Sanctum Sanctorum: Audiobooks

June Audiobook Month

Audiobook Month is currently in full swing, and we here at The BiblioSanctum are really enjoying talking about everything and anything audio! Naturally, it also behooves us to do a round table discussion on the topic. Listening to audiobooks is something we all do a lot, but why do we like them and how did our audiobook addictions start? Join us this month as we chat about our experiences with audiobooks, and feel free to chime in about your own! Tell us, do you listen to audiobooks? And what do you enjoy about them?

How did you first get into audiobooks?

Moon CalledMogsy: Believe it or not, my first few experiences with audiobooks were disasters. I either kept zoning out while listening, or I would find so few opportunities to listen that it would take weeks to finish an audiobook, long enough sometimes that I just plain forgot I even had one. It’s tough if you’ve never tried the format, to go from reading physical books to an auditory experience. There may be some adjustments in routine, which I had to learn.

But in the end, I realized the key for me was the audiobook itself. It matters what kind of story you’re listening to, or who’s narrating–especially for your first listen. I suppose I just wasn’t choosing the right books for my earliest experiences. What eventually got me hooked was the Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs, narrated by the awesome Lorelei King. While I was listening to Moon Called it finally clicked, and I didn’t have any of the issues anymore. It was a great book and a great reader that helped turn me into a “non-audiobook person” to diehard audiophile.

Tiara: I would say that I’ve only become a big fan of audiobooks in the last three years. I listened to them from time to time before then, but that’s around the time I started listening more often. It was Jim Butcher’s Fool Moon that sort of shepherded the way for me to be open to more audiobooks. I listened to that book during a particularly busy time when I was making a two hour commute one way for work. However, the credit can’t go to that alone. Around that time my son starting showing an interest in audiobooks. I had no idea he was paying attention to Fool Moon–which I was still listening to even after my commute returned to normal–when I listened to it in the car on our drives to his school. In a quest to find something more kid friendly for us to listen to when we were riding around together, we started listening to the series Percy Jackson and the Olympians together. Soon, my daughter joined in on the fun. Since that year, I’ve started to consume more and more of my books in the audiobook format.

Wendy: My brother and brother-in-law finally convinced me. One with his talk about the convenience of being able to read on his long drives to work, and the other with his gushing over a particular narrator. When I finally got myself a device that allowed me to more easily and conveniently access audiobooks, I tried it out and have been hooked ever since. My first book was Shantaram, narrated by Humphrey Bower, who utterly blew me away.

How have audiobooks changed your reading habits?

Mogsy: Well, I “read” a lot more now thanks to audiobooks. While I may read at a pretty steady pace, finishing a 300-page book in about 3-4 days or so, the time it takes me to finish an audiobook can be a lot more variable. Ironically, this means I finish more books during busier times. Listening on 2x speed, a full day of working in the backyard might actually see me finishing that same 300-page book in audio in the 4-5 hours it takes to get my unruly garden all sorted, for example. The best times to enjoy an audiobook is when I’m doing something that keeps my hands busy or requires me moving around, but my brain is on “automatic mode”, so things like walking the dog, mowing the lawn, crocheting, working on art, farming in an online game, vacuuming the house, working out, etc. ProTip: Listening to audiobooks make crappy chores more pleasant and go by more quickly!

Tiara: I can do many mundane things and still listen to an audiobook at the same time. That has really been an asset as I work through a backlog of books that I want to read. Having so many of them available in the audiobook format means I can fit way more of them in than I could if I sat down and tried to read them. One of the first things I try to find out about new books I may be interested in is if it will have an audiobook release. I’m also a fan of immersive reading, which is reading the book along with the narration. Audiobooks have really been helpful for tackling books that I might not have read for various reasons. I find I’m much more open to them if there’s an audiobook version because a good narration might just make me stick around for the story, even if I don’t care for story.

Wendy: There is so little time in my day now and it breaks my heart when I can’t dedicate any of that time to books because I’m too busy or too brain dead from being busy. I love that audiobooks allow me to fulfill reading challenges and chew up books that I likely would not pick up now because they are just too intimidatingly big for the time I have available to me (looking at you, Brandon Sanderson). And as Mogsy and Tiara have noted above, it’s great to be able to read while doing other things. Because I have so much to do, listening to audiobooks while working on something else, whether it be chores or some mundane work task, fulfills my multitasking needs.

What makes a great audiobook?

Mogsy: A good story helps, but for me it’s definitely the narration. Before listening to audiobooks, I had no idea how much it mattered, I just thought it was the same thing as listening to someone read out loud. But a good voice actor can really enhance a book’s story, and likewise, poor narration can ruin the experience completely.

Tiara: Narration, narration, naration. Why listen to an audiobook if you don’t enjoy the narration? As Mogsy said, a good narration can make or break a story.

Wendy: I always do voices when I read to my daughters and now my heart swells to hear them reading to each other, doing the same. They’ve said that they like when I read because of that, and I am so proud that they continue that legacy. Not that I think I’m particularly good at narrating their books. But I do enjoy it and it gives me a huge appreciation and respect for the narrators I have listened to who do such an incredible job with far more material.

What are some tips you would give to new audiobook listeners?

Mogsy: A good audiobook player/app can make a huge difference. If you’re just starting to try audiobooks, things get easier if you make them adapt to you rather than the other way around. For example, I typically find a book’s narration speed to be way too slow. Seriously, if I had to listen to an audiobook on normal speed, I’d fall asleep. I find anywhere from 1.75-2.25x speed sounds closer to “normal talking”. I love the app I use now that allows me to make these find adjustments, and the more features/options the better.

Also, listening to audiobooks doesn’t have to break the bank. Especially if you’re new to audiobooks and don’t know if they’ll be for you, the best place to start is your local library, or their online Overdrive collections. Most have tons of audio titles to borrow!

Tiara: First, always listen to a sample, if one is available, and ask yourself if you can listen to that same narrator for hours. Second, it’s okay to start with shorter stories. There are plenty of novellas, short stories, and short story/novella collections available to listen to. That could lead to listening to longer stories, or you may find that you’re the type of listener who only wants to listen to shorter productions. Third, it’s no big deal if you abandon the audiobook in favor of reading the book for whatever reason.

Wendy: Consider what moments in your day might work well with a verbal soundtrack 🙂  Got a long drive to work? Shake up your radio/ iTunes/podcast listens with the addition of an audiobook. Spending the morning cleaning? Let the dulcet tones of Simon Vance drown out the drone of the vacuum.

Also, ask yourself if there’s a book that you really want to read, but just don’t have the time for. An audiobook might be the solution.

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21 Comments on “Sanctum Sanctorum: Audiobooks

  1. The fear of loss of concentration is one of the main reasons I’ve stayed away from audiobooks, but reading your posts and seeing how much you all enjoy this form of book reading, I might seriously give it a try. Who knows? I might become a convert! 🙂

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    • I find it really depends on the book – I lose concentration sometimes too when I’m listening to an audiobook, but that usually indicates to me something about the story isn’t working for me. It’s much easier to tell which parts of a book drag when you’re listening to it in audio! 😀

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    • There are times I might tune out, especially since I’m usually doing something else, but I do the same when I’m reading an actual book and suddenly realize I have no idea what was on the page I just turned. For an audiobook, as Mogsy said, that might mean that the book just isn’t working at all for any number of reasons.

      I’ve also had to set certain books aside because they demanded too much of my attention and therefore I couldn’t concentrate on both the book and something else.

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  2. I don’t think I started listening to audiobooks until I got a smartphone, which actually was pretty recently – last two years or so – since I was a serious hold-out (I blame my hippie upbringing, haha). Doing housework and going to the gym are so much better now that I listen to audiobooks! And the grocery store too, haha.

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  3. Some great thoughts here, thank you. One thing I don’t think any of you mentioned was Amazon’s Whispersync for Voice. For some titles you can get the audiobook in addition to the Kindle version for only a few dollars more. The wonderful thing is, it syncs your progress across media. So if you are listening to a a few chapters while doing your housework, then want to sit down with the eBook over a well deserved cup of tea, your progress is synced. It’s awesome.

    As you say though, It really depends so much on the narrator. I will generally listen to a sample first before deciding which media to buy the book in. Some series I will automatically go for the audiobook over the eBook.

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    • Oh yes, I love whispersync! It’s always so awesome to browse through audible and to stumble across new whispersync deals. 🙂 I definitely should have made mention of it here, though Tiara has also written many great posts about good whispersync titles and the convenience of them in the past.

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  4. Audiobooks have changed my LIFE since I got into them last year! I didn’t even know I could put an app on my smart phone and listen that way and believe me, when I found out it was EPIC. My commute to and from work adds up to about an hour a day so now that time is spent listening to books instead of…you know…road rage LOL! My first audiobook attempt was Sabriel by Garth Nix and it remains my all time favorite (along with the rest of the series) not to mention a new favorite series of all time (audio or no) Dark high fantasy narrated by Tim Curry? What’s not to love 😀

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    • I honestly don’t know what I’d do without audiobooks! Getting through unpleasant household chores and other mundane tasks would be impossible now if I didn’t have access to them. Just this weekend I took 5-6 hours to clean the house from top to bottom and then did some work in the backyard, and managed to finish 2/3 of an audiobook! Can’t beat that kind of convenience 🙂

      I’ve also never listened to Tim Curry narrate, but I imagine that it would be amazing!

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  5. I second all the things you like about audio. I just recently started adjusting the speed of the narration in the apps and I agree it makes it better. One thing I struggle with when listening to books rather then reading, especially with SFF, is when I sit down to review the book, I have no idea how to spell all the unique names for people and places!

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    • That is the major downside of audiobooks! I usually end up having to look up other reviews or descriptions to figure out how to spell these fantasy names of people and places 🙂

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    • Haha that’s where Whispersync can come in handy, though I don’t always have the ebook or book available to figure those things out. That’s when I refer to Goodreads or author pages to get a little research in.

      The other fun thing about audiobooks is hearing the narrator pronounce a name that you thought was pronounced totally differently!

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  6. I have written on posts on several of these topics, but you have given me ideas for a couple of more. My succinct answers:

    –Got into them due to a long bus commute and terribly tendency to motion sickness when reading
    –I now do most of my reading via audiobooks, including tons of rereading
    –I’m pretty forgiving of narrators but will give up if there are really bad accents
    –Tip: If at first you don’t succeed, try again (it took me awhile to get into them)

    My Most Recent Discussion: Hasn’t Killed Me Yet: Living with Chronic TBR Overflow

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