Hello! I’m Lee, The Chimp’s other half, and I’ve been thinking about writing a guest post for some time. To give you some background, I’m not an author. I can think of nothing worse. I’m not even an avid reader. I just don’t find the time. When I do read, it’s predominantly non-fiction. I reckon for every fiction book I’ve ever read, I’ve read 50 non-fiction, probably more. So you’re likely thinking “OK, shut up buddy and put The Chimp back on”.
If you’re still reading, then I want to talk about audio books. You see, I went through a fairly lengthy period of listening to many audio books. Typically on my drive to and from work each day (90 minutes total). Occasionally when I was in bed too. Audible is a great service and I listened to around 20 or so audio books. I stopped after I read a book on holiday earlier this year. A book. OK, an e-book, but it involved reading, not listening. It was George Orwell’s 1984, and it was quite splendid. I could barely put it down.
Relevance check! – Listening to audio books made me aware that every book (read fiction from here) has 2 authors. The obvious one who builds a story, creates characters, the environment, etc. This is probably 85% (ouch!) of the writing. The second author is the reader who gives the story its visuals, finishes the personality of each character and gives characters a unique identity. If the primary author does a great job, the supporting author (you) reciprocates unconsciously and gives that instance of the completed book its delicious uniqueness.
When you listen to a book, something gets lost. I tried abridged and unabridged, but in my view audio books introduce a third author. The narrator has a style of reading that dilutes the “readers” creativity in writing the book. When I listen to books, I’m not as immersed in the story or the environment as I am when I read. It’s also much, much slower. When someone narrates a book my view is the story is consumed around 2-3 times slower than you can read. The narrators voice can also be a determining factor into how well the story works and the inflections in their words provide emphasis of their choosing, not yours. It certainly helps if the narrators are professional actors. Books narrated by the author (worst) or by a low budget professional narrator (better) provide the poorest experiences. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a great example. I have heard two versions of this, but providing a very different experience of the story. One spoken entirely by Stephen Fry, who was very good as you can imagine. The other spoken by a cast of actors in a dramatised version which was better still, but these latter types of audio books are rare in my experience.
Non-fiction books work quite well in audio book format, but not technical books. Management, business, self-development, etc all work quite well.
Anyway, let me know your experiences of audio books or feel free to share recommendations for audio books that have worked for you.
Note – These views are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of The Chimp (PS. She made me say that)