Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Audiobooks: The Good, The Bad and The iPad

Being confronted with a book the size of a small county is never the most appetising of prospects, even when you're expecting it. It's a daunting prospect - the weight, the tiny print, the whisper-thin pages, and the crushing feeling you get when you realise that another 100 pages will only leave the smallest dent in this literary monolith. 

Fear not, dear friends, for help is at hand - audiobooks. The best thing since sliced bread and the invention of the indoor bathroom.

Or are they?

Let's take a look, shall we?

"Come with me
And you'll be
In a world
Of wicked innovation..."



The Good - Anywhere You Go...
Speaking from experience, your spine and all connected to it will not be happy hauling a half-ton hardback around on your daily commute. These days, audiobooks can be downloaded onto almost any form of portable media; your phone, your iPod or MP3 player, even your Kindle, laptop or tablet. 

People like me who have issues with motion sickness will also be able to put their time on public transport to use, as there won't be any issue with the nausea that puts an end to any pursuit more interesting than people-watching and pointedly avoiding eye contact with the people in the seat next to you.

The Bad - ... Did You Bring Your Charger?
"Book don't need batteries" - the great defence of the bookworm since the inaugural rise of the creepy chrome menace of the Kindle. But it is, however oft-repeated, true. Your audiobook will only last as long as your battery, and depending how many apps you're running on that thing (I see you multitasking with Flappy Bird, yes I do) that may be much shorter than you think...



The Good - All The Lonely People
Almost everyone can access an audiobook. Speeds of narration can be altered to suit those who need more time to process what they hear, adjustable volume can overcome a wide variety of hearing problems, and those who struggle with complex prose thanks to dyslexia, ADHD etc can avoid the problem of reading the stuff without losing any of its gorgeousness.

The Bad - What He Say?
Speaking from personal experience, I would highly recommend listening to any available sample narration before purchasing an audiobook. Some narrators are far better than others, and problems can range from speaking too quietly to mispronounciation, or even simply being about as engaging as a cardboard cutout with a smiley face drawn on in biro.

Luckily, one can usually flip through various editions of an audiobook to find one with a narrator you like. Just make sure you get the right edition. Listening to William Faulkner is difficult enough without accidentally downloading the Catalan translation.



The Good - Like A Kid In A Candy Shop
Want classics? Got classics. Want the latest release from a big-name author? Got 'em all. Audiobooks are even doable for indie authors, who often read and record their own stories and put them up for mass consumption. Across all the websites that sell audiobooks, you're almost certain to find what you're looking for.

The Bad - Murphy's Law
... Almost. Certain books do not come with audiobooks, or come only in abridged editions. This can cause problems if you have to write an essay about the detail applied to the description of a gnat in Chapter Three that the editor didn't think was as vitally important as circumstances make it to you.


Now, what say you? I may love audiobooks as the sole saving grace keeping me from crying into my lunchtime can of Baked Beans, but let's not instate an intellectual dictatorship here. Leave a comment, and let me know what you think!

Also, if you want to check out some audiobooks, Audible does a pretty awesome variety - and plenty of offers available for buying, borrowing, and raiding the world of literature.

~ Charley R


  1. Good post. Personally, since I have no trouble with reading while traveling, I prefer hard copies. I also love the weight of large books and don't mind the decrease in portability-- with such things as The Name of the Wind or The Way of Kings, I had as much fun opening the book and feeling the satisfactory thump as I did reading. And, this is selfish I know, I don't have any impediments that restrict my reading. I just like the hard copies.

    That said, I've had several extremely enjoyable audiobook listens. The Raven Boys, for instance, or Brandon Sanderson's Legion, or The False Prince; I loved each through my headphones. But that was mainly because of convenience. They were each offered free when I was looking around, so I took them and listened. I do admit, however, that The Raven Boys read to me was much more desirable than trying to struggle through Welsh pronunciations on my own. And Ronan's voice sounded so cool. Anyway.

    Personally, I prefer the giant, dusty tomes. But if convenience starts to speak, I listen-- literally. Good post.

    1. Thanks! I like big books, too .... but not when I have to carry them up a steep hill for half an hour. Then my shoulders hate me too much for it to be worth it. Nice fat books live at home where I can love them all the time and not remember quite so often how much they have destroyed my joints xD

  2. I've listened to a few audiobooks and they were decent, but I don't think I will be trying them again unless I hear of an OUTSTANDING recommendation. I can usually read a book in less time than it would take me to listen to it... and sometimes I didn't like the narrator's voice. It was hit or miss. Sometimes I liked it, sometimes they were just too nasal or dull or whatever.

    Nice post! :)