As you might have figured out, I love books.
I’m a huge fan of reading and all things bookish (you should see my literary tee and tote collection). I always have a book on me (which is why all my bags must be big enough to carry at least one book). And I’m a huge promoter of reading—no matter what type (books, magazines, comic books, graphic novels, e-books)—I support all types, just as long as you read.
But one form I have not tried is audio books.
I’ve been hesitant to try audio books for a couple of reasons. First, an audio book is listening to someone else read.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love to go to readings. In fact, I’m going to hear Neil Gaiman at Wolftrap in July and I’m super psyched about it. And I’ve been to plenty of author readings and poetry slams. All good times. But an audio book is pre-recorded. I’m not listening to someone live and in person.
Second, it’s not reading. I love to read for the simple joy of seeing words on a page. I imagine the character’s voices, visualize what they look like, and watch the action play like a movie in my head.
I can go as fast or as slow as I want. I can savor a delicious passage. I can devour beguiling novels. I can reread intriguing complex verses. I can appreciate the symphony of words that play in my head. (And like many introverts, my head contains depths of worlds, words, and music.)
And I simply love the feel and smell of a book. Holding it, turning the pages, seeing the There’s just an intrinsic appeal of a physical book that you don’t get with a digital download.
So I have hesitated until now to delve into audio books.
I know many people who love audio books and I can see the appeal. Plus, cognitive psychology has found that the mental process involved in listening to a book versus reading a book is essentially same. (Professor Daniel Willingham of the University of Virginia has blogged about this.)
And so, I finally broke down and downloaded my first audio book.
While there are several audio book apps, including Audio Books by Audiobooks.com, All You Can Books, OverDrive, Downpour, Scribd, I opted for Audible since I’m a big Amazon user and it has a 30-day trial with 2-free audio books.
As for the book, I chose First Grave on the Right by Darynda Jones. I admit I have read the book (although it’s been a long while), but I heard people rave over the narrator, Lorelei King. So I thought I’d give it a go.
(If you haven’t read and of Darynda’s books, I highly recommend you do. Check out her website here.)
But after listening to the entirety of the book (approx. 9 hours), I will not be jumping on the audio book bandwagon.
I agree that Ms. King does an excellent job reading. She has a nice pace and uses different tones and pitches for the various characters. But I have 3 main issues with audio books.
First, the audio version takes 9 hours. In 9 hours, I could read this and at least the second book in this series, if not more. Yes, I know I am a fast reader and not everyone reads as fast as I do. So this isn’t a universal problem, but just my personal feelings on the subject.
Second, while I appreciated Ms. King giving different voices to the different characters, those were her interpretations of those characters. My impressions of how the characters sounded was different. And maybe had I not previously read the book, I would have felt different about her interpretations. Then again, I think one of the joys of reading is your own interpretation of the characters.
Finally, and the most important issue, I kept spacing out and missing passages. Normally when I have headphones on, I’m listening to music. Music is something I can have on in the background while I’m doing other things (usually writing). But with the audio book, I kept missing parts and would have to rewind. I realized I either had to focus on the audio book or focus on the task at hand. But not both. (Science has found we really don’t multitask but actually switch-task. And that’s what I was doing—switch-tasking between listening to the audio book and working.)
So while I get the appeal and did mostly enjoy the experience, audio books are just not for me. If I were taking a long road trip, I would absolutely consider listening to another audio book. And I think it’s great that audio books are another way, like e-readers, for people to enjoy books. But as for me, I continue to prefer physical books.
Do you like audio books? Tell me about your book preferences in the comments below.