October 11, 2009

While we're talking about noises

Ha, all that soundtrack stuff has reminded me that I wanted to blog about audiobooks.

Because I generally like listening to something while I drive or sit on the train or knit or sew etc and it isn't always music I'm in the mood for, earlier this year, I decided to try some audio books. Prior to this, my experience with audiobooks was listening to the Lord of the Rings during long family car trips (a set of way too many cassette tapes at the time), listening to a friend's book on audio because I won it (okay but I found the aussie accent weird for some reason) and listening to Neil Gaiman reading The Graveyard Book - I would listen to Neil read The Telephone Book with pleasure because he has a lovely lovely voice and reads aloud beautifully - via the videos he had of him doing readings on the web (I just listened while sewing or doing other thing rather than watched). In fact, it was the Graveyard Book that inspired me to try out some other audio books.

I decided that I'd go the Audible.com route because you get the books slightly cheaper (audio books are expensive! particularly in Aussie dollars) and you can download straight to iTunes with no faffing around. Of course, you do still have to put up with mucho annoying geographic restrictions occasionally but geographic restrictions are another blog topic all together.

When I set out on this venture I knew the following about myself:

1. There was no way I wanted abridged audiobooks (fie on skipping parts of the story)
2. It was doubtful I would like fiction books that I'd never read before on audio because I would be getting the story way too slow for a first time given I'm a speedy reader. (I re-read favourite books heaps anyway, so listening to them was no different to me and hey, I'm happy to give my money to my fave authors)
3. Well, there wasn't really a third.

So I went out and bought some books by authors I loved that I had already read (so far Gaiman, Pratchett, Bujold and Gabaldon) and have been listening to them. (Note, in true Virgo and accountant fashion, I've gone for nice long books because you get more hours of audio for the same price (well, audible credits anyway) *g*).

Things I have learned since I started listening to audiobooks

1. The voice of the person reading is key. I have clicked on the samples for some books I have loved and known in five seconds that the voice of the reader would drive me completely up the wall. It's that rhythm thing again. So sorry, I am very, very picky on reader voice.

2. I do like audiobooks though sometimes the slower pace does drive me a little nutty. Still, having someone tell me a story while I do something mundane is nice.

3. I was right to choose books I know and like and authors I can trust because the slower pace makes writing quirks and weirdnesses stand out more to me (much like I pick writing quirks and continuity weirdnesses when I watch series on TV on DVD), so if you added bad writing, the iPod would hit the wall so to speak. Also, I like having my idea of the characters fixed in my head before someone else's voice messes around with them even though it's the same words. (I'm the same way with movie adaptations of books. Most of them drive me batty because they don't match up with the vision in my head. For the same reason I'm very meh on book trailers and pretty "oh no, no, no" on the concept of a vook but that's just me. On the flip side, I usually don't mind reading TV/movie tie-in novelisations for things I've seen if the writer gets the voice right because the sound and vision in my head will match with the book).

4. I can put up with things being pronounced differently to how I heard them in my head (given I read a lot of fantasy, this is a high likelihood with audio books. I guess the author gives the pronunciations he or she has in their head for the readers to use (at least, I hope they do) but those pronunciations do not always match up with the *correct* ; ) pronunciations in my head but it is annoying when different pronunciations are used within the same book. I'm listening to Outlander/Cross Stitch at the moment and there's a couple of gaelic words and names that are somewhat fluid and it jerks me out of the story.

5. I sometimes wish that that would use male and female readers for key characters but appreciate this is unlikely (and I'd probably find one of the two annoying lol). Given this doesn't happen I have a slight preference for male readers as for some reason a male voice doing a female doesn't jolt me as much as a female voice doing a male (ie Jamie Fraser in my head sounds way different to how he is read by Davina Porter lol).

So overall, I think I will keep listening to old faves on audio but I don't think audiobooks will ever replace reading for myself.

So what about the rest of you? Who listens to audiobooks? Who are some of your favourite readers? I'm open to recommendations.

PS, when it comes to audiobooks, it will pay to shop around and in some cases, it's just not worth it. For example, some of the Harry Potter books are priced at around $100 aussie for the audiobook (both on iTunes and Amazon). For that much, I want Stephen Fry to come to my house and read me the damn thing personally. I could buy the dvd and the book and still have lots of change from $100. Sheesh. I'm all for a paying a fair price for someone's hard work and creativity but this is one of those times where you have to say "and they wonder why people will pirate". I can accept an audiobook being more than a paper book because they are long and they have to pay the readers etc but 3 or more times the price (probably 10 times the US paperback price) is a rip-off!!!

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