I‘ve been thinking a lot about Audiobooks lately. Other than the Disney ‘Books on Tape’ that I read/listened to as a child–you know, when you hear the ‘chime‘, please turn the page–I have not truly appreciated audiobooks.
On my South San Francisco to Seattle journey, I decided to ear-read Angela’s Ashes. While I thought Frank McCourt was the perfect narrator–cuz seriously how could you be a bad narrator for the story of your life?–I didn’t enjoy the audio verison as much as I enjoyed reading the print version. I swore audiobooks weren’t for me.
Recently I saw an Audiobook challenge, which made me think of my friend Emily. Emily is one of those people who I want to envy. Yes, I want to envy her; she has many qualities I wish to emulate. However, she is such a genuine, vivacious person that I can’t envy her. Plus, we are a sitcom of epic comedic proportions when together.Once upon a time her and I bonded over the fact that we thought the name Zoe should be pronounced like ‘toe’ versus ‘toe-ie’. We had both read the book Stonewords: A Ghost Story, whose main character was named Zoe…
…Anyways, Emily re-introduced me to audiobooks. She has listened to some crazyridiculous American History books and also the Harry Potter series and, I’m sure, manymanymany more.
Even more recently Stephen, who has given me permission to describe him however I see fit, has developed a taste for ear-reading. Now, before anyone accuses me as a one-hit-recommeder I must explain something about myself. I love Robin McKinley. L. O. V. E. Therefore, if anyone asks me to recommend a book, I immediately enter their personality into a brain-matrix and spit out the most compatible Robin McKinley book. (And yes, sometimes this doesn’t work and I have to select a different primary end-point, or in other words, author).
Sunshine fit the profile for Christy of A Good Stopping Point. (For Christy’s review of Sunshine Click Here). It also fit Stephen. After iTunes-gifting the book to him, I decided to try audiobooking for a second time, and also purchased the novel for myself.
And I have some thoughts on audiobooks.
First and foremost. It is important for audiopublishers to chose a suitable narrator. The narrator for Sunshine sounds entirely too old. Internet verification shows I am correct, the reader is well over 50. The main character in the novel is in her twenties, but if the audio narrator sounds at least 15-20 years older, how can the audio narrative itself be suitable and satisfactory? It can’t. Not really.
The chosen speaker also used ridiculous voices for both the vampires and the male characters. Why have ‘voices’ at all? My arguement would be that ‘voices’ aren’t important so long as the inflection of the narrator is appropriate for the situation. And I should know…I have credentials. My 5-year-old little brother thinks I am the best story-reader in the family. That’s high praise my friends, trust me.
One frustrating thing about the Sunshine audiobook is that the narrator does not pause when appropriate. Drama and suspense require pause. Changes in cadence are also important for processing jokes and sarcasm (which run high in Sunshine).
And perhaps most importantly, the Ear-Reader has to be of a suitable disposition. I would argue that I am NOT a person adapted for listening to audiobooks. Primarily visual, I have a hard time with modes of communication that rely on auditory means. I was quite the Circus Freak Show as a phone-hating, shopping-hating teenage girl. It takes 100% of my concentration to talk on the phone, which is something my ADD-addled brain does not readily concende…If ANYTHING interposes itself (think soft breeze, a sip of water, paper clips, dust tumble weeds, etc) my ears shut off.
I am also horrified that my conversational space-outs also occur during face to face conversations. Please, if we ever meet, forgive my episodes of complete blank-face. I’m not disrespecting you, I’m just never 100% there.
Audio books, like telephone conversations, require a significant mental investment on my part. Listening to books can become a chore. And while I can more easily imagine the happenings of an audiobook versus a phone converation, I am not as captivated as I am with a regular book.
But I am motivated to try ear-reading more books, especially the Harry Potter series. I continue to hope that I will learn better listening skills. Interestingly enough, I have enjoyed ear-reading Sunshine the most as I fall asleep at night. The sensory deprivation is key, and my pre-sleep brain has been appropriately macerated and prepped for audial onslaught.
Has anyone else ear-read audiobooks? What do you think? Does your processing of plots and characters and language change between audio and print?