Read to Me

I found this article from the New York Times (hint: bugmenot.com) over at Neil Gaiman’s blog. It was a pretty good read, consisting of the differing opinions on audiobooks vs. reading.

I found some of the quotes irksome enough to comment on.

“I think every writer would rather have people read books, committed as we are to the word,” said Frank McCourt, who won the Pulitzer Prize for his memoir, “Angela’s Ashes.” “But I’d rather have them listen to it than not at all.”

[John] Hamburg […] limits his audio habit to biography, eschewing fiction out of respect for authors whom he imagines did not intend for their creative work to be read “when you’re doing 30 minutes on your elliptical trainer.”

I’m more than certain that’s not true. I’m a writer (not the professional, for a living, full time kind, yet), and I wouldn’t say that at all. I have a hunch that there are other authors who would have no preference, or possibly even prefer listeners over readers. Here I am working through my first novel, and I’m wondering about how audiobook rights work (because I don’t see a lot of first time authors get audiobooks right away). If you are someone like me, I’d rather you listen to my fiction.

Some critics are dismayed at the migration to audio books. The virtue of reading, they say, lies in the communion between writer and reader, the ability to pause, to reread a sentence, and yes, read it out loud – to yourself. Listeners are opting for convenience, they say, at the expense of engaging the mind and imagination as only real reading can.

I can do all those things. I can pause my iPod. I can rewind it to reread a passage. I can repeat what I just heard out loud. Apparently, I’m a bit stricter than most in how I experience an audiobook. If I realize I’ve missed a single word, I’ll go back. I’ve listened to books on tape, CD, crummy cheap MP3 player, and iPod. The iPod is the easiest to navigate back on. I can do it with one hand without looking at the thing. Tapes are easy to rewind. CDs can be hard if you don’t have a player that seeks (I don’t recommend you use such a creature for audiobooks). The cheap MP3 player was a pain, but it could be done, even if I had to re-listen to bits sometimes.

Without audiobooks I’d be unable to perform mindless, yet required tasks, such as mowing the lawn, doing the dishes, or cleaning (anything). Even if I shirked all these tasks, there still isn’t enough time to dedicate to sitting on my butt to read. I do it, but the paper books usually take a long time to get through. I’ve always loved books and reading. I’ve always hated abridged audiobooks (ever since I heard the Silmarillion on vinyl in second grade). I’ve been listening to unabridged audiobooks regularly to supplement my reading since 1994, and I remember as much, if not more, of the books I listened to than those I sat down and read.

One Comment

  1. Nicole says:

    I like being read to, especially in the car. Plus I get to listen to some fluff books I might not otherwise bother reading.

    I recently listened to Terry Pratchett’s The Wee Free Men and a Hat Full of Sky. Very enjoyable, they are kids/teen books but fun non-the-less.

    I’m currently reading Robert Littel’s The Company, a story of the CIA. It’s really really good and hard to put down.

    Nicole