Listening to a book read by someone else is quite a different experience than reading it yourself. I’ll tell you why I love audiobooks and why you should try one.
A few months ago (in 2014), my older brother, Dennis, died quite suddenly. I handled it well, I think, but internalized some of the feelings and had a lot of trouble sleeping. That is when I really started depending on audiobooks. They kept my mind occupied and entertained instead of dwelling too much on my sorrow.
I had listened to audiobooks before and enjoyed most of them. They are especially helpful during a migraine episode, when my eyes need a break but my mind still wants to stay active. Reading has always been a huge part of my life, and I grew tired of “wasting” the time when my eyes couldn’t help me.
But I really went ‘whole hog’ after Dennis passed away. I spent most of every night with my iPad or iPhone, listening to one story after another. Sometimes I played an easy card game at the same time or browsed Pinterest—visual-only pastimes that didn’t take my attention from the book.
“People who say they can’t concentrate on an audio book as well as a paper one are likely overlooking the fact that we are more likely to multitask while listening to audio books than while reading regular books.”
~Olga Khazan, “Is Listening to Audio Books Really the Same as Reading?” Forbes.com, September 12, 2011
Needless to say, I’ve listened to quite a few books recently. Most were excellent, but just like print or e-books, some were flops. I haven’t posted here as much as I used to because of the interruption in my life and also because it’s different—make that harder—to review an audiobook.
Why? With a print book or an e-book, one normally reviews the story and plot, the skill of the writing, the character development, the pacing, the editing, and more.
When creating an audiobook review, the writing critique is the same, but a large part of the review should also be about the narrator’s work. It’s no exaggeration to say that no matter the quality of the writing itself, the narrator can make or break the enjoyment of an audiobook.
WHY I LOVE THEM
I continue to listen to books now, although I am also reading both print and e-books. I am still enjoying the audiobooks the most, however, because it’s kind of like a cross between a movie and a book. The narrator’s talent can bring stories alive, even more than you can in your imagination while reading.
When you read text to yourself, you are using your own voice (See “prosody”), including the pitch, emphasis, and rhythm. While listening to the same text, however, you hear someone else’s prosody—their interpretation of that text using their voice.
That includes character accents, of course, which can be great or, occasionally, awful. Trained actors can be very creative and their use of accents for different characters is usually delightful.
Pacing, too, is different than your own reading speed. When a narrator reads slowly, it gives your brain more time to soak up the meaning of the words and create feelings from that experience. Never fear, however; most audiobook software allows some adjustment for speed. Also, you can easily “rewind” a digital audiobook if you need to repeat a particular passage.
FICTION VS NON-FICTION
Some people might think “lite” fiction is the ideal genre for audiobooks because they either don’t want to “work” while listening or they are afraid they wouldn’t comprehend heavier material. I would suggest you try an audiobook in the same genre as you would normally read. After all, how else can you compare what’s normal for you?
I have listened to quite a few non-fiction audiobooks and haven’t had any trouble understanding and/or remembering the material. There have been studies, especially with children, that insist some people are visual learners while others are auditory learners. But I found just as much research (in an admittedly quick search) saying that it seldom matters; most people tend to comprehend at the same level regardless of the input medium.
I do have several of The Teaching Company’s The Great Courses in audio, and a recent one included a lot of historical names that I would have had to research in order to pronounce them correctly. In this case, I didn’t have to; the professor did it for me, which was an added benefit.
WHERE TO GET THEM
- Whispersync for Voice on Amazon.com
- Audible Daily Deal
- Audible membership
Whispersync combines Kindle ebooks and Audible audiobooks into one package. You can read the ebook and switch to the audiobook and back again, never losing your place in the book.
Many (but not all) Kindle ebooks include this option. You purchase the Kindle ebook at Amazon.com and check the Whispersync for Voice box to add the audiobook. Prices for the narrations range from about $2 to $15. However, that is usually much less expensive than purchasing the audiobook alone at Audible, thus can be a great way to try some audiobooks.
The Audible Daily Deal is a wonderful feature. Sign up for a (FREE) account at Audible and then choose to receive the Daily Deal email message (every morning at 3:00 a.m. ET) in your account preferences. Prices range from $1.95 to $5.95 each and they offer quite a variety.
Memberships at Audible.com come with some nice benefits. I get one audiobook per month for my $14.95 membership fee, but also have taken advantage of some wonderful sales. Additionally, member prices to purchase more audiobooks are 30 percent lower. There’s a free trial, too.
Using the above methods, I have acquired quite a collection of audiobooks.
Another way to get audiobooks—this time for free—is from LibriVox. These are books in the public domain that are read and recorded by volunteers. Obviously, you won’t see any new bestsellers here, but I’m sure I don’t have to tell you the benefits of the classics. I have found some wonderful reads here that I would not normally have seen. I am also a reader for LibriVox and think it’s a terrific service. However, the quality of the narrators varies widely; use that caveat wisely.
Other membership sites like Audible:
- Apple iTunes Audiobooks
- Simply Audiobooks (Rents books on CD)
- Audiobooks Now
And don’t forget about your public library! Start with Overdrive and find audiobook-lending libraries near you.
Please leave a comment if you know of other sources for audiobooks and/or relate your experience with audiobooks. I also look forward to hearing from you after you listen to your first audiobook!