A Thought on Audiobooks

Book Discussion

I have a very chequered history with audiobooks. I’ve tried numerous times over the years to listen to audiobooks but I’ve never found myself truly engaging with the experience.

I know that they have their place especially for people with disabilities e.g. sight issues, issues arising with inability to hold a book due to arthritis, mental health issues etc. etc. and in many instances they are a wonderful resource for people who could not otherwise read a physical- or e-book.

So please do not think for one second that I don’t view them as a valid form of reading. It is utterly ableist to disregard the value of audiobooks and how important they are for chronically ill and/or disabled people. And also for healthy people who just get such an enjoyment from them as an art form.

My Experience with Audiobooks

But my issue with them stems from the lack of personal connection that I as a reader make (or at least hope to make!) with my reads.

I don’t like how it is the narrator who gets to decide where to place emphasis in a sentence, paragraph etc. and how the narrator gets to create accents for each of the characters with dialogue, how through their narrating choices they get to create this layer of character that otherwise I would be weaving in my own head as I quietly read.

To me personally, audiobooks are a more passive style of reading.

Frequently I love to pause and reread sentences. I can recall countless occasions that passages have moved me to tears and I just end up sitting their quietly, hugging the book to my chest and reflecting on the sentences I have just read. I love to highlight paragraphs, I love to write my own thoughts and feelings into a book… I have many books with scribbled thoughts and half-thoughts that I think enhance any future reread of the book.

However, with an audiobook I do not do any of these things and therefore feel more dispassionately about the book. For sure I have enjoyed audiobooks in the past, but this enjoyment is more akin to the way I enjoy a TV show or film.

There is just something so special, unique really, about the act of quietly reading words and interpreting them for ourselves without any outside influence . I guess to me reading is a deeply personal and private experience. It is a direct relationship between reader and writer and I just don’t really enjoy anyone else watering down that connection.

What are everyone else’s opinions?

Am I off out on my desert island all alone or is this something that other people feel too? Let me know by commenting below!

As for me I’m spending the rest of the day listening to ‘Wolf Hall’ …. yup, after all that I am actually listening to an audiobook right now lol! As a spoonie I frequently get too tired to actively read and on those occasions I take great comfort in the simple pleasure of having someone read to me.

Happy reading…or listening!

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13 thoughts on “A Thought on Audiobooks

  1. I personally love audiobooks so long as I’m doing something else. So, washing dishes, drawing, cleaning etc. The problem is, I have an injury and sometimes have to lie down for extended periods of time and ✨do nothing✨ Ironically, the time when audiobooks are most useful is also the time when I least enjoy them.

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    1. That’s really interesting to me! Ive heard of lots of people who love audiobooks playing as they’re doing chores etc like you do, and it baffles me. My brain simply wouldn’t be able to focus and concentrate on the book; I would miss out on too much and keep having to rewind lol!
      So sorry you have an injury that keeps flaring. I can relate being chronically ill and disabled myself. It’s in those times when my chronic pain is at its worst that I appreciate audiobooks the most because I can focus my attention on them and away from the pain…and then fall asleep from the mental exertion ….which is again why they’re not overall my go to reading method as I keep needing to rewind back on what I’ve missed after I fell asleep 😂😂😂

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  2. I just tried my first audiobook 2 weeks ago and for me it is so hard to concentrate on. Plus like you, because I started blogging and reviewing books only 3 months ago, I take notes of things like character names and what I think of certain things to add in my review. It’s hard to even know how a name is spelled from listening to an audiobook! Lol

    So an indie author asked me to read and review his book but for some reason we couldn’t get the link to work so I said I’ll do the audiobook version since I had a credit on audible to use. Now it’s a middle grade ghost story set in England. And this book sounds amazing as an audiobook! It’s short, the narrator’s british accent is perfect for this story and I’m enjoying it. I think if I read it, I’d have been done by now. As an audiobook I can only listen to so much before it puts me to sleep or I get distracted. I’m taking some notes as I listen but if I’m driving, I can’t take notes.

    So I’m going to say I’m not a fan of audiobooks – it just doesn’t work for me, the story doesn’t seem to stay permanent in my head as it does when I read a book. But at least I tried it! 😊

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    1. I love that I am not the only one who feels mixed up about audiobooks. Sometimes they have even made me fall asleep!! I agree with you that accents have a huge bearing on the book, I personally prefer to listen to a british accent too! I think with audiobooks I just get so distracted by other things around me that they just never will work for me. But I am glad that they do work for others :))

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      1. Yes the book I tried out at first made me sleep! I was like, how can I review this? 😩 so I gave up on it. Someone did suggest listening to biographies or memoirs narrated by the actual person and I can see how that would be appealing. 😊

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  3. I actually rely on audiobooks sometimes especially when I have to drive or clean my house and don’t want to drop the book I’m currently reading. However audiobooks work with me only if they are combined with the book itself, I’ve never only listened to an audiobook. Great article! I think Emmmabooks did a video on a similar subject it was very enlightening 🙂

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    1. I think my problem is I lose focus so easily when I’m listening. I need the book in front of me or else there is always something to distract me. I definitely don’t think I could listen to one in the car, don’t know how people do that. I just love my music playlists too much for driving to! I must check out Emmabooks, I’m such a novice at blogging so it’s all new to me (I started last Friday!!! Lol!)

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  4. In general I prefer to read books for exactly all the reasons you describe.

    On the other hand, an audiobook can be a lifesaver at times when reading is impossible, for example on a long trip by car.

    I’ve also found that a few wonderful books I’ve listened to have been magical in a way that’s different, but no less, than those I’ve read. If the narrator is really good, especially, there is something really direct about it, like the book is speaking just to you. A reminder that people have been telling stories to each other long before the invention of written language.

    And it also carries memories of being too little to read and having a parent read aloud to you: it feels very safe, as if you are being carried along on the current of the story.

    The Wolf Hall narrator is great! That was one I read and THEN listened to. There is a point where he starts singing in the middle of the text and it’s amazing! The narrator of Americanah was also really terrific and made the story very real and immediate, its humor somehow more evident.

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    1. You make some wonderful points about the oral history of telling stories! I hadn’t thought of audiobooks in that regard at all but I love that idea that they are a continuation of old fashioned storytelling.
      I’m jealous that you can remember being read to as a child, I can’t recall that at all even though I do know I was read to. I do however remember being sung to!

      I have to agree with you about the Wolf Hall narrator. I’m listening to the Simon Slater narrated version rather than the Dan Stevens one (it was what was available on audible when I went searching this morning) and it is really rather wonderful. I have been alternating reading and listening to chapters, and I must say that I prefer the audio version for this particular novel. I think following the vast array of characters is made easier by the voice acting. And I have heard where he started singing and it had certainly more of an impact than if I simply read the lyrics (song lyrics in a novel is one of the things I’m far from in love with! Eeek!!)

      I could definitely see how an audio version of Americanah could work too because it’s another novel with a vast array of characters who appear quite briefly and therefore would certainly be improved by some voice acting.

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