Monday, August 1

Three Reasons Not to Buy Audio Books and the Solution to Change Your Mind

I love to read out loud: to myself, to my day I'm going to read the entire Harry Potter series to my cat, Severus.

Listening to myself reading on a recorded playback? That's excruciating! How do people put up with me? Run, Severus! Flee while you still can!

I bet you like books. Stories, adventures, quirky characters. They rock. You might even like being read to or reading to others.

Turns out that you can't read in all your spare time. Walking down the street, traveling in a car... I get nauseous on car journeys if I do anything but sit up straight or sleep. Sadness.

Audio books to the rescue! Nothing could be better than having a good book read to you on whim, right?

I have not listened to many audio books and take extreme caution before purchasing them.

Here's why:

1. The audio book is abridged.

They cut bits out! What is up with that? I'm not listening to an audio book because I'm lazy. I refuse to be stiffed on story details. I don't buy into the fact that the mundane bits can be cut out. If the book is any good, those things shouldn't be in the original text anyway.

I don't like feeling cheated out of part of a story. I once got all excited because I got a free audio book and started to listen to it. Then, I picked up the same book in a store and saw that there had been bits cut out on the very first page. I was not amused and have not read/listened to said book. It's a shame because the narrator wasn't all bad.

Which brings me to...

2. The narrator is awful.

This is where my self-esteem about listening to my own voice recorded really escalates. Whereas my interest in listening to the audio book plummets.

The narrator might sound like the prerecorded safety video on an aeroplane or just be monotone. They may attempt the accents of the characters and try to narrate with flair but fail. Whatever it is, it's a huge turn-off.

I had an audio book (unabridged!) that I was excited to listen to. I had to turn it off after the first few minutes because I was bored to death. For all I know, if I read the book myself it might not have been so bad but I didn't have a physical copy on hand. The narrator has turned me off this book in whatever format I might have experienced the story.

If I am going to listen to an audio book, it is because I want to enjoy the story aurally. Not because I want to go to sleep, thanks.

3. It's on several CDs, in hundreds of files.

This is not an exaggeration. Ten years ago I got an audio book on four CDs. Just a couple of months ago I got one that had at least ten CDs to it. When I put the first CD into iTunes, it had at least ten parts to it. Of course unabridged audio books are going to be a fair few hours long but all these segments were a bit much.

This would only have been a little irksome if it turned out to have a fantastic narrator and be the best audio book ever. Alas. Once I had sampled the beginning and found it to be dull, it was wiped from existence and I have not laid eyes on it since. I suppose it's lurking somewhere, wherever I've placed it.

So, time to give up on audio books, right?

I might have thought so if I hadn't come across the short, free and awesome audio book of Go the F**k to Sleep, narrated by Samuel L. Jackson. That was incredible. I would let that book lull me to sleep any day, but it wouldn't be from boredom.

I got the audio book through the Amazon website for audio books, Audible. So when it came time for me to dare try again, I turned to them. Turns out that I was able to get my first two purchases free. Brilliant!

I'm now listening to the audio book 'Night of the Humans' by David Llewellyn. It's a Doctor Who audio book. It's also the first Doctor Who book I've experienced (it's still weird not saying "read" even though I'm listening to it) and I'm loving it.

The audio book for all the Eleventh Doctor books are unabridged, unlike plenty of their predecessors (not amused) and this one is read by Arthur Darvill, one of the actors in the series (very pleased, an actual actor narrating the book!) and I downloaded it, cheaper that it would have been on CD, in one file and received it instantly. solution to buying audio books?

They will (well, they should) always say if they are abridged or unabridged. If you go onto a site like Amazon, or Audible or go to the iTunes Store, you will be able to look up the audio book that you are interested in and listen to a sample to see if the narrator is rubbish or not. Then, when you've made the decision to give it a go, purchase the file online. It's instant, it's simple.

I'm happy. How do you go about selecting and purchasing your audio books?

Note: It has been brought to my attention that some platforms may not distribute audiobooks to countries outside of the USA. Being only a temporary resident myself, I feel the serious suckage of this dilemma.


Determinist said...

I almost never buy audio books. The last one I bought was on audio cassette. I bought it because I loved a scene in a movie, the book didn't do it justice and I HAD to see if it was any better on audio. No. It sucked.

It was a Star Trek movie... The whale one with Kirk and Spock. I loved the scene with Spock doing the high tech quiz on Vulcan.

Skyring said...

I'm big on Audible, for all the reasons you mention. I like reading, but I'm not keen on buying and storing yet more books. And as a cabbie, I have large lumps of free time when I'm driving empty or waiting for a fare. Audible books on my iPad are a great solution. I delete it when I'm finished, but I still have access if I want to listen again or check a detail.

Currently listening to Connie Willis's latest pair of time travel books. She knows how to tell a story, but she's learnt a little too much from Dan Brown, and all her chapters end on a metaphorical cliff!

Anonymous said...

Currently my Audio Library has some of the Torchwood audio books, and the Harry Potter audio books. Main reason for getting them? Because I'm 99% sure I'll love them, because I love the subject material. Plus, I know the narrators will be awesome! Stephen Fry for Harry Potter - he has a lovely narrating voice, and knows just how to create the right atmosphere/humour.

And for the Torchwood ones, the actual actors narrate - I've listened to Gareth David-Lloyd's one, and one of Kai Owen's, and let me tell you... with those Welsh vowels, I could listen to them reading out a dictionary and not be bored! *sighs happily* Audio Book win so far! :)