Having someone else read to you is a treat that began in most people’s lives during early childhood. The sound of a parent’s voice reading a story, doing all the voices, teaching the Bible lesson, or whathaveyou, soothed and eased the child’s mind. It was a time of bonding and closeness.
When audiobooks became available decades ago, their fame was lackluster as best. They didn’t really get noticed until the average American life became more cluttered with tasks, obligations, and harried hustle and bustle. The nineties had arrived with a vengeance and suddenly folks didn’t have as much time to waste with a book in hand.
Finally, when Kindle came out, things shifted again. Audiobooks again took a backseat to additional pressure from a new tool for reading. They did disappear for one major reason. Many people lost their vision each year due to accident and disease, which was the original reason for creating audiobooks.
How do I know? Trust me; I was listening to them every day during the late ’70’s and early ’80’s. My magazine subscriptions at the time (i.e. Analog Science Fiction Science Fact, Amazing Stories, etc.) came to my home each month in the form of thin, vinyl records to be played on my special record player.
When traffic jams and other time-wasters became the norm, audiobooks rose in popularity with the non-visually impaired. Suddenly, college courses from sources like Great Courses took off, with users as disparate as news broadcasters to stay-at-home moms. By the way, I highly recommend perusing the offerings at Great Courses. These are fantastically done and a fun way to learn.
So, what are the drawbacks to audiobooks?
I have only one, but it drives me to distraction. The frustration created leaves me gnashing teeth and balling fists. Additionally, I’d be willing to wager that you would react the same way in my shoes.
The problem arises from recordings of books I know intimately. I like having something running in the background when I’m working on non-writing projects—developing an editorial calendar, going through email and scanning newsfeeds, and the like. I have music on most of the time—instrumental in nature.
Lately, I’ve come across a free access to audiobooks for free listening. I was ecstatic. I could get entire series by some of my favorite authors; series I’ve read a dozen or more times. I went to that link with singing heart.
And plummeted almost immediately.
I don’t think I’m any different than the ordinary reader. When I read, I see a movie in my head. I “know” exactly how each name should be pronounced and these characters are as clear to me as anyone walking on a street.
The key phrase there was “How names should be pronounced.” Fantasy novels and series are terrific to read. By the end of the series, you have become a part of the places and people who inhabit whatever world resides in the book. You have family there.
Later, to hear someone continually mispronounce the name of a people, a character, or a place scrapes along your nerves like a whetstone along the edge of a sword blade. It grinds against the grain of your tolerance and brings you to the snarling point.
You, the reader, know the proper pronunciation to every name, and when someone blows it, it’s like getting smacked in the face with a wet dishrag. It smells and drips.
That’s been my experience for the past couple of weeks, as I tried to work my way through the audio versions of these books. I applaud any professional reader who attempts to record fantasy books. It’s difficult for a first-time reader to get things right. And I know from the mispronunciation of other perfectly ordinary words, like perseverance, that these readers are doing a cold read. I still applaud their efforts.
I just can’t continue to listen to the slaughter of my old friends any longer. All of this brings me to a warning for those who are considering audiobooks.
If you’ve never read the book, go for it. Listen to the audiobook and enjoy it.
If you know the book well and want to revisit it, hands-free, don’t go there. You’ll find yourself resenting the reader and wishing you’d never approached the medium.
I admit to a prejudice on this topic. I like audiobooks, as a rule. On this one issue, though, I must pull back any endorsement for the reader who likes rereading favorite books.
And that’s my rant for the week. Until next time, a bientot,