21 June 2010

Audiobook Week: Why Audiobooks

Today marks the first day of Audiobook Week 2010. This fabulous event is the dream child of Jen of Devourer of Books. Be sure to read her Audiobook Week information post and the post listing the great prizes available for participants! (I'll be offering one of those prizes on Friday, so be sure to come back!)

For the first four days of Audiobook Week, I plan to post on the daily topic. On Friday, I am going take a different path. I hope you take the time to visit all the participating blogs; you can find them by checking out Jen's blog and clicking on the Mr. Linkys.

Why Audiobooks?

I know that some of you have heard my story before, but I'm going to tell it again! In 1984, while still in graduate school in an unrelated field, I launched my career as a freelance editor. Although I absolutely love my job--I get paid to read!--it has a down side. After reading carefully and closely for fifty or more hours a week, I am not always in the mood to sit and stare at the printed page yet again.

Now let's jump to 1989. I was out of school and my business was chugging along nicely, but, sadly, the number of books I was reading for pleasure had dramatically decreased. In addition, I had given up my office at the university and decided to stick with editing from home full time, which meant I risked becoming very sedentary. I needed to find a way to read in the evenings, rest my eyes, and be active all at the same time. Enter my first book on tape, which I think was Amy Tan's The Joy Luck Club. I have no idea who the narrator was, but I remember loving the idea that I could listen while working in the garden and making dinner.

I remember I had no problem listening to the story or getting lost in my first audiobook. Perhaps it was the audio production of the Tan book or perhaps I'm just a good match for listening, but in either case, I was sold on the medium . . . mostly. I was not an instant convert, however. Several things help me back:
  • Audiobooks were expensive.
  • Books on tape from the library were unreliable (broken, stopped working).
  • There didn't seem to be many titles on tape.
  • My Walkman used up a lot of batteries.
  • My husband didn't always want to listen, so I couldn't count on using the boom box.
Then one day I was on my dial-up Internet connection using, ummm, would that have been Windows 3? I discovered Books-On-Tape had a rental service. For a monthly fee, they would send me books on tape, I would listen, and then I'd send them back. There were no late fees, no trips to the library. I could do everything on the computer. That was the day my reading life changed.

I rented (and sometimes bought) hundreds of books on tape and books on CD through Books-On-Tape, Recorded Books Direct, Kitabe, Simply Audiobooks, Audiobook Stand and more. Suddenly I could get almost any book I could think of on audio, and my wallet wasn't suffering . . . much. Eventually, I started ripping CDs, merging tracks and files, and transferring everything to an MP3 player.

The next step in my addiction to audiobooks was my discovery of Audible.com and the convenience of digitally downloading directly to my player. Oh boy! Instant gratification; dangerous to the pocketbook (or credit balance at Audible) but so easy and wonderful. No more scratches, no more stretched tapes. Soon other companies followed suit, and now I can even download audiobooks from my library!

I have never counted the number of books I've listened to, but I kept decent records for about six years before I started blogging. A few days ago, I commented on Jen's blog that my record for audios in one year was 86 books. I was wrong. That was my total in 2008. In 2007 (I checked on Sunday), I listened to 113 titles! That's a lot of hours of walking, gardening, cooking, driving, and so on.

So why audiobooks? Because I love being read to, because it gives my eyes and editor's brain a rest, and because I truly cannot escape books. I listen so often, my husband is fond of saying, "God forbid you go one second without listening to a book." He's right.

Audiobook Week Extra

One of the narrators of Maggie Stiefvater's Shiver (my audiobook review for today), is Jenna Lamia. I have spend almost forty hours with her voice in my head. Here's the list:
  • Shiver
  • Firefly Cloak
  • Saving CeeCee Honeycutt
  • The Secret Life of Bees
She also narrated The Help and The Adoration of Jenna Fox, both of which are on my MP3 player right now.

Be sure to visit Jen's blog, Devourer of Books, for other posts on today's Audiobook Week topic.


caite 6/21/10, 6:31 AM  

I wish I could like audibooks, but no matter what, I find my mind drifting....
where was I? ;-)

Sandy Nawrot 6/21/10, 7:35 AM  

You and I are just in heaven this week, yes? I posted today, not the topic exactly but it works. I started audios at the urging of a good friend. She convinced me it was the way to go, with kids and being on the run all the time. It took a few books to train my brain to listen, but after that there was no looking back. I haven't counted all of the audios I've ever listened to, but I know it has to be well over a hundred in the last year and a half. (Excited because I have The Secret Life of Bees loaded on my iPod!!)

Heather J. @ TLC Book Tours 6/21/10, 9:38 AM  

I love your note at the end about that particular narrator - there are a few narrators I seem to hear more often than others, but I only recently started keeping track of who is narrating so I can't go back and see how many hours I've spent with each of them. :(

Molly 6/21/10, 9:47 AM  

Oh my gosh - I have so much that I want to comment on, but do not want to take up too much space.

First of all, you know how I have struggled with this medium. I am SO grateful that Jen has offered this meme this week and I will axiously read (and favorite place) the posts.

I have never heard your story, and loved hearing about the start up of your business. I am so glad that you decided to share (again)

I have decided that I will take a couple of audio books in the car this weekend as Geoff and I drive to St. Louis and Chicago (probably 21 hours round trip). I am hoping that this will be a great way to pass the time, as well as help me overcome my audio anxiety.

Thanks SO much for such a great, informative post. I look forward to the rest of the week :)

Lisa B. 6/21/10, 10:55 AM  

I LOVE audiobooks! There's no better way to pass through my morning and evening work commute than listening to an audiobook! And, you're right - a good narrator DOES make all the difference!

Jen - devourer of books 6/21/10, 11:10 AM  

WOW!Color me impressed that you finished an audiobook every 3 days or so in 2007. This is actually my first time hearing your audiobook story, and I'm so very glad you shared it! Also, thanks so much for your support in putting this week together!

Unknown 6/21/10, 11:18 AM  

I love audio books, but I find it hard to find the time to listen to them. I can't listen when my boys are around as they distract me too much (and the language often isn't suitable!) and drivng should be a good opportunity, but most of the time I have someone in the car with me. I manage to listen to about 1 a month and rely on you and Snady to ensure I only read the cream of the crop. Hopefully I'll be able to read a few more once my boys get a bit older.

Thank you for the wonderful job you do seeking out all the best audio books.

Jen Forbus 6/21/10, 11:29 AM  

This is also my first time hearing your audio book story! My library is wonderful in that I can borrow from a huge network and they have a lot of offerings, but the same problem arises that you mentioned - I get damaged discs. I get so mad and frustrated, and I try to let the library people know when I encounter one, but I've also run into some people at the library who didn't seem too interested in my report. So, I think they're putting those damaged discs right back on the shelf. I make do and request a different copy when others are available. I've also started using Audible and I always check out the used ones at the used book stores. I've had good luck with those.

Yesterday I listened to Marcus Sakey's THE BLADE ITSELF while mowing the lawn, one of my least favorite tasks. Then this morning I was continuing it on the treadmill. The audios definitely make the time go faster. I have noticed, however, that whenever I don't have someone telling me a story, I dreadfully miss it!

Shelley 6/21/10, 11:30 AM  

If I were not able to rent or borrow audiobooks from the library, I would be limited in my listening. Being able to put them on an MP3 player is also key because I can go with me all around the house and in the car. I'm so grateful for these two conveniences because I don't know how I would survive housework without audiobooks!

Andi 6/21/10, 11:48 AM  

Great post! You're vastly more experienced in the audiobook department than I am, but nevertheless those of us who love them have so many things in common. :)

Margot 6/21/10, 5:38 PM  

I love audio books too and I enjoyed reading your story again. If something about audio books comes up I think about you. You have inspired me to listen to them more often. I used to listen all the time before my retirement. I was on the road a lot. Recently I listened to a book that is a favorite of my husband's. It was a much better experience to have the book read to me.

Kelly Jensen 6/21/10, 7:47 PM  

This is a great story! I love your comment, too, about how listening gives your eyes and your editing brain a rest. I think audiobooks are a nice, relaxing "rest" from the real world.

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea 6/21/10, 9:13 PM  

I love audio books as well and have been listening to them for about (10) years. I think my first audio books were ones by Anne Tyler or Barbara Kingsolver, and James Patterson. It's easy to multi-task and enjoy a book, so what a reader's dream :)

Sheila (Bookjourney) 6/21/10, 10:53 PM  

Fabulous post! I have not heard your story before and enjoyed it.

Robin Johnson 6/21/10, 11:34 PM  

I love audio books. I've been especially loving the addition of playaway (playaway.com) books to my local libraries collection. These pre-loaded mp3 players make audio books easier to enjoy than ever before.

Nise' 6/22/10, 12:19 AM  

A big fan of audio books too! I love technology that allows me to download a book from the library (free!) directly to my computer for transfer to my iPod. I am very selective on the audio books I purchase because of their cost.

Carrie K. 6/22/10, 1:01 AM  

Love this post - I'm off to see if my library has Shiver on audio.

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