Audiobooks: Why I think they’re great, and why they don’t work for me

Audiobooks.

I think audiobooks are a great idea. I’m sure some of you can relate to that feeling of just wanting to dig in and read that new book you picked up, but having to get something done first. Book, ebook, phone, whatever device you use to read, it doesn’t make it any easier to continue reading while you’re doing the grocery shopping or getting all soapy doing the dishes. And that’s where audiobooks come in, right?

Well, yeah. It seems like most new releases come out in audiobook form these days, not to mention many older books as well. You can listen in the car, at the grocery store, on the subway, at home while you’re doing chores.

There are some audiobooks that really add to the experience of the book. One example I can mention is Trevor Noah’s memoir, Born a Crime. Now, I have only read the actually hardcover version of this book, but there was a general consensus among my friends at my bookclub that the audiobook was amazing. In this case, Trevor Noah himself read his book, and since he’s a hilarious comedian, it really brought the book to life.

But I have a couple of problems with audiobooks, and as a result I don’t really listen to them very much at all. In fact, out of the 35 or so books that I have reviewed on my blog so far, only one of them was an audiobook. I only listen to them if I can’t get a book in ebook form, and I often give up after starting one.

My mind wanders and I’m left with big gaps in the story

I recently tried to listen to the book Saints and Misfits by S. K. Ali. It was on the longlist for Canada Reads 2018, and while the ebook had quite a few holds on it, the audiobook was available to borrow immediately. So I thought I would give it a try. But I can’t tell you how many times I would suddenly realize the narrator was talking about some character in the story whose name I totally didn’t recognize, but who had obviously already been introduced.

I found it really difficult to keep the story straight in this format.

There’s just something fundamentally different, I think, about the feeling of reading words on a page (or a screen) than listening to them being read out to you by somebody.

This is an interesting thing, because I don’t usually seem to have the same problem with listening to podcasts. Maybe it’s because podcasts are originally made to be consumed in an audio format. And it could also be the reason why I prefer podcasts that tell a different story in each episode – that way, I don’t have to keep track of complicated running characters or themes. But podcasts are another story for another post, I think.

There are elements in a book that are just nice to see

At the beginning of each chapter in Saints and Misfits, there was a kind of introduction of just one or two words. Some chapters were “Saints” and some were “Misfits” and some where “Saints and Misfits.” It wasn’t until several chapters in that I realizes they were probably kind of title pages that were there to introduce what kind of story this chapter was going to be about. Or maybe they were just small words printed at the top of the page, as a chapter title?

I’ll never know, because I was listening to an audiobook.

The narrator just sort of quickly said that little word or phrase before moving on to reading the next section.

I know it’s just a really small part of the whole experience of the book, but one of the things I love about reading is figuring out what the author means when they use little devices like that.

I really would love to get into more audiobooks.

Maybe I just need to give them more of a chance and get used to focusing and not letting my mind wander too much while I’m trying to listen to them. I know someone who listens to audiobooks all the time, consuming one or even two books in a weekend while doing all of her chores.

Do you listen to audiobooks? Do you like them? Dislike them? Let me know in the comments.

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