“Some critics — the always tiresome Harold Bloom among them — claim that listening to audiobooks isn’t reading. I couldn’t disagree more. In some ways, audio perfects reading.” – Stephen King
As UK print sales continue to slowly dwindle, and audio sales continue to soar, there’s no denying it: people are changing the way they read. With so many audiobook specialist services cropping up, and Audible famously dominating the market, the exclusivity from these platforms has listeners old and new spoiled for choice.
Audiobooks have a childhood nostalgia for me. My main exposure to them was having the bulky CD boxes stuffed in the glove compartment on a long car journey for the school holidays. Normally they’d be the latest Artemis Fowl or something of a similar ilk. More often than not I’d sit in the back of the car reading along with the book as the narrator weaved the story. I lost touch over the years with the format, but more recently, I’ve fallen back in love with them.
However, with the rising popularity comes a lot of criticism. With columnists rising in their droves to label people who listen to audiobooks as “lazy”, I thought I’d take some time to talk about why I love the format so much.
Did you know that audiobooks were initially created for blind readers? It’s true! In the 1930s they were known as “talking books” and growing technology allowed them to be distributed in cassette form. While mass consumption over the years has allowed for more investment and innovation, it’s important to remember the origins and the history being attacked when those choose to voice their distaste of the format. For some story lovers, there isn’t the option to just “pick up a real book.” Reading is inclusive in so many ways and we should champion that rather than trying to score points.
Yes, I’m following up with something immediately counteracting previous points. While I truly miss the endless days when I could be snuggled up on the sofa for hours on end reading, the reality of adult life means that sometimes other things need to take bigger priority. As a result, often when I have that time to read I’m just too tired to focus on the words. I recently did a blog post about how my reading has changed and how my main source of reading is audio based. If it wasn’t for this format, I would not be reading now. In a full time office job I can fly through many books while going about my daily business without feeling the guilt of missing out on new stories.
“Audio is merciless. It exposes every bad sentence, half-baked metaphor, and lousy word choice.” – Stephen King
LISTENING IS MAGIC
There’s something about listening to a story being told that adds this special feeling that I just cannot really explain. If it’s a beautifully poetic book like Aristotle And Dante Discover The Secrets Of The Universe, the words have so much more weight to them. I often find I can appreciate the writing style of books even more when the narrator delivers the lines.
The worth of a good narrator is completely underestimated. Services like Audible are bringing in big names such as Michael Sheen to tell their stories. For me, the person telling the story is massively important. If I can’t gel with the narrator, it’s easy to miss out on what could have been a really enjoyable book. But getting the narrator that you can just tell is as invested in the plot as you can make for an incredible experience. A big stand out for me was the cast for The Seven Husbands Of Evelyn Hugo. My heart still aches with so much love for that production. I’ve even found myself seeking books outside of my usual reading tastes just because it’s a narrator I’ve previously loved.
What’s your preferred reading format?
If it’s audiobooks, what are some of your favourite of the year so far?
For more of my reading adventures follow me on Goodreads
For my writing adventures follow me on Twitter
For bookish photographs follow my instagram: @charlottereadsthings