Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Audiobooks vs. 'the Real Thing'


I never did like the idea of listening to books. At the risk of sounding kind of poetic, let me just say, I like the process that goes on in my head when I read - letting the words sink in, hearing them in my own voice inside my head. Going back and reading that last line and understanding it better, knowing what happens next. It's a great experience. And something I get to enjoy without having to meet/talk or listen to other people.

Being read aloud to was fun only till I couldn't read myself, and the one reading to me was my grandmother. When someone reads aloud to you; they are interpreting the lines in their own style. They might not pause just right or chuckle at the right time. As a reader, I like the freedom the author gives me in a book; the chance to use my own imagination. I'd rather not have a narrator steal that from me.

On the other hand; there are those practical, non-poetic advantages of an audiobook. You can read it while driving, while standing in queues, when you're forced to go shopping with your friends. An audiobook can come in quite handy when you're at a family function, gloomily listening to your relatives gossip. Which is why I decided to skip the skepticism and actually listen to an audiobook first. I chose to 'read' Mirrormask by Neil Gaiman, narrated quite nicely by Stephanie Leonidas.

Would I have liked it more had I actually read it? Probably not.
Mirrormask was a beautiful book, very imaginative and it had the kind of story that works better as a movie, anyway. The narration was great, and since you do not require too much concentration for a fantasy story like that, I'd say an audiobook worked quite well.

Does this mean I now like audiobooks? Not really.
There are a thousand things that could go wrong - one of the worst being an incompetent narrator. Another thing I'd hate is if the book were abridged - even by a sentence.
I also think the first person perspective played a big part in making Mirrormask good. One point of view, one voice. When there are too many dialogues and too many characters; each with a different voice, I would find it very distracting to have to figure out who is speaking every time. If one person pretends to be seven different characters with seven different voices; don't even get me started on how wrong that could go.

Listening to an audiobook is like watching a movie without the video and reading a book, without the, well, pages - neither of which I'd be particularly eager spend money on!

7 comments:

Shelley said...

I'm a big fan of audiobooks. I feel like I'm using other pathways in my brain than actual reading, and I've become a much better listener. It's actually enhanced my regular reading, helping me to slow down and savor every word. A good narrator is essential though. And there are some books that I do like to have more control over, and so I'll avoid audio. Given unlimited time, I would always choose to actually read a book--I love the physical experience of holding a book and turning the pages. But I love to listen to a good story while doing housework! Gaiman is a good one for that.

Priya said...

Shelley - Thanks for stopping by... I thought so too; there are only a certain type of books I'd read in audiobook format and Gaiman is that type! I would have never thought of that advantage, becoming a better listener - I do need that. Like I said, an audiobook is very practical, specially when you're doing something else like working or driving; but it's not my first choice either!!

reviewsbylola said...

I know there are a ton of audiobook fans out there, but I am not one of them. I gave it a good effort, listening to two or three audiobooks back in 2009, and while the experience I had wasn't bad, it just wasn't my thing.

Alexis @ Reflections of a Bookaholic said...

Wow. Okay. I used to feel the same as you, but probably not as strongly. I didn't listen to audiobooks because I felt they kind of missed the point. But I listened to a couple of books that I just never got a chance to read and I really enjoyed it. My first audiobook was actually Wuthering Heights. I listened while driving and you should have seen me clutching my steering wheel. While I would never listen when I could read. And I probably won't listen to books I actually want to read. It is surprisingly an enjoyable, enough, experience for me.

Priya said...

Reviewsbylola - So there is someone who agrees with me! I guess it wasn't a bad experience for me either, but it was definitely nothing compared to reading a book. Thanks for stopping by my blog!

Alexis - I think I may have ended up sounding more negative than I felt to begin with! I mean I have only listened to one audiobook; and while that experience was kind of good, I just don't see myself doing that more often. I still just cannot imagine enjoying a book like Wuthering Heights by listening to it; but maybe I shouldn't decide until I try.. As for reading while driving; that's a good use but I don't need another reason to cause an accident!!

borkadventures.com said...

So, I have been debating audiobooks lately as well. The last one I listened to, The Ice Queen by Alice Hoffman, I despised and have been wondering if I would have liked it better as a concrete text. Probably not (review tomorrow), but I do think that audiobooks aren't for me. I am planning on writing a post on this on Wednesday...do you mind if I link back to this post and use it as a reference?

Sometimes, when I read your blog, I think we share a reader's brain.

- Mandy

Priya said...

Borkadventures.Com - Thanks, I sort of love your blog, may be that's why! I have read both good and bad reviews of The Ice Queen lately; but seeing that you didn't like the audiobook either, I don't see any point in reading the actual book in your case! I suppose I could read Mirrormask and see if I like it more.
Sure, you can link to my post, and I'll read your views on this on Wednesday then :)

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