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Tales of the Inveterate Listener

August 3, 2009

I barely read books anymore.  In fact, I’ve not finished a book in the past 8 months-a confession that probably comes as a complete shocker to people who know me well.

So what gives? How does a voracious reader like me lose his appetite for the written word?

The answer is complicated (what in life isn’t?). It involves kids, school, work, and an ever increasing addiction to audiobooks.  So even though I haven’t read a book in 8 months, I’ve listened to over 10 books during this time. 99% of this listening takes place while commuting to work, picking up kids from the babysitter or driving to school. Ironic isn’t it? The same reasons that interfere with my reading time, provide me with the opportunity to consume books-albeit in a different format.

Its been a revelation.  As far as I’m concerned, driving without listening to a book is like having French Fries without ketchup, having a burger without mayo, having a steak without BBQ sauce, going to the movies without having popcorn.  You get the picture.  I still remember the days when I used to come home after a 1.5 hr commute and would sit in my driveway for an extra 10 minutes to complete my chapter. Talk about addiction.

I’m into serious fantasy fiction and hence the majority of my readings (I mean listenings) are far far removed from the real world.  I also do enjoy political and spy thrillers and have discovered some authors who specialize in this space.  Authors, whose future books I might even buy based on my excellent listening experience.  These include the excellent David Baldacci (check out his Camel Club series) and Jeffery Archer (check out his Prisoner of Birth, a modern adaptation of The Count of Monte Cristo)

The Master at Work

Jim Dale: The Master at Work

Audiobooks do come with one big caveat.  The narrator is king.  A mediocre read can become great story while an excellent piece of fiction can quickly become unbearable. There are good narrators and then there are rock stars like Jim Dale who are masters of the art.  In fact, for anyone considering giving audiobooks a shot, Jim Dale’s work in the Harry Potter series is my first and foremost recommendation.  After listening to just one installment, you’ll walk out-a believer.

This is an expensive hobby, especially if you use iTunes to purchase your audiobook, where the average price per book is $30. Then there is Kitabe, which I also tried briefly.  It lets you purchase MP3 CD’s and files.  It has an “ok” collection but does offer more flexibility in terms of using the mp3 files in a wide variety of mp3 players as well as the option of utilizing your mp3 enabled CD player.

However, when it come to serious listening, Audible is hard to beat.  They offer two monthly plans that make the service economically viable and offer arguably the best collection of audiobooks online.  If you use iTunes and iTouch/iPhone, the downloading process is a breeze.  They also offer tiered audio qualities and a sample of the narration (which is a Godsend). Many a time, I’ve read a good book review on Amazon, but did not end up downloading the audio version after sampling the narration.  Audible is also on twitter @audible_com serving up regular updates and free books.  Two months ago, they were offering the first installment in the Pendragon series at no cost.  Current free offer is NYT bestseller Paranoia.  You’ll need to hurry-up though as this offers only lasts another 6 days. I’m putting it in my cart as soon as I’m done with this post!

Finally, Audiofile is a great resource to get recommendations and check out reviews for audiobooks.  You can choose to subscribe to the printed version or browse through content online.  For tips and tricks on identifying, downloading and managing your audiobooks (especially if you’re using Apple software/hardware), you definitely want to visit Michael Alderete’s blog.

So what are you waiting for? Give audiobooks a try.  I promise that you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. November 22, 2010 6:40 am

    i love to listen on audiobooks while travelling on a bus, i could learn a lot from it while travelling ~~*

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