Alchemical Thoughts

Some additional thoughts on audiobooks

Posted on: April 22, 2016

One reason to write about this is this post I saw a while back asking “how do you feel about audio books?” It struck me that the author of the post as well as the people who commented on the blog post were so negative and, to be honest, snobbish, about audio books. To them, listening to an audio book is not reading, which I wonder what would they say to someone who may be visually impaired, and their only or main way of reading is via having a reader read the book for them. Would they really go up to that person and just say, “you are not really reading”? Reading that felt very condescending and, as I said, snobbish.

A second reason to write about this is that I am doing an Audiobooks Reading Challenge this year. I am trying to read more books in this format, so I am trying to see how many I can get read in a year. Here is the link to my audiobook challenge page at The Itinerant Librarian (and if you are interested, this link takes you to my page listing all the reading challenges I am doing for 2016). As I wrote in my post for the audiobook challenge, I was exposed to audiobooks in library school. Back then, I took a course in Reader’s Advisory, and it included a segment on audiobooks. I dare you to tell one of those strong users of audiobooks in a library that they are not readers. Heck, I dare you to say that to librarians who do RA with audiobooks. And yes, I do get the difference between an audiobook and a radio drama, which seems to be one the commenters on that other post do not get neither (but that is another theme for another time).

As I mentioned in my challenge post, part of why I wanted to try audiobooks this year was to diversify my reading. I wanted to get some diversity in terms of format. I already read in print, which is my preferred way, and in e-book format, which has become more popular for me since I formalized being a book reviewer; I get a lot of my galleys for review as e-books. So I wanted to give audiobooks a chance. Now there are some small considerations I have when it comes to reading audiobooks:

  • I look for full unabridged versions. I want to read the book (or rather have it read to me if want to be picky), and that means I want to read it in full.
  • I tend to prefer audiobooks where the author reads the book. In some cases, this is because I may know an author from some other work, say a comedian, so I want to hear them read their own work. Now, I understand not all authors are good readers, so for them it is better to get a good narrator. I get that, and I am perfectly OK if the author does not read their work because they got a better narrator to do it. The author reading is just that: a preference. It is not written in stone.
  • I tend to prefer audiobooks on nonfiction. This is in part because I read a bit more nonfiction than I read fiction. It is also due to the fact I feel I can more easily drop or interrupt an audiobook if it is nonfiction than if it is fiction. In addition, when I am reading a nonfiction audiobook, if it engages, I am often taking reading notes and jotting down quotes and ideas from the book for my journal as well as to add content to my eventual review of the book. I think it has to do with nonfiction’s structure, which tends to be more lineal, than fiction which can be all over. Plus, last thing I want is to have to interrupt a fiction audiobook as the cliffhanger is coming. Again, this is not set in stone. If I found a good piece of fiction on audio, I would give it a chance as well.
  • Like other readers have said, I do like the ability to multitask with an audiobook. I can do something like iron clothes or fold laundry while I listen to an audiobook. Well, I can mostly do that. Last audiobook I tried it with, I did pause a couple of times in the laundry folding because I wanted to take notes. It happens.
  • A small challenge for me is that my local public library is seriously deficient in audiobook selections. I may have to give their Overdrive system a try as it has audiobooks as well (though I am not sure how easy to use or not they are. If I get to it, I will try to write about that experience).

In the end, folks, read what works for you in the format that works for you. As a librarian, I will not judge you or put you down for that.

Any other folks out there listen/read audiobooks? Feel free to comment and let me know if you do or not and what kinds of books you read in audio. Heck, if you have any suggestions for audiobooks I ought to try, let me know.

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