nearest bridge? I have to wonder if the guy ever exhales. My mental picture is of this guy the size of a hot air balloon and I find my shoulders up by my ears, all scrunched up and waiting for the guy to pop. Every so often I have to turn it off and go for a walk to calm myself back down.
On the podcasts, I find that people that come from a traditional media background seem to be filling the space in between the commercials. This is crazy in the context of a podcast because if you don't have any content, just shorten the show. My favorite podcast is still Rebooting the News with David Winer and Jay Rosen. Anyone thinking of doing a podcast should follow their lead. Packed with content but still open enough that they can pursue tangents. It is awesome and I eagerly await each installment. The other end of the spectrum is anything produced by Leo Laporte. Now I really like TWIT, and Leo does an amazing job getting interesting people onto his shows. But they crawl, and double time is definitely needed. I think he just cannot escape his history in traditional broadcast media where the challenge has always been finding enough content to fill out the hour.