Read and Drive? Surely Not?
My friends will know that I am a MASSIVE fan of audiobooks. I listen to them almost constantly, rarely music and only Radio 4 in the evening with Neil. My music knowledge and interest stops in about 1989 when I discovered audiobooks on cassette (remember them). I used to get them from the local library and would be constantly playing them on a portable cassette player around the house or on a Walkman (I got through numerous batteries) and when my first car did not have a radio cassette player I was happy enough just to get a tape deck fitted so I could listen to my books.
Even now, Neil can usually tell where I am as there is the constant background noise of a narrator. Naturally I don’t ‘read’ and drive but I do listen to them in the car. I have moved on from the cassette player to digital and listen via my phone through the car stereo.
It’s amazing how technology has moved on and how much more accessible and smaller audio has become, certainly physically smaller to the non-existent physical size of my on-line audio library. I remember as a child one of my favourite records (LP) was The Tales of Beatrix Potter read by Wendy Craig. In fact, I think my Mum still has this. Once I started working in a library and discover the audio cassette a love affair was started.
It has to be said that generally I will only listen to unabridged recordings and have only resorted to abridged once to complete a series. Although when the unabridged recording was available I listened to that.
When CD’s started to overtake cassette as the norm I must admit I didn’t get too into these as the portable player which only took headphones was too large for my dressing gown pocket and I didn’t have a CD player for the car. I don’t think at the time you could easily get plug-in small portable speakers – well Amazon didn’t exist and it would not of occurred to me to check.
Then out came the iPod. Duh, duh, duh. It took me a few months to find someone who could explain to me exactly how it worked and then CD’s became the way to transfer a story on to my new iPod, by which time Amazon existed and I did get a small plug in speaker. I remember plugging into my friends internet connection (we didn’t yet have one at home), listening to that dial up tone (you young things won’t know that sound) and then ever so slowly downloading each CD to iTunes then uploading to my iPod.
Then in 2007 I discovered an on-line audiobook service where you paid a subscription for 1 or 2 credits per month and could download anything in their catalogue regardless of the stated RRP (£) and the format was digital and downloadable straight to iTunes. I was in heaven. I think I had been a member for over 2 years when I realised that my 1 credit per month was never going to fill my month or complete my wish list which was ever growing with new releases. In fact my 2 credits per month, plus the option to purchase additional credits periodically hasn’t either but then that’s how it should be I guess. I currently have over 60 titles in my wish list.
I have listened to books that I would probably not have picked to read like the Jo Nesbo books and MM Kaye. I also have a lot of modern female writers like Marian Keyes, Liz Fenwick, Nora Roberts and Victoria Hislop.
I like books that are long in hours as I feel as I am getting real value for money. Some of the longest have been the Diana Gabldon Outlander series books at average of 35+ hours, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell at over 40 hours, Swan Song at over 40 hours. I think the longest one in my library is The Count of Monte Cristo at just over 50 hours.
Naturally the narrator has to sound right. I have only returned one book as I found it completely unlistenable and that was Lincoln. I just could not get on with the narrator speaking as Lincoln all the time. Some narrators are better than others. I loved William Roberts who narrated many Bill Bryson books so when Bill Bryson narrated his more recent ones I found it strange. He grew on me but on the whole I tend to find that authors who narrate their own work do not do as good a job particularly when there are characters, the exception being actors or presenters. Another one I found strange was a Kate Morton where the narrator was Australian but all the characters were English and it was set in England but the narrator had an obvious accent. This has put me off any other non-Australian stories with this narrator.
I have just, with my extra credits, downloaded , Dad’s Army the complete BBC Radio Series (10 hours), A Perfect Heritage by Penny Vincenzi (28 hours) and Edge of Eternity by Ken Follett (36 hours). I have to say that the Ken Follett series has been a great listen with each one being over 30 hours. Again, this is probably not an author I would of picked off a shelf.
I have owned in the past the Harry Potter Series on cassette (Books 1-5) which were unabridged. These I handed on to my goddaughters and they have now been handed on to other friends. Not sure how the tapes are holding up as I had had 3 or 4 of them repaired before I gave them away. Whilst I would love HP in my audio library, the distribution of this is controlled by JK Rowling on Pottermore and not available from my subscription service.
I listen to audiobooks when getting dressed, in the car, when cooking; usually any time when I am on my own. I now have a blue tooth speaker in the galley side to help me hear over the pounding of the torrential rain! I generally listen at night to go to sleep to as well. Headphones now so as not to disturb Neil. I then listen to a story that I have heard before. My nighttime story is currently The Help by Kathryn Stockett which is read by 4 ladies who have the most beautiful southern (American) accents. I don’t know how many times I have listened to this (and seen the movie). Some of my other favourite nighttime listens are The Wedding Day by Catherine Alliott and any of Marian Keyes that are available so far unabridged.
A few years ago based on the “if you listen to something as you are falling asleep you will learn” theory, I did listen to Paul McKenna, I Can make You Thin for weeks and weeks. Turns out he can’t. I also tried to learn Portugese. iIt either sank too deep into my sub-conscious that I can’t find it or it never made it in at all!
The audio book is more popular now than ever and often the audio book is released at the same time as the physical book or very soon after. It’s a great way to keep up with some of my favourite authors and series such as Barbara Erskine and The Shadow Chronicles by Paula Brackston.
I’ve just checked my on-line library and I have over 200 titles that I have downloaded. I do still read as well both physical books and ebooks but I find I am more likely to try something different (if long) on audio. I’m looking at the Game of Thrones series as I watched the first season and didn’t understand it! However, the publishers have broken each book into parts so to listen to 1 book I will have to use 2 credits – that isn’t good value to me.
Anyway if you are interested the on-line service I use is audible.co.uk which is now part of the Amazon family. Now books can purchased and downloaded straight to phone or iPad without having to upload to iTunes which is a great time saver. Yay for new technology.
Note: main bug bear – when Audible does not have an unabridged version particularly part way through a series or is missing a book altogether. Even more frustrating when I know it is available in an audio format as I have already listened to previously either on CD or cassette. I do send in emails to Audible but I usually get the standard reply of ever increasing their library etc etc.
Anyway, I’m pleased to of shared my love of the audiobook. Long may they last (the longer the better).
PS: Libraries still tend to hold audiobooks in their lending collections and I understand some of them have “playaway” audiobooks. These do not need a separate player and come preloaded with one audiobook per device ready to plug in your headphones or speaker.