Remember being but a wee reader, or perhaps even pre-reader, and the special feeling when a grownup or older child read you a story? Ever miss that feeling? It’s as close as the click of a button to get it back. How? Glad you asked.
When I was but a wee princess, I liked nothing better than when my mother would read me a bedtime story. I liked it so much that, at one point I convinced her that wakeup stories were also a thing. This was actually successful for a short while (I am thinking probably summer) but not sustainable for the long term. There are, of course, memories of story time at various libraries, and, in the early years of public school, teachers who read aloud to the class.
For me, having a story read to me was more than merely a way to convey the story, but an expression of love. Love for books, love of the written word, love of story, love of moving, for a time, from the everyday world, into the world of the story, and coming back out ready to face whatever the “real” world held. Somewhere along the way, we’re told we are old enough to do our own reading, and we do, but there’s still that space for hearing the story for some, even a need, that cries to be filled.
That’s where audiobooks come into play. While there could be, and maybe is, story time for adults (authors reading their own work aloud can fall into this category) by and large, the way most of us fill that space now, is with audiobooks.
For the last couple of days, I have been dealing with a sinus headache. Being in a dark room is good for that, but it also means that reading is not very do-able, due to the lack of light. Since I have a library app on my phone, it took only a quick scroll through our local library’s listings to get an audiobook downloaded. Find a comfortable volume, press face into pillow to counteract the pressure from full sinuses, and close my eyes. Then it’s story time.
Ask any child what their number one request is when an adult reads to them, and the answer is most likely going to be “do the voices.” Who better to handle that job than a professional actor or narrator? Hearing the distinct voices of different characters brings the story alive, without the need to follow any visuals onscreen, as with TV or movies. Sometimes, we want a story, and we want it to immerse us in its world, but we can’t watch .
Maybe we’re doing housework, or homework, need to keep an eye on a pet or other loved one who needs our attention. Maybe we’re tired. Maybe we’re on our daily walk or run. Maybe we’re behind the wheel of a moving vehicle. Movie screens are find and dandy for the passengers, but the driver needs their eyes on the road. Audiobooks fill that need, admirably.
Audiobooks are also a nice way to try out a new author or genre. It’s reading but it’s not reading, and some of the narrators, well, we’d listen to them read the phone book, to be quite frank. Some devotees of audiobooks do have favorite narrators, and/or strong opinions about male vs female narrators, the use of accents, single vs multiple narrators, and so on. For some readers, it matters if the narrator changes from book one of a series to book two, or, even better/worse, farther on down the line. For other readers, it’s the story that counts, and text to speech technology would be quite fine, thanks. Others are somewhere in the middle, and/or are only listening to the audio version because the wait list for the actual print book at the library is so long that the street signs start to appear in different languages. But the audiobook? Right there. Done.
In short, there are a lot of pros and cons to every format of book, audiobooks included. Where do you stand? Are you wearing headphones and listening to an audiobook when you do? Pull up a chair in the comment section and tell us all about it. There’s room for everybody at this table.