Friday, March 12, 2010

The Great Audio Book Debate

I’ve spoken of my fondness of audio books before, but I find myself defending my stories on cd once again. A co-worker told me I was cheating listening to audio books. Cheating…moi? Surely you jest. Am I not actively engaged? Is the story not embedded into my mind? Do I not fall in love, or out of love, or get bored, or get excited listening to a book? Of course.

I won’t be as simplistic as to say that listening to a book is the same as reading one, but some people can’t read books. Should they be denied fantastic fiction, informative non-fiction because they are blind or illiterate?

Okay, so maybe she wasn’t speaking of the visually impaired or the functionally illiterate so we can strike that from the argument. But speaking as a writer, I LISTEN to the books I choose on audio. I pay attention to the sentences, to the dialogue and to pretty much the same things I would pay attention to if I had the book open before me. No, I can’t see the punctuation and can’t really tell if the author is using sentence fragments or if it’s the way the narrator is reading, but that doesn’t matter when I’m listening. I still get pulled out of the story when I hear a sentence that is crafted well, or one that’s poorly worded just as I do when reading.

Don’t get me wrong, if it wasn’t for my job, I probably wouldn’t be able to listen to audio books other than on road trips.

Also, if the narrator sucks it’ll ruin the book! Prime example: My mother loves James Patterson and has been after me to read his books for some time now. Well, I was at a bargain bookstore and saw James Patterson’s, 1ST TO DIE in audio format and bought it. I couldn’t get twenty minutes into the story because the narrator droned on in a monotone that put me to sleep—not something you want to do whilst at work.

Another example: Nora Roberts book, BLOOD BROTHERS. The narrator—a man with a naturally deep voice—went up to a creepy falsetto when doing the female characters. I can’t believe someone didn’t stop him and say, “Um…what the hell is that voice? Just talk normal, dude!” Note: I love Nora Robert’s books and that particular one is the only one I’ve ever had a serious problem with the narrator. They find good ones for her novels.

So as much as I love audio books, I still read a lot too because I love the feel of a book in my hands and turning a page. Just because I listen to some books, doesn’t mean I’ve somehow cheated myself, or the author, or the story.

And as a writer, if someone came up to me at a book signing with an audio version of my book, I wouldn’t tell them that they haven’t REALLY read my book because it’s on CD. I’d be delighted that they took their hard earned money and purchased my work when they had hundreds/thousands to choose from. And I guess that’s all that matters.

So tell me…cheat or no cheat?


Tamika: said...

No cheat! You keep making reading fun for you. Some people feel the same way about the Kindle and other e-readers. It doesn't matter if you are fingering the pages or not as long as you are feasting on the words.

Happy reading!

Lynnette Labelle said...

I'm sure the authors would love to know you're listening to their stories. After all, they get paid for audio books as well as written ones.

I prefer to read books, but since I don't have a lot of reading time at the moment, I sneak some "reading" in when I'm working out at the gym. While I run for 1/2 an hour on the treadmill, I listen to a story, unless I need an energy boost. Then, I crank up the tunes. ;)

Lynnette Labelle

Jemi Fraser said...

Listening to a book is not cheating! I've always got kids listening to books in my class. Crazy to not count that as reading the book. It's a different way of experiencing it. Different is okay :)

Tracy said...

It's silly to think listening to audio books is cheating! They're great for driving, working out, doing housework...the list is endless.

Now, if you were watching the movie and saying it was the exact same as reading the book, then I'd call cheat. :)

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Tere Kirkland said...

Definitely not cheating, but if I don't like the narrator's voice, I have a hard time getting into it.

And TAG! ;)