Reader Mailbag: Audio Books
We have considered opening a new website dedicated to audio books. Based on that we wanted to get responses, thoughts and opinions from our visitors on audio books – particularly what they like about them, their reasoning for listening etc.
This was in the April 2016 Newsletter we asked this (subscribe to the right). Here is the awesome feedback we received:
KLeon: I enjoy listening to audio books when driving to/from work and just around town. Its a way for me to blaze through my “to read” list even faster! (one book to listen to, and one to hold in my hands) I’ve listened to some that I did not enjoy as much, just because of the narrator. -One person doing all the voices in a book…does not always turn out so well!) It’s always fun to listen to one that is actually narrated by the author him or her self. The best one I’ve listened to? ~Pet Cemetery, by Stephen King. Hearing the story read aloud was like listening to a ghost story around the campfire! ~creepy!!
Julie: I just joined your newsletter; it’s great!
Responding to your audiobook question, I highly recommend ANY book narrated by Frank Muller. His voice alone makes every book better to listen to, even if you weren’t interested in reading the book in the first place. He was in a bad motorcycle accident a while back and unable to record any more books, but has a very long resume of audiobooks he did do.
I love to read, and am saddened to think that I’ll never live long enough to read everything I want to!!
Nadyne: I spend most of my evenings doing artwork and nothing teams up with colored pencils and mandalas like an audiobook! I am able to focus on both of these entirely without missing a mental beat. There is also the fact that tv has become nothing but brain numbing nonsense. I also carry my nook with me WHEREVER I go, but I listen much more than I read. The greatest difficulty is dealing with lousy narrators….and there are too many around. A great narrator can make a mediocre book quite enjoyable, and a poor narrator does ruin a great read. I have returned many books because I simply could not abide the narrator. On the other hand, I have searched for books by my favorite narrator, completely ignoring who the author is. I will read ANYTHING narrated by Michael Kramer….and that’s a promise. Anything added to your website that deals with audiobooks would be greatly appreciated!
Amy: I probably absorb more books through audible format than any other. It allows me to multitask and get more books finished. I listen while traveling, while walking, while doing jigsaw puzzles, while playing games on my phone, while house cleaning, etc.
The narrator makes all the difference in the world. An author/series that I loved becomes a drudge to listen to with the wrong narrator. On the other hand, I have come to enjoy an author/series due to just the right narrator. For example, I hated The Room, primarily because of the narration. On the other hand, I’m tired of the lack of substance in the Stone Barrington books, but just love listening to Tony Roberts’ portrayal of the characters so much I keep buying them.
I still use kindle on my phone for digital books when an audible book isn’t appropriate. And nothing beats curling up in a comfortable chair with a “real” book. On both audible and kindle, I miss being able to flip back to double check something. And some books just don’t lend themselves to the modern formats as well, for me. I found The Girl on the Train to be this way.
I’m not sure what to suggest on the site specific to audible books though.
Mildred: Narration is always a key factor with audiobooks. Regardless of the quality of the book, a narrator with a very strong accent, or one that mispronounces words can make listening torturous. Some audio books feel the need to have a musical score added to parts of the plot that I also find distracting.
Ben: I would love to see you do something concerning Audio Books. I would follow and participate in that website. IMHO there is defiantly a time and place for audiobooks (ABs). There are simply times when you want to be read to. Times, such as, traveling, setting on the beach, just relaxing,….well I guess that could be anytime….LOL. I really enjoy ABs, but a truly GREAT book can be affected and the enjoyment strengthened or lessened by the selection of the correct narrator. I will listen to ANY book by George Guidell. He is absolutely THE best narrator for ABs. Jim Dale ranks up there as well. A so-so narrator will turn a GREAT book into a so-so one as well..
Janice: I’m an avid reader of books and have increased my addiction to include listening to audio books during my commute to work. I have an hour’s drive to work so that gives me 2 hours of listening every day. I have been known to sit in my car when at a critical point in the book. I find myself getting anxious if I don’t have an audio book in the wings for my next listen.
Sometimes I listen to books that I wouldn’t choose to read and this has expanded my range. I have listened to books based on who the reader is if it’s someone that I really like so if you start a website I would like to learn more about the person who is reading the book.
Thanks so much. I immensely enjoy your newsletter.
Judith: Dear sir, I have been listening to audiobooks for over 20 years and find that I do gravitate to particular readers. Foremost on the list are George Guidall and Barbara Rosenblat ! They could make any book interesting and exciting! I have listened to best sellers that were read by readers with no enthusiasm or irritating voices, wondering why that reader was chosen and if the author ever listened to his own book! Many CDs and playaways I just take back to the library without finishing due to the reader.There are many wonderful readers and books to choose from but from a seasoned audiobook listener, they need to all “get on the same page!”
Due to excellent readers I find myself branching out from my usual choices in reading, which usually tend to be action, suspense, CIA ,FBI oriented. Case in point, Elizabeth Peter’s Peabody series, read by Barbara Rosenblat, has to be the #1 reader of all series in my opinion. There is no other words to describe her talent but unbelievably amazing! I just can’t imagine reading those particular books without Barbara’s voice in my ear!
I would love to see other people’s thoughts on different readers and how they enhanced the story line.
Thanks for your time. Love your site
Ila: I love Order of Books and I share the link in articles, with authors and on every social media site site I can find. I can’t tell you how many emails I’ve received thanking me for turning them onto the site.
Personally I would not like to see another site just for audiobooks. For one thing, not all books in print have audiobooks, and for those who do, not all the books have audiobooks. I wish I could figure out the formula used for determining which book will be made into an audiobook.
I think that it would be much easier to put a symbol, such as headphones, a letter A on a red background or something similar to indicate an audiobook is available as well as a printed version.
Carole: I love audio books because I can hear a book when my hands are too full to hold one. I listen whenever I am doing something like cooking, sewing, painting or when others might watch television or listen to the radio. My criteria for selecting audio books is the author and whether or not it is abridged. Abridgement is an abomination!
Kenica: One of the first audio books I listened to was Pride & Prejudice. I wanted to read it again, but I also wanted to use my reading time for something new. I decided to listen to it instead while driving to/from work. I decided audio books were much better than the radio or music CDs so I kept it up.
I often listen to really long classics that I figure I’ll never get around to reading–Les Miserables, The Three Musketeers saga, Doctor Zhivago, Don Quixote, etc.
I also have favorite narrators–John Lee & Jayne Entwistle. I have listened to some Jayne Entwistle books simply because she was the narrator. In children’s books, John R. Erickson reads his own “Hank the Cowdog” series. He does an excellent job.
When my mom and I ride together, we listen to the Gabriel Allon series by Daniel Silva. They make a long drive very entertaining.
Finally, there are some books that sort of pique my interest that I doubt I’ll ever read. I listen to them as well–the James Bond series, for instance, or the Blandings series by P. G. Wodehouse.
I feel I can get through twice as many books on my “to read” list by indulging in audio books. I’m a captive audience in the car, so I just keep putting in a CD until the book is finished!
I think discussing narrators is very important on any audio book website. I have one narrator I refuse to listen to–I can’t stand to listen to him. Emilia Fox and Richard Armitage are both enjoyable–their narration seems to benefit from their acting abilities. Sometimes when Richard does female voices I forget I’m listening to a male narrator!
Occasionally, more than one narrator is used, even in an unabridged version (which I prefer). I listened to a multiple-narrator version of Wuthering Heights (another book I wanted to read again, but didn’t feel I had the time), and it was excellent.
Connie: I listen to audio books constantly while I do my job (I walk dogs). I listen to several a week at least, which I get from the library online and listen to in mp3 format on my mp3 player, or phone. I also listen to audio books on CD (also from the library but in person) while on road trips, a really good one will keep me from EVER feeling sleepy while driving down boring interstates. They are fantastic in their place, but they will never take the place of actual reading! Due to the whole audio book/real book/kindle/kindle app on the phone, I can have up to 5 different books going at once, but somehow my brain never has any trouble picking up right where I left off, even if it’s been awhile for whatever particular format.
There is an online library called Librivox, which is a free service with all free books. The only caveat is that the books are all in the public domain so they are mostly older books. Also the books are read for Librivox by volunteers, so a book may have one narrator, or a new one for each chapter. This can be distracting, but you get used to it; and in fact I listened to ‘The Count of Monte Cristo’ from them first and I loved hearing all the different narrators, especially the ones with French accents – since it is after all French book! The only time any particular narrator bothers me is when they have a very monotone voice, no matter if it’s a free book from Librivox or a current ‘paid’ book from Books on Tape or wherever.
To me the most important part of a website featuring audio books would be information as to where one could find other free venues to listen to them, as well as if whole series were available on audio or not. Nothing worse than finding a really great book on audio and then not being able to listen to the rest of the series because your library doesn’t carry it or it has not been recorded yet!
Helen: A listing of audio books would be welcomed, or perhaps an indication on the present list that an audio book is available. The narrator certainly lends a certain enjoyment, so if you create a separate listing, please include their name.
As a person with low vision, I appreciate audio books very much. I use Overdrive and OneClickDigital to borrow them from the library, however the library doesn’t always acquire audio books for current releases. Some libraries accept recommendations, but it could take a while before they make the purchase, if ever.
Currently I am reading book series by Sue Grafton and Anne Perry. My favorite authors are David Baldacci, James Rollins, Steve Berry, Clive Cussler, and Lisa Scottolini.
Thanks so much for providing this service.
Richard: I would be interested in a possible website dedicated to Audio Books. I have limited experience using Audio Books and they definitely depend on the narrator. Would really enjoy hearing of other readers recommendations. I load books onto to my MP3 and use while cleaning house and walking the neighborhoods. As to Hard Bound Books: just finished Harlan Coben’s “Fool Me Once”, thought it was excellent. Currently on Mary Higgens Clark “As Time Goes By”.
Gina: I read books and listen to audiobooks as well. I have a very hard time with concentration, and I find if I set up the Whispersync narration you can get for Kindle books, it’s a bit easier to pay attention – reading and listening at the same time.
When I strictly listen to audiobooks is when I’m doing something else that doesn’t require a lot of concentration but is repetitive, such as knitting or spinning. I can concentrate on the audiobook well enough if I do this.
The narrator is an essential part of the experience! Jonathan Kellerman’s main narrator is wonderful, as is James Patterson’s. I am currently reading/listening to The Hobbit, which has a great narrator, and Storm Front (Dresden Files book #1) which has a really, really awful narrator. He misreads sentences and words, is monotone, doesn’t use the inflections that should be in sentences correctly, breathes loudly a LOT… I could go on but it’s awful. I’m really considering saving this for just reading, the narrator is so terrible. I think the narrator can really make or break the book.
It’s harder for me to just read a book (rather than have narration or an audiobook) because I have trouble concentrating and my mind wanders a lot. I should say that I did not have this problem while growing up (I was a voracious reader pretty much from birth), but I have had some brain injuries since then and I’m sure that has a lot to do with it. It is nearly impossible for me to read if the television is on, for instance.
Susan: I am a listener of audiobooks because I have a vision problem and can no longer see printed word.
I think I prefer to listen to books more than watch TV now because of the lack of vision I have and how much you need to see on TV.
I have found it hard to find cd players that have a resume function. so you can pause the book and pick back up where you left off. I loved cassettes because of that reason but they are getting rid of those at most libraries. Playaways are becoming the way to listen at my libraries.
Audiobooks with too many tracks,( some books have 99 verses some cd’s that average 15or so) are much harder to find your place again. For example, I am reading Great Expectations with my daughter for her Honors class and there is 99 tracks on each cd. Hard to find our place when we go to the next day’s assignment.
The narrators are not a reason for picking a book, the author is. But I have stopped listening to some books if the narrator had too much of an accent. A great example of that is several years ago, when my daughter was 8 and we started the Harry Potter series, we thought Jim Dales accent was pretty hard to understand but we gave it a couple of chapters and got used to him and his voices ended up making the books so awesome.
I would love to see a site created for audiobooks but am not surewhat it would need to include. My biggest problem is just finding books I want to listen to. They are so expensive to buy and my library does not have every thing I want, of course. I think I will sooner or later have to figure out how to download them for myself.
Jerry & Aldora: My wife and I have been listening to audio books for years. This started when my wife’s vision got to the point she could no longer read. But after a short time we found this method was very convenient, especially when we were traveling.
We now have a huge library of audio books and well as hundreds of digital books, which we get from the National Library for the blind, I might add this is a free service for the blind. Not only are the books (digital copies) free but they also provide a digital reader which is one of the devices require to play the files as they are a special format. There are also other devices approved for use with these files after they have been registered with the National Library. The ones we use are from Humanware.
Thanks to the Order of Books emails and web site we have found many new authors and titles that we really enjoy. It has really helped us organize our library
The authors we liked when we first started listening to audio books were:
Lillian Jackson Braun (The Cat Who series) We are cat lovers
Mary Higgins Clark
Pat Conroy (He was from where we live) His books a somewhat on the dark side.
Now that we are getting the books as digital we like:
More Mary Higgins Clark
Carol Higgins Clark (Mary’s daughter)
Robert B Parker (I really is the Cole & Hitch series and the Spencer Series)
We both like the Jesse Stone series
Donald Bain (Murder She Wrote series)
And many more that we have discovered from you emails and web site.
Now we listen to a selection every night for a couple hours.
I think once people start listening to audio they will find it hard to go back to paper copies, especially now that most are available from so many sources and at very reasonable prices and some are even free.
As they say “Try it, You’ll Like it,”
Peggy: I think I’m coming a little late to the party of the newsletter. April is the 1st one I’ve received, and that immediately after signing up. But for me, it was good timing.
I just love them to death. I’ve just turned 60 (yeah, I’m an old broad) and I’ve been listening for over 30 years, at least. I always thought of audiobooks as great alternatives for people with vision problems or for the blind; then I purchased a couple of travel cassettes for Italy & France (places I knew I’d never be able to afford) at a thrift store (kind of like Family Dollar now only definitely much lower class back then).
Listening was fun. The descriptions of walking tours made me feel like I was there, especially with appropriate French or Italian background music or sounds. Then I started having problems sleeping. When I put on a cassette, I’d be asleep in no time flat. It probably mimicked being read to as a kid by my parents.
But there are only so many times you can listen to the same cassette before it wears out. That lead me to other things. The most notable are two audiobooks by a Canadian company – Listen for Pleasure from 1981: Tales from Viking Times by Magnus Magnusson read by the author and Murder in the Cathedral by T.S. Eliot done by The Old Vic Company with Robert Donat, production by Robert Helpmann. I haven’t listened to either in years because both are worn to almost inaudibility. I still have them (as you can probably tell) and would love to replace them with new copies or CDs if prices were reasonable and I had the time to go hunting. But that’s is probably just a dream for when I retire.
Anyway, as much as audiobooks still help me sometimes get to sleep at night, I discovered over the years that I simply enjoyed listening for listening’s sake.
I loved Jean Auel’s Children of the Earth series (you know, Ayla & Jondalar & the not so terrific Clan of the Cave Bear movie) but I found that I was skimming over what I, at the time, considered the tedious parts – descriptions of rituals, flint knapping, landscape, etc. I knew I was missing something, but I wasn’t exactly sure what. Then I found the books available on audio cassettes. Listening really didn’t allow for skipping the boring bits and I forced myself to “read” and appreciate the full scope of her series.
Then I branched out & discovered the entire Cadfael series by Ellis Peters on audio cassette. The copies I have were produced by Blackstone, Chivers and Audio Partners, and, let me tell you, took months to find and acquire. Now, they are available on CDs from Recorded Books, but not at a reasonable price, since Recorded Books no longer sells retail, only to libraries as I understand it.
Before they stopped selling retail, I found Alexander McCall Smith’s Scotland Street series on CD and fell in love with audiobooks permanently. I can’t remember who the reader was, but he let me feel as if the characters were almost real and I felt as if I was part of the family. Now, when I have to read Smith’s books, there is a dimension missing. I still love the characters and the writing, but I’m outside looking in.
One thing I have learned is that it is a rare author who has the talent to read their own work. The author or the subject is what prompts me to buy CD audiobooks. Bad readers simply make the experience less enjoyable than it could have been, but, for me at least, don’t detract from what the author has to say.
Scott Brick is a terrific reader. In fact, his name is the only one I can come up with off the top of my head.
I “read” fiction and nonfiction. Mostly fiction, though. My favorites are Rollins, Cussler, DuBrul, Ruth Downie, Robert Harris, Silva, some James Patterson series and a bunch of others I can’t think of right now.
Nonfiction titles I remember fondly are A Taste of Conquest (about the spice trade), For All the Tea in China (about plant espionage), Sergeant Reckless (about a horse that carried ammunition during the Korean War), Trident K9 Warriors (about military war dogs), The Astronaut Wives Club and First SEALs. Right now, I’m listening to Lives in Ruins by Marilyn Johnson about the state of archaeology today and what archaeologists really do.
I would love to see you do something on audiobooks, definitely. I’m not as technically savvy as the younger crowd who use iPods & such and can download books as they do songs. I never did understand that or get the equipment (earbuds hurt my ears). So, I would like to see format availability be part of your information, as well as where CDs can be procured. As you’ve probably figured out, I only purchase audiobooks on CD.
You do realize that you’re acting as a dealer in all this, don’t you? You feed our addiction and we’ll always be coming back for more?
I want to leave you with one last recommendation: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens read by Patrick Stewart. It’s from Simon & Schuster’s AUDIOWORKS line produced in 1991. I listen to it every year as part of my personal Christmas tradition. There are no sound effects, just the incredible range of Patrick Stewart’s voice, energy and dramatic talent bring the characters to life as I haven’t heard before. My favorite movie version of this is the one with George C. Scott. If he weren’t dead, Scott might be able to give Stewart a run for his money.
Well, I’ve bent your ear (and eyes) enough. Thank you for the idea of a site devoted solely to audiobooks. I hope you can make it happen. It’ll be a lot of work. Good luck.
Jess: I’m a little late with this mail but I’d like you to know I’m very interested in your idea of audio books on the site.
I do most all my books with audio because of my macular degeneration. Today they do such a fine job with narration. John Lee and A. Cassidy are my favorites.
Cassidy has done all of J. Winspear’s , Maisey Dobbs series. She is so good.
Thanks for offering up such a good Idea wih Audio books.