Saturday, October 20, 2007

Audio Schmaudio - Lori Borrill

I'd like to express my opinion on a topic of which I have no authority or experience whatsoever. Usually, I would refrain from such at thing, feeling a responsibility to learn a little about a subject before I chastise it. But since crapping on things we know nothing about is practically an American pass-time, I figured I could skip the research and go straight to my assumptions.

You see, in my life, there are three things I know I don't like even though I've never tried them. They are 1) Escargot, 2) Cottage Cheese, and 3) Audio books.

I'm figuring right about now, you're probably agreeing with me on the escargot. As far as cottage cheese, you may like it but at least understand why someone else would find it a little creepy. But audio books? What has the poor audio book ever done to me? And how would I know I hate them if I've never even listened to one?

I don't know. They just bug me. For one thing, I have trouble calling them books. To me a book is something you read. An audio book is more like a bedtime story, maybe radio theater, or a one-man play with your eyes closed. It's a different animal, a different form of entertainment, so equating it to a book seems somehow wrong.

For me, part of the joy of reading is building the world in my imagination, and part of that world is how the characters speak and sound. I like to imagine them my own way, mixing the writer's description with my own preferences to make the characters more vivid, more personal to me. Having that voice filled in for me sort of ruins it, especially books with multiple points of view. I mean, do I really want to hear a woman narrate a sexy hero's thoughts, or vice versa?

Especially with romance, I don't think the audio book works. For one thing, I doubt I could hear someone narrate a particularly hot love scene without snickering like an eight-year-old. I'm weird that way. It's the same quirk I have when it comes to movies. I watch a naked love scene in a movie and I squirm, feeling like a voyer in this intimate moment between two people. Having someone tell it to me would be equally strange, like I'm engaging in some porno phone sex or something.

And it's not just that. As a writer, I like to see the words I'm reading as if I had written them. More than once during a novel, I'll pause over a particularly great description or especially funny line, and I read it several times before moving on. I'm also one of those horrible people who gets somewhere around the middle then skips to the end, my need to find out how it ends overshadowing the pleasure of the story. I can't rest until I know, so I read those last few pages, satisfy my curiosity then return to the middle where I can relax and enjoy the rest of the book.

How do you do that with an audio book? (I'm asking genuinely, because as I prefaced at the beginning, I did no research before spouting my opinion). I'm generally presuming audio books would screw up my reading habits, and like tasting an escargot, I don't have to listen to one to know I wouldn't like it. I want my books the way I read them: in my own mind, with my own imaginary voices, and in the order I choose.

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not suggesting all audio books be banned from the planet. My parents love them, and I can see how wonderful they would be for anyone sight impaired. But for me, give me my reading glasses and those real paper pages and I'm cozy as a clam.

So what about you? Have any of you tried listening to an audio book, and if so, what was your experience? What do you think are the pros and cons? Though I have strong opinions, I have been known to change my mind after someone makes a point I hadn't considered.

(Although you'll NEVER get me to eat an escargot.)



deseng said...

Hi Lori,

I am just like you, I love cuddling up with a good book in my hands. I love the smell of the paper, the images it creates in my mind, etc. I tried an audio book once and it didn't do nothing for me. I guess call me old-fashioned!


Mitchy said...

I don't understand the audio book thing as well. I would never dream of choosing audio books over real books. *sigh* It's just weird. And, it's like why don't schools use audio books then? and if they do... people usually read along with the actual txt in front of them.

I mean, I understand people tend to be busy and all these days... but i guess I am old school when it comes to books
great post!

Anonymous said...

I do both paper and audio books (as well as ebooks). I use audio books to pass the time at my data entry job. I put the CD in, place the headphones on and disappear into a book while at work.

I'll agree that romance books don't work as well in audio. And in fact, perhaps it's just my library, but finding them is hard. It's just plain embarassing to be listening to a love scene... even if noone else can hear what I'm listening to.

Stacy S said...

I've never listened to one. I do know a few people who just love them. I might listen to one on a long trip maybe. I love having the book in my hands.

Bronwyn Jameson said...

I've listened to a few with various degrees of enjoyment. The best? First person narration style stories, as long as the reader's voice works for you. I like 'em cos I can do other things while listening. Sure makes lousy jobs like housework pass more cosily. And driving. One I really enjoyed in this format was Memoirs of a Geisha. Really worked a treat. Tried a couple of romances and...not so much. Snails and cottage cheese -- urgh!

Evanne said...

Just thought of another great one to try--Cold Mountain. The author read it, his voice is pleasant and the pace and emphasis is exactly where he intended it, making the book a double treat. Recently, I moved into the twenty first century by embracing an Ipod--even without a commute audio books are back as I walk the dog, weed, any mindless task. I still adore print books, but there's lots of hours in the day when it's not convenient to hold a book but my ears aren't busy.:)

Lori Borrill said...

Well, it's nice to know I'm not alone in my assumptions, and some good points in favor of audio did get me thinking. Bron, I could see how a 1st person would work. I just read Lisa Kleypas' "Sugar Daddy" told in 1st person and entirely in her heroine's POV. Like some of you said, if the narrator did a good job, I could see enjoying a book like that.

Evanne, my parents are huge into audio for when they take long trips to visit us kids in their van. They once asked if my books are available in audio, and I said if they were, they'd come with a sticker that said, "If This Van's A Rockin' Don't Come A Knockin'" LOL!

Nathalie said...

Never listened to an audio book... I think I prefer to read by my own.

Donna Alward said...

I prefer to read on my own, but they are a godsend to my mum who is legally blind. She was always an avid reader and without them she'd be devastated. She's had to give up enough without having to give up good reading!

Her chief annoyance is books that are abridged. She wants the whole thing, not some cut back edited version.

Maureen said...

I've never listened to one but my parents enjoy them when they are going on long trips. I can see where it could be relaxing to listen to a story while you're dealilng with hours on the road. I think some of what you mentioned is why I haven't listened to one yet.

Lois said...

I've listened to a couple (before I ever started reading romances though, so they should have been all scifi related). . . it's good when you're standing on the bus because there are no seats to read comfy, or your eyes are just to tired to read even if you have the seat. LOL :)


Lily said...

You will never get me to eat an escargot either!!!