18 July 2011

Audiobooks - what makes them good?

Audio Books – what makes them good?

For those of you who don’t partake in audio books, you really don’t know what you’re missing.  Long road trips are made shorter and much more bearable by audio books, and instead of watching mindless TV while I knit (yep, I knit.  Add it to my list of grandma skillz), I love to listen to audio books.  As a librarian, I understand that it is physically impossible for me to read all the best-sellers and great books that are published each year, not to mention reading all the great books I missed in my past (please don’t ask me which of the classics I’ve read.  The number is really small).  So I use audio books.  The public library has them not only to check out on CD, but also to download to almost any MP3 player.

However over the last year or two, I’ve realized that not all audio books are created equal.  There are some audio books that are abridged versions, which, in some cases I can see as being a positive thing.  But audio books, just like regular books, can be, well, crappy.  And I’m at the point in my career where I’m starting to figure out which books I personally will listen to in audio form, and which I won’t.  For example – I’m not terribly fond of books written in verse, so I don’t think that audio forms of such books would be the best choice for me.  Also, I usually listen to audio books on long drives, so really descriptive books don’t keep my interest as audio books.  I’ve found that I need the plot to keep moving for me to stay interested when a book is in audio form.

But there’s more to it than that.  I’ve found that som

But should I let the audio version change how I feel about the print version?  In the spring I was listening to a different audio book and told my good friend Sarah about it, and she suggested that I quit listening to the audio book and pick up the real deal because she knew I’d love the book if I did.  Sure enough, reading the last 100 or so pages on my own redeemed the entire story, and not because all the action was in the end of the book, but because my reading wasn’t hindered by dramatic pauses and slow reading.
Unfortunately I have no solutions as to how to decide what makes an audio book great or not.  I will say that it is my firm belief that an audio book should enhance the print version – not take away from it.  So my one suggestion is that if you find an audio book that you don’t like because of the way it is read, turn it off and check out the print book.  Never let a crappy rendition ruin your experience of a great book.
e audio books are really crappily produced, and if you’re not careful, you’ll get a really great book that is a terrible audio book and it’ll ruin the book for you.  Sometimes the narrator reads entirely too slowly or too dramatically for the book – as in the case of Incarceron, narrated by Kim Mai Guest.  The book itself is about 442 pages, but the audio book is eleven hours 32 minutes, which averages out to approximately 38 pages per hour.  If I Stay is about 200 pages and the audio book is four hours, so about 50 pages per hour.  But regardless of pages read per hour, there were parts of Incarceron where the action should have been way more intense than it was.  I think the narrator thought she was making the reading more intense by READING LOUDER and making DRAMATIC…..PAUSES, but the effect was lost.  I caught myself thinking “Get on with it already!” And don’t get me started on fake horrid accents…ugh.  So not the case with If I Stay, which is narrated by Kirsten Potter.  When the action got going, she read faster.  Her emotions absolutely matched the story, and there were no silly accents.

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