The rev of the engine. The crunch of gravel. The whir of the tires. The lights constantly changing from green to red never allowing you cross town without several stops. The train arms descending, signals flashing, bells clanging. Then the return to the whirring of the tires. Commuting to work from my home in the rural outskirts of town was a guaranteed thirty minutes of tedious, tiresome travel (more like an hour on a Canadian winter day). Until, I discovered audiobooks.
The first audiobook I borrowed from the library was a sure-fire winner, Anne of Green Gables, my favourite novel. All at once, instead of driving down an old highway lined with gas stations, Tim Hortons’, and building after building; I was driving through the White Way of Delight and past the Lake of Shining Waters. I found that not only could I focus clearly on my driving but that the slow downs and issues of daily driving didn’t produce anger, stress, or irritation as they once had. That’s right, audiobooks help reduce road rage! Together, in the car, my daughters have been to Narnia, visited an amazing Chocolate Factory, completed six years at Hogwarts, and are now on an adventure hunting horcruxes. These are the stories that have filled the commuting gap this past year.
Listening to audiobooks in the car creates an experience we can share. We have a language, a number of inside jokes, and repertoire of references in common. Be forewarned that turning off the book at a particularly good part can cause a major disturbance. But, their eagerness to hear what happens next is adorable. If I know there is a thrill coming I pause the book, just to hear them plead or insist that I “Turn it back on!”. I love to relent. And they love the chance to overpower Momma. Incidentally, audiobooks are an excellent form of crowd control in a moving car – any fighting, off it goes. Audiobooks are not just on in my car. I listen to them when I am cooking, folding laundry, and before I go to sleep. That isn’t to say that there is never quiet around me but it is nice to be able to listen to a story while getting on with mundane things in life from time to time.
As much as I love audiobooks, they have a downside, too. Firstly, they are kind of pricey to buy so you need to borrow them from the library or rely on apps that often have a subscription fee such as Audible. Libraries offer services such as Hoopla, Libby, and Overdrive which are free but have cap limits. Just remember, when using an app, to download the book to your phone before you head out or you’ll rip through data in no time. Secondly, on occasion a narrator’s voice is so monotone that it reminds me of teachers who read directly from textbooks in school during lessons or the pitch of their voice is not comfortable to listen to, at least for me. That being said, audiobooks can also be extremely well done. Audiobooks that are read by actors (Jim Dale reads the Harry Potter series.) or the author themselves (Roald Dahl reads a story collection.) often have voices for each character which is entertaining and engaging. Margaret Atwood’s Blind Assassin takes audiobooks even further with actors reading different characters, music, and sound effects that compliment the novel. My point is sometimes you choose one that is really well done and sometimes it can be dreadful.
In the book world, audiobooks come under fire for not being actual “reading” or for being for the lazy alternative. A concern has been expressed by many that audiobooks will mean that people will be less likely to pick up a book and read. I take a Stephen Fry sort of stance on this. He said, “Books are no more threatened by Kindle than stairs by elevators.” I don’t think audiobooks are a threat to books in electronic or paper form. It is simply another way to access books which fits into a changing, digital world. Consider this, a well done audiobook may encourage a reluctant reader to pick up that book and start to read it. Who knows where it will go from there? While listening to a story, you are exposed to grammar, syntax, style, voice, and vocabulary. In terms of subject matter, the possibilities are limited only by your reading comfort zone. Think of the exposure to different genres audiobooks can offer. I would never have picked up Seth Godin’s marketing book to read. But, listening to his audiobook with my husband gave me insights into not only my husband’s work but into my life and teaching that I would never have had otherwise. Forbes put out an article, available online, that discusses the notion of whether listening to an audiobook is the same as reading in greater detail if you’d like to learn more. But, my advice is to choose and audiobook version of one of your favourite novels. If the narrator’s voice and style suits, listen all the way through and see for yourself.
- Google Play Books