audio books

Everywhere I go I see ads for Storytel, a Swedish app that provides books in audio format, similar to the app Audible. I see these ads on the backs of buses, in subway stations, plastered above the seats on the train, and anywhere else they can get away with advertising.

When I speak to other authors, it feels like ‘audio’ is the new buzzword. The word that takes on a life of its own. It shows up in conversations like an unexpected lurker. One minute you’re talking about a female treasure hunter and the next you’re talking about audio books. Later you look back and wonder how the subject wormed its way into the conversation.

At this point, I must confess that I have never actually listened to a complete book in audio format.

What better time to change that, right?

It feels like fate, in a way. Everyone is talking about it, I haven’t tried it, what’s stopping me? A recent cold and diagnosis of high blood pressure resulted in my doctor placing me on sick leave for a few weeks, so I thought, Now is the time to try out these apps.

I checked out Storytel first and immediately ran into difficulties. On my phone it was so difficult to find books in English that I gave up and downloaded Audible instead. Audible is gracious, they let you choose your first book for free to get you started. And, of course, finding English books wasn’t even an issue (I did go to Storytel on my computer and must admit that searching for English is much easier on the desktop, however the choices were quite limited. It is, after all, a Swedish app).

Now that I had an app, time to pick my first book. I normally read anything. Mysteries, Literature, Fantasy, Biographies, whatever. I tend to avoid Romance and Horror, but could venture into those genres if something appealed to me, or came with a great recommendation from a friend. As my interests are so varied, I didn’t get bogged down searching for the perfect book. The first book on the main screen to catch my eye was Moonglow, by Michael Chabon.

Five minutes into the experience and I already knew this format wasn’t for me. It has nothing to do with the writing, or the story, or the reading. It turns out I’m just NOT an auditory person. Podcasts, I can do. Because they aren’t books. Podcasts are interviews, or several people talking, or like a lecture or radio show sometimes. I can follow along with those.

But audio books? I realized this man speaking in my ear, who I’m sure must be an amazing, fantastic man, was taking away some of the best parts of reading for me.  I want to savor the words and how the sentence looks on the paper.

This man, he reads a sentence, and two sentences later I’ve forgotten what was in the first sentence. I can’t keep up with the characters, or what happened or anything! And emotion? I get this reader’s inflection, but I’m removed from the emotion now. What it boils down to is this: He stands between me and the story!

I haven’t opened the app since. I have, however, read two other books since that time. I don’t want to be anti-audio, but apparently I am. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for it if it works for you. What better way to spend time on those long commutes? Listening to a book is so much better than wasting 40 minutes each day matching up candies in a row.

At first, this newfound anti-audio diagnosis bothered me, especially with all the buzz about audio. What’s wrong with me? It works for everyone else. Then I realized, I cannot be the only person on the planet who just can’t listen to audio books. Can I??

While I wait for the verdict to come in about that, I’m back to reading, whether it be a paperback, a hardcover, or a book in electronic format.

What’s your take? Are you an audio books person?

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