Monday, November 16, 2009

I Love Audiobooks

Most of the books that I have read lately, have been of the audio persuasion. Why? Well it wouldn't be good if I had a book balanced on the steering wheel as I drove to work. Never mind that it is illegal here in California to do so, it's also not a smart thing to be doing anyway. It would be very embarrassing to rear end someone because you were entranced by an exciting scene, and not only that, it's extremely dangerous. You could cause an accident that killed yourself and possibly others. So instead of reading a real book in the car, I listen to audiobooks.

It really is a different experience. Most of the books that I read (I still call it reading) are read by professionals that make the reading a performance, not simply reading the words. If there is emotion in a sentence, they provide that emotion. If a passage is conveying a quiet scene, they will read softer. When they change from character to character, they modify their voice, so that you the listener can easily distinguish whom is talking. The effect for me, is a greater enjoyment of the work.

You might argue that the emotion that the reader puts into the work, might be different than what I might experience if I were reading the book myself, and that's probably true. But I know that the reader discusses the book with the author before the performance, to get the true feeling of the book, so in some ways, the experience could be a richer one.

What audiobooks does for me is to enrich what would normally be wasted time, with entertainment and learning. Listening to fiction, I learn how another author dealt with scene, characterization, pacing, and flow. Listening to nonfiction, I learn something new about a topic that might never have explored before. The point is, I get a lot more done with time that previously was used only for mundane tasks such as commuting to work, or working out at the gym.

There are a number of places to get audiobooks on the internet. There are free sites such as librivox.com, but these are usually read by a bunch of different individuals and the quality is spotty at best. Your local library may have some audiobooks that you can borrow, and you can get books from most of the MP3 providers such as iTunes, Amazon.com, etc.

The best provider of high quality recent books is Audible.com. They have different plans for one or two books a month, and there is a monthly cost, but they have an excellent product. I highly recommend it.

So what about you? Do you listen to audiobooks?

3 comments:

  1. I once saw a woman reading a paperback while driving. I was stunned. She held it with one hand at the top of the steering wheel. No way should anyone ever do that!
    And, yes, I like audiobooks. My favorite reader is Neil Gaiman who reads his own works. I don't buy too many, because of cost. But I look for sales or see what the library has. Every once in awhile I won't like the reader. It's a fine line between subtle dramatization and over-the-top.

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  2. I love audiobooks! I rarely go anywhere without one in the car. I work at a library, so I'm always taking out audiobooks. Insider secret: bestsellers often have a shorter wait list at the library if you get the audio.

    I also purchase audiobooks for my ipod when I travel, or if the one I want has a long holds list at the library. I just downloaded Middlemarch, because it is our next book club book. I'll be traveling over the next couple of weeks and I know I won't have time to read it. I'll listen to it on the trip because the ipod is more portable than the book. I'll also listen at home while doing those mundane tasks you mentioned.

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  3. Absolutely. I'm listening to the first book of "The Forsyte Saga" at the moment.

    Literature, mysteries, biography, classics, nonfiction - it's a great way to use that commute time for reading, something I have precious little time to do otherwise.

    I also do a lot of audio lectures. I go heavy on literature and history lectures, almost like an MFA on wheels. I just finished a lecture series on masterpieces of short fiction, with lectures on Dante, world literature, English novels, etc., etc. before that.

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