Greetings, Salutations and All That Jazz!
I’ve been flirting with the idea of jumping on the audiobook train. Until recently, my one and only experience with aural books occurred 12 years ago in Seattle where I stumbled across a CD version of “The Mist”, a novella from Skeleton Crew. I was mystified and somewhat suspicious of the format. Of course I couldn’t just leave it there, it was unexplored terrain – but I needed to justify the expense. What if I didn’t like it? So, in typical teenage fashion, I bought it as a gift for my mum – problem solved. I’m not sure if she’ll feel complimented by that, hehe. I recall sitting down to listen to it on our uber trendy, now antique sound system. Did I enjoy it? I wish I could remember, but I never listened to it again.
Over a decade later, my son O helped open my eyes, or more precisely, my ears to the joys of audiobooks through a set he acquired of the Disney / Pixar variety. His collection includes Cars, The Lion King, The Little Mermaid and a few more. These are particularly handy for long car trips, but we also listen to them during the weekly rigmarole of shopping, daycare, play-dates, appointments, oops-forgot-that-key-ingredient-let’s-go-back-to-the-shops, etc., you know the drill. These 15 minute audio summaries are easy to enjoy, particularly as the voices and dialogue remain consistent with the films. They’re a hoot! They’ve inspired me give audiobooks another crack, so I’ve been on the prowl, scouting out some options.
The problem I’ve encountered is that audiobooks are priced much higher than their written counterparts, so at first glance seem fairly inaccessible. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind paying for books – they are a passion of mine and I want to support the industry. But I don’t always buy brand new books, knowing that you can always find a treasure or two from op-shops, markets, and websites like Better World Books that appeal not only to the purse strings, but also to the conscience. I imagine audiobooks are priced higher due to production costs, but they’re still not in my budget at $50-$80Au a pop.
A few months ago, knowing that our trio would be spending significant portions of time in the car over the summer, I decided to bite the bullet – I needed a book I could listen to. I chose a classic and one of my favourites – “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: a wonderful collection of short stories on the crime-solving escapades of cocaine addict, Sherlock Holmes – a most intriguing bag of bones. I found a couple of versions of Sherlock on iTunes, both of which let you sample before purchase. I chose the $4.95au version that has been a delight to listen to. The narration is clear, flowing naturally and the characters are distinct. There are no distracting breaths or spaces edited out where a natural pause should be. I figure these things are important.
My rendez-vous with Sherlock encouraged me to step up to a more committed level – I signed up to an Amazon audiobook service, Audible. For a small monthly fee, I accrue credit points, which allow me to download audiobooks – much more affordable than buying them outright. My first credit point went to Bag of Bones, a book of yours I haven’t read before, Stephen King. I’ve listened to most of the 22 hours, and so far it’s been an interesting experience! The story ticks the boxes so far – gothic and all the more freaky being read by the author himself. It’s like having someone else take the wheel for a while – not a bad thing, but uncomfortable at times. The pros are that I can now read during long walks, car trips and the odd moment of domesticity. Yes, I think I like it.
There are other, free options of course- if you’re a fan of literature greats then Librivox is probaby your flavour, boasting an extensive catalogue of classics narrated by volunteers. The website is basically the audio version of The Gutenberg Project, ensuring books that have fallen into the “public domain” are free and accessible with a click.
Of course, there is always the library too – let’s not dismiss these wonderful services. My problem with this option is that a/ the local one hasn’t had any audiobooks that have tickled my fancy, and b/ I happen to have a talent for amassing penalty fines for late returns. It’s a shame, really.
I’m sure there are more audiobook websites or deals out there, I will keep you posted as I discover them!
Your Constant Reader,