Ode to Audiobooks

Posted by in Musings

I still remember to this day the first audiobook I ever heard–Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince.  My friend and I were driving in his car to grab dinner, and the book came on the radio to my surprise.  I instantly started laughing and began berating him for being a dork!  I also teased him, claiming that he chose the audiobook because he was illiterate.  Despite my barrage of insults, he definitely and confidently replied, “Dude, just listen….I GARAUNTEE you’ll love it.”  And that son-of-a-b*tch was right.

After that, I don’t think I talked to him the rest of the drive.  I was so eagerly listening to the angelic and talented voice of Jim Dale serenade me through the magical kingdom of Harry Potter.  Now I was already a huge harry potter fan, and at that point had already finished the 6th book, but listening to it added a whole new element.  I didn’t realize this at the time, but I soon learned that Jim Dale is one of the best, so I was spoiled early.  In fact, he is credited with having 146 distinct character voices.  With such versatility, he was able to seamlessly shift from Professor Severus Snape to Hagrid to Hermione without once directly indicating who he is impersonating; it was always quite clear who’s voice he was using.  Truly remarkable talent.

Now I only listened for maybe 10 minutes, but I knew I wanted to buy more….and as soon as possible.  Soon I put two and two together, and realized that my 10 hour drive home from college could be made infinitely better if I listened to an audiobook.  I intentionally bought books that were the proper duration (approximately 8-11 hours) so that I could start and finish before I got home.  Audiobooks far surpassed music because they were constantly engaging and providing continuous new information.  Music, on the other hand, was either overplayed on the radio (which you’ll have to constantly change the station of such a long drive), or just overplayed via CD’s/iPods.  The books were engaging, but still didn’t require too much brain power to distract from driving.  It reached the optimal level of engagement; just enough to make you not wanna kill yourself, but not enough distract you from driving, causing you to ACTUALLY kill yourself.

Overtime I learned my favorite audiobooks were murder mysteries, and I was especially fond of James Patterson‘s Alex Cross series.  It contain a semi-continous story between books, but each book was still it’s own entity.  The character development was highly evolved, and combined with sex, murder, and suspense, these books were just awesome.  I highly recommend them.  And if you are curious and wanna snag a copy for yourself, I say start with his classic novel/audiobook Along Came a Spider.

It turns out my friend and I are not alone when it comes to our passion for audiobooks.  According to Simply Audiobooks, in 2004, the market for audiobooks was close to $800 million.  And as with other forms of media, companies have seen the advantage of moving from physical copy discs to digital/electronic/online equivalents.  Naturally big companies like Apple and Amazon now provide online content available for download for a fee-per-file.  However, many other visionaries have seen and embraced the trend of the internet moving away from “paying for content ownership” and towards “paying for access to content.”

Enter Audible.  Instead of buying every book, you pay a subscription fee, which will give you access to their entire audiobook database (with some limitations, of course).  You can indeed download the file, but you are essentially only “renting” it temporarily.  Now you’ll never have buyers regret….because if you don’t like the book, just switch to a new one at no extra cost.

What can I say, I LOVE audiobooks! I’ve listened to hundreds of hours since my first exposure, and I’m not stopping anytime soon.  So if you were like me, ignorant to the ways of the audiobook, I urge you to give it a try.  “I GUARANTEE you’ll love it.”