In the early 2000’s, I was one of those ‘CD Case’ kind of guys. It resided in my car, and was loaded front to back with all manner of music too embarrassing these days to describe now. If I were to travel back in time, I’d hit up the nearest Virgin Records, HMV, or Sam the Record Man to swap out some of that material. That is, after I was done being blown away by even being in a music store again! They are unicorns these days. Anyway, one genre that would start to make its way in, taking up several pages on just one product, would be audiobooks.
Books of all manner have been translated to audio recordings for over a good century. Most of us were introduced to them in school with audio recordings of children’s books, sometimes with soft music playing in the background or sound effects. The issue is that capturing a narrator reading through an entire book requires hours of audio, which most forms of media couldn’t deliver on. In the 80’s, you’d buy a single novel that came in a shoebox of cassette tapes. CD’s were better in the 90’s and 2000’s, but still required many discs.
I don’t want to dive much further into the history of this medium. Mostly because I was late to the party, myself. Instead, lets focus on their latest digital incarnation and my experience with them.
Audible, the most well known online audiobook provider, started in the late 90’s. They began to offer these behemoth audio files digitally, doing away with the weighty physical versions. Over the years, they grew and became even more accessible, allowing those who would have never bothered with audiobooks. People could now plug into their mp3 players or, eventually, phones and listen wherever they went. Eventually, they were purchased by Amazon and received even more exposure and credibility.
My first audiobook purchase was The Dark Tower by Stephen King just a few years ago now. I hadn’t got around to reading it but was always interested in doing so. One of the podcasts I had been listening to for years was sponsored by Audible and finally piqued my interest enough to give it a shot. To my horror, it was a 7+ hours long but quickly ruled my eardrums after George Guidall’s narration hooked me. Every gym visit and solo drive had me listening along. That soon led to the subsequent books of the series and Frank Muller’s amazing string of narrations for the middle books. I have been hooked ever since.
When deciding which book to purchase, there are really two versions that you’ll be sometimes presented with – unabridged and abridged. Remember when I said The Dark Tower (a relatively short fantasy novel) was over 7 hours long? That’s because it was abridged. Every word written was also spoken. Abridged books cut down on much of the narration in order to keep the plot moving forward and run time lower.
If you are already a podcast listener then I highly recommend giving an audiobook a try. Narrators can make or break them so try their samples out and make sure they work for you. You can also speed up narration, which can provide a slightly unsettling version of the reader but does cut down on run time. I’m also open to knowing which audiobook is your favourite! Drop me a line and let me know. Currently, mine would have to be World War Z, with is 10 or so separate narrators.
Keep turning the page,