Showing posts with label audiobooks. Show all posts
Showing posts with label audiobooks. Show all posts

02 July 2021

Ear Reading


Once upon a time, I only consumed books via paperback and hardcover. Ebooks either were not a thing yet. When they were, they were kind of lame in the era before Kindle. Then there were audiobooks. But producers worked a bit too hard to turn them into radio plays. To me, reading was words on paper. End of discussion.

And then, during my waning days as a pizza delivery driver, someone took me to a store down the hill from my apartment at the time. It was the early 2000s, so cassettes still existed. My first audiobook, an unabridged version of Loren Estleman's A Smile on the Face of the Tiger. It came on eight cassettes that, amazingly, my cassette deck didn't eat it. Or any of the other books I rented on cassette. Or borrowed from the library.

About that time, producers of audiobooks had struck the right balance of simply reading the book and having the reader perform. Sometimes, the wrong reader could have hilarious results. For instance, the 80-something William Windom reading a Spenser novel. It was like grandpa hitting on Susan Silverman. On the other hand, Burt Reynolds nailed Spenser by basically reading him as a parody of...

Burt Reynolds.

But for me, it expanded my reading lists. At the time, I didn't need to expand my reading list. I regularly could read a book a week, and this was before speed reading. So, are you really reading a book when you listen?

There are some differences. When I reviewed books, I sometimes had to email authors to get the spelling of a name or a word. Especially if it was science fiction. On the other hand, listening to a book is passive. Load up your book, and someone reads it to you. Reading print or ebooks takes effort. (And really, in terms of content, I no longer differentiate between ebook and print. You still have to scan the text.)

This passivity has become a godsend. For the past two years, I've had to add caregiver to my many hats, as well as working two jobs. Audiobooks let me make up the shortfall as I couldn't read as many print books anymore.  

And the Audible subscription is the absolute last thing that goes when I have to tighten the belt. A credit a month gets me any book I want. But does the reader make a difference?

Well, there's a difference between RC Bray reading The Martian and Wil Wheaton reading it. I bought both versions. Bray can fake an Indian accent without making it sound like a parody. Wheaton just imbues Kapoor with his own world-weary sarcasm.

But while it's listening instead of seeing, I consider it to be the same as reading a book. The delivery does make for a different experience, but I am consuming narrative. For the longest time, I listened mainly to nonfiction on audio and read fiction. Over time, it became audio for scifi and reading everything else. Now both are an eclectic mix. 

Recently, I learned to speed read, which let me get through King's 11/22/63 in just over a week. Contrast that with when I read Under the Dome, which took months.Currently, I'm reading Blacktop Wasteland in hardcover. And frankly, I like the option of slowing down when I read an author with a distinctive voice. Audio might not actually work for me on this one. I need to hear SA Cosby unfiltered. On the other hand, the reader of Iain Banks's Consider Phlebas manages to stay out of the way of the narrative. It's a thin line the readers have to walk.

07 February 2013

Why Can’t I Listen To Audio Books?

Back in the days of cassette tapes, I experimented with the idea that listening to audio books would help me get through my growing to-be-read list. To get started, I bought the novel  A Dark-Adapted Eye by Ruth Rendell writing as Barbara, with Sophie Ward doing the reading. The total listening time of the two cassettes was three hours. I wish I could tell you how much I enjoyed the novel, but I don’t remember whether I enjoyed it or not. I don’t even remember what it was about.
The problem was as I sat in my easy chair listening to the book, I couldn’t keep my mind on what the reader was saying because I kept nodding off. I think, but I’m not sure, that I finally fell asleep. No, it wasn’t the voice of the reader. Later that same year, I bought a CD about ancient cultures and, as with the novel, I don’t remember finishing it because I believe I fell asleep again.
I can listen to old radio programs like “The Shadow,” “The Green Hornet” or “Inner Sanctum” without dozing off because I hear the different voices of the different characters. Listening to the single voice reading a book on a cassette or CD, however, seems to put me to sleep no matter how good the reader is.
No matter how much I think about it, I can’t solve the puzzle of why I can’t listen to audio books. So, I’ve decided not to try to listen to War and Peace on an audio book. 
Any method that encourages people to read should not be dismissed. Audio books are not only good for readers with poor eye sight but also for readers who, provided they can stay awake, want to reduce that pile of to-be-read books or reread the classics.