So I'd like to start a brief series exploring some of these (mostly unanswered!) questions. I'll start with audiobooks, since I've been experimenting with them longer, and feel more certain of my opinions. Plus, I'm still turning over in my mind the suspenseful, romantic, and twisty-turny audiobook of Vicky Alvear Schecter's Cleopatra's Moon, which I just finished (you can read my initial review here). Next week I'll try and gather my thoughts to talk about my latest toy: my Nook.
It feels rather ironic, as I spend an afternoon a week tutoring children with reading difficulties. I often wonder if they'd call this sort of reading cheating (though of course, I've already proved beyond a shadow of a doubt my ability to read fluently!). It sometimes feels a bit like cheating. I can lie back in bed and let a masterful narrator read to me as I fall asleep. Or I can go for long walks and bring my reading along to entertain me. Reading AND exercise--love it! Audiobooks are also perfect travel companions; my iPod is pocket-sized, and enables me to tune out the noise around me, the never-ending airport announcements or giggling girls, and listen to a story. Actually, I enjoy audiobooks so much, I've begun to suspect that I'm more likely to fall in love with a book if I listen to it.
Of course there are downsides. Like the mad-scramble when I realize I just missed an important airport announcement. Or when my husband tries to say something to me, and I fiddle with waking my iPod from sleep mode, typing in my password, then hitting pause. And I discovered early in my working career that I can't listen to an audiobook and drive. Thankfully my current lifestyle mostly involves public transportation and my own two feet!
And audiobooks aren't made for flipping. I can't re-read my favorite scene, unless I want to spend forever jumping from chapter to chapter, fast forwarding and pausing, to search for it. Likewise, if I forgot a character, there's no easy way to go back and figure out when he first showed up. I also can't go forward; I can't read the acknowledgments first (a guilty pleasure for this book nerd), and if there's useful supplementary material (like a glossary of character names or foreign words), there's no easy to way to jump to it--if it's even narrated at all. However, Cleopatra's Moon had a pdf glossary available to download, to which I frequently referred.
Also, authors don't often write with audiobooks in mind. Sometimes what is obvious in the text is less obvious aurally. In first person narrations, it's often difficult to distinguish between thoughts in quotation marks and thoughts that are left unsaid. Also, while all audiobook narrators pause between section and chapter breaks, sometimes the pause is too short to be obvious. Cleopatra's Moon had atmospheric music between chapter breaks, which provided a perfect opportunity to pause the narration for snacks or hubby's conversation, but the repetition of the melody became tiring towards the end of the novel. I've also struggled with audiobooks with numerous characters and one poor narrator trying to voice everyone, or characters with complicated or too similar names that are difficult to keep straight without any visual reference (like Ana vs Anya). Both Sara Zarr's How to Save A Life (see my review here) and Kathryn Stockett's The Help utilized multiple narrators, which made the stories easier to follow (and more enjoyable--like a movie unfolding in front of me).
Finally, I don't know whether to class this as a plus or a minus, but audiobooks take longer to consume than regular books. On one hand, that means a longer, more immersive experience. And to be honest, especially since purchased audiobooks are more expensive than paperbacks, length is often a plus in my mind. However, the time spent listening cuts into time I could spend reading other books, and means re-reading an audiobook is less likely (though I DID re-read the entirety to How to Save A Life!).
Audiobooks have wormed their way into my reading experience. Audible isn't especially cheap, but I haven't been able to pull myself away from my subscription either. As I traveled home from London on the train this past weekend, hands clenched in my lap as I eagerly awaited Cleopatra Selene's destiny, I couldn't have been more content.
Speaking of London, Thursday I'll post my thoughts on the AMAZING Matilda: The Musical, which I was lucky enough to catch Saturday night. In the meantime: are you an audiobook lover? What have been your experiences (good and bad) with audiobooks?