ArmchairBEA 2012:The One Where I Talk About Audiobooks

8 06 2012

Today’s topic is Ask the Experts, and I am not really an expert on anything. So, I will talk about audiobooks… again. I think if there is anything that I can say I am knowledgeable enough about to feel comfortable writing about its audiobooks. Because, well, I listen to and review a lot of audiobooks. So, for today, I will post some statements about audiobooks. These statements are meant as discussion topics so feel free to agree or disagree with me at you leisure. I won’t be insulted if you call me a moron.

Audiobooks Are Not a Passive Activity

This is an argument I had been known to make in the past, that with audiobooks you are not actively engaging with the text, it is being displayed for you, aurally. I was wrong. Active listening is a skill. A learned skill. Think back to your favorite subject in high school. The one you learned the most from. Chances are, you liked that class not based on the books you were given but based on the teacher. A good teacher encourages active listening. You interact with what is being told to you. Your imagination is tickled. I can actually still hear the voices of my favorite teachers in my head, many years later. Audiobooks are similar. Since embracing audiobooks, I have become a better listener. So ladies, if your men have a tendency not to listen, maybe you should introduce them to audiobooks.

Audiobooks are NOT Cheating

You often hear the question asked, "Is Audiobooks the same as reading?" I hate this question with a fiery passion. I find the question pretentious. It’s one of those gotcha questions like, “Do you still beat your wife?” Of course listening to an audiobook isn’t the same thing as reading. Listening and reading are two different actions. Yet, people will use this question as a way to declare the superiority of reading over listening which to me is absurd. It is the same material. Whether you read to gain information or be entertained, audiobooks work, for many people, as well or better than print books. To place a value judgment of the delivery system pushes close to the elitism. If the action of reading is inherently better than the action of listening than the material doesn’t matter. Which would be better, listening to the audio version of Mark Twain, or reading a manual on the proper installation of a toilet? It depends on your intent.

Added note: I have no qualms saying I “read” an audiobook. Language changes and verbs are often adapted to encompass more than just their originally intended activity. If you want me to give you a sticker saying you are technically correct, then I have them printed out for you. I also have no problem calling the rage victims from 28 Days Later zombies. You can have you technical victories, and I will keep my adaptive language.

A Good Narrator Can Enhance a Book

Many people don’t like audiobooks, because they see a narrator as an added layer between themselves and the text. I can understand this. I have had some bad experiences with narrators, who will mispronounce words or use totally unauthentic sounding character voices. It takes you out of the narrative. Yet, a good narrator can effortlessly immerses you into the world of your novel. When listening to a novel, there is no skimming, and a good narrator can actually help you better embrace the entire text. Often, a narrator will suck you so far into the narrative, their voice almost becomes part of the world the author created. I often will listen to audiobooks I struggled with in print form. For instance, I had attempted to read the classic science fiction novel Stand on Zanzibar by John Brunner multiple times. I really couldn’t get into the structure and style. Then I listened to Erik Bergmann’s excellent narration of the novel, and enjoyed it. I still had rough spots, but Bergmann’s performance helped smooth those out.

Audiobooks are Great for Rereads

So, the latest edition of one of your favorite series is coming out, and you want to refresh yourself on what has gone on before…. why not try it as an Audiobook. People often say they have trouble focusing when listening to audiobooks. Again, see Active Listening as a learned Skill. With a book you are already are familiar with, zoning out a bit won’t be as problematic. Using books you already read will help you develop the mad skillz of an audiobook listener. I recently reread two of my all time favorite novels The Stand by Stephen King and Swan Song by Robert McCammon as audiobooks. I have read the print versions of these novels multiple times, yet listening to them in audio allowed me to pick up things I never did. I found a new poetry in the rhythms of the language, and picked up facts I had neglected in the past. If you don’t want to reread books, maybe try an audiobook of an adapted film.

The Audiobook Community is Awesome

I have met some of the most wonderful bloggers, narrators and industry professionals as an Audiobook Blogger. Narrators on Twitter and Facebook are some of the most engaging people I have met. One narrator, who reads one of my favorite series, has sent me a birthday message from a favorite character, and produced a sound clip based on a joke I made on twitter about Christopher Walken narrating Charlotte’s Web. Xe Sands has a weekly feature on her site where she reads small public domain clips, and encourages professionals and amateurs alike to do the same. We have events like June Is Audiobook Month, and Audiobook Week, and celebrate and make predictions for  the Audies with Armchair Audies. If you are interested in reviewing audiobooks, many companies are blogger friendly, offering advice and review copies. Audiobook Jukebox highlights audiobook reviews and offers a reviewer program. If you want advice or recommendations on audiobooks, feel free to email me or comment on the blog. If I don’t listen to your genre, I probably know someone who does.

You Don’t Have to Like Audiobooks. I Will Still Be Your Friend.

I don’t judge people by their entertainment choices. So, whether you listen to Zombie Fiction, or read 50 Shads of Grey, it’s all good. I love bookish people, and enjoy interacting with them. Audiobooks are not for everyone, and I know that. Yet, fair warning, if you somehow feel your “reading” is better than my “listening” the snark will come out. Remember, the vast majority of Audiobook fans, are also readers. I read print, maybe not as much as some, but it’s still one of my favorite activities. I started listening to audio, because they still haven’t created a safe way to drive, walk my dog, perform physical work activities, and cook while reading. Then, I fell in love with the experience. So, remember, audiobook people are book people too. And nobody parties like book people party.

Also, check out my review of John Scalzi’s Redshirts today. It contains Wil Wheaton. Ummmm…. Wil Wheaton.

So, that’s my “Expert” post. What do you think?




11 responses

8 06 2012

I like your post a lot! And I agree with all of it. I never expected to enjoy audiobooks as much as I do, but it’s just as satisfying and sometimes more satisfying than reading off the page.The narrators are certainly key, I fall into their voice and rhe world rhey create for me when they’re wonderful, and if they aren’t it’s a constant irritation (a rare problem). And your point about not skimming is key for me, I do that too much when I’m reading a paper book and I do tend to miss a lot.

And another way that audiobooks really shine for me is in a story with a lot of wit and humor. With a good narrator, I’ll end up laughing out loud much more for a funny audiobook then I ever would on the page because every joke is given its proper weight and nuance; my eyes don’t just glance past it. I’m telling you, just try listening to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy read by Douglas Adams, it’ll be a revelation. Or any book with a lot of wit and heart. I’ve been listening to Angie Sage’s Septimus Heap series for a while now and it’s charming and sweet and frequently bitingly funny, but the rhythms of the experienced narrator are what makes the humor so effective. I’d love to see a comparison of how readers ranked the audio version of the books versus the print version. There are a few others that I’ve thought would be much more successful in their audiobook version, if people would just give them a try, as well.

8 06 2012

I think your expert post is expertly written! A really nice summary of topics which regularly come up in audiobook discussions. And I strongly second your suggestion about re-experiencing an old favorite through audiobooks – it’s almost always an enlightening and thoroughly enjoyable experience.

8 06 2012
Sarah Says Read

I absolutely agree that audiobooks are great for re-reads! I’m usually doing something else if I’m listening to an audiobook, so it’s best if it’s something I don’t have to pay TOO close attention to.

Happy ABEA!

8 06 2012

I love these thoughts! I’m not an avid audiobook listener so reading these things are enlightening. Thanks!

8 06 2012
Literate Housewife

Good God, man! You are an expert! You’re the official Audiobook consultant for the Audies for crying out loud!

I agree with everything you say. I especially love what you have to say about “cheating.” When I first started my blog back in 2007, my goal was to read 52 books that year. I didn’t “count” an audiobook because I felt it was cheating. I have come a long way and I look back on that yet to be named Literate Housewife and think what a fool she was. It would still take her three years to get with the program. That’s three less years with the most wonderful people around.

Like you, I will be friends with anyone, whether they like audiobooks or not. They may not be for everyone. I will bring out my inner bitch if needed to deal with those people who think like I used to. There’s no need to be arrogant. I will use this post and tell them to go read a toilet installation manual if it makes them feel like a superior reader to me.

Great post, Bob!

8 06 2012

Audiobooks are awesome!!!!!

Thanks for participating!

Here’s my experts say post


8 06 2012
Teresa (@teresasreading)

This is a fantastic post. I do have to disagree with you on one point. I most certainly consider you an audio book expert!

It is my hope that all of the naysayers will try at least one audio book. I was once one of those people who didn’t “get” it, until I tried one, and then I was hooked.

8 06 2012

I made plans to listen to more audiobooks this year, but sadly it didn’t happen… Maybe the second half of the year.

9 06 2012
Smash Attack

I think audiobooks are a fantastic way to enjoy a story and can add a lot to the experience. I haven’t done many audio but they have served well on road trips and packing up my house for a big move. I am excited to find an exclusive audiobook reviewer. 🙂

10 06 2012

Doing rereads was one of the things that really got me into audiobooks because I realized how much I could do while listening! It was nice to be able to read AND clean the house, or run errands, or do … whatever! I can’t wait to listen to more of them.

Great post! I have an audiobook post going up on Monday and will link over to this. 🙂

11 06 2012
June is Audiobook Month! «

[…] For another great post on audiobooks, visit The Guilded Earlobe.  […]

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