Thursday, May 28, 2009

Reading Without Looking

You may or may not have heard this one: "When is a door not a door? When it is ajar." Well, my question for you today is this: when is a book not a book? When it's an audiobook!

The true beauty of listening to a story as opposed to just reading it is two-fold: a richer experience and mobility. The sound of a human voice injects a sense of pathos into the whole book-reading situation that allows me to dig deeper into what is occurring in the book. When I hear a book being read by a professional, the passages come alive in the timbre of the reader's voice. I don't know about you, but each character has their own unique voice that I hear in my head when I'm reading what they are saying. What makes me enjoy a book-listening experience is when the reader's voice for a character matches the one that I would have picked out for it. This allows me to focus my imagination more on the entire scene, like I would listen to a radio show.

What got me started on audiobooks was the desire to read more in the same amount of time. I was able to double up on my reading as I read a regular book before I drifted off to sleep at night or was eating my lunch, and an audiobook while I was commuting in my car. Nowadays, with hours of sleep being few and far between while taking care of a 2 month-old child, audiobooks have become critical to my reading life as I don't read before going to bed anymore (I tend to crash at that point), but I do still have time to listen to books as I travel in my vehicle, whether it be on my way to work or out to run errands.

Audiobooks have even evolved into new formats from their original ones of cassette tapes and CDs. MP3's are audio data files that are much smaller than normal, allowing a lot of information to be stored in pretty small spaces. The library has a collection of devices named Playaways that are actually self-contained audiobooks that can fit in the palm of your hand. As a relatively new collection ,they are not currently able to be reserved, but are certainly available to be checked out for four weeks. The playaways are shelved together at the beginning of the audiobook section and are simply powered by a AAA battery, allowing you to listen to it while walking a dog or relaxing at the beach.

Another way of listening to books is by downloading them through mymediamall.net. Des Plaines Library card holders can download titles through this website via WMA files, that are able to be played on your computer, and MP3 files, that are able to be downloaded to MP3 players, including iPods. While there are not as many MP3 titles as WMA files, the number of MP3 files is steadily growing. Currently there are now over 700 MP3 titles to select from. For questions on how to download audiobooks to your computer through MyMediaMall, please visit this page on our website. If you'd like to talk to a live person about this, the phone number for Readers Services is towards the bottom of that page: we'd be happy to help you!

Now, an inherent danger in listening to audiobooks is that the reader and the listener won't sync together very easily, and if that happens, you can proceed in a similar manner to reading a book you don't care for (please see Cheryl's post on this blog from 5/14). There are a great multitude of books out there in many audio formats. Try one out today! Need a suggestion? Click here!


Jo said...

And... there's an entire subculture who celebrate audiobook narrators like others celebrate rock stars. Personally, I love to listen to memoirs narrated by the author. I feel like I'm sitting at the kitchen table with the writer and he's telling me his life story. Other people I know never like to listen to a narrator/author. They think it limits their experience because they accept the author's interpretation of the text as the definitive version with no room for their own imagination.

Linda said...

I love listening to the Harry Potter books. Reader Jim Dale is exceptional in interpreting the characters and the feel of the stories. I also love to listen to Jill Conner Browne read her Sweet Potato Queen books. Her southern accent makes the books come alive. I usually listen to books I've already read in print to avoid the sync problem, plus I don't want to be too distracted when driving. So I read the first Harry Potter book, and then several years later listened to it while driving. I knew the story and could just enjoy the readers voice. Another fun audio is The Big Over Easy by Jasper Fforde. Simon Prebble's British accent works well with the humor in this nursery crimes tale.

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