Monday, January 22, 2007

Audiobooks versus Books

What are the competing benefits of audiobooks and normal books?

Book advantages

• Can be read quickly.
• Greater choice. (Too much choice?)
• Are not free, but require no further equipment.
• Can be picked up and read easily anywhere.

Book disadvantages

• Can invite over-analysis. (You know - following up on every footnote, needing reference material nearby, such as Atlas and dictionary. Note taking causing a loss of thread in the story)

LibriVox Audiobook advantages

• Your body is free to do what you will while listening to an audiobook. (suggested by kri)
• You are forced to read a book at half the speed you could read it yourself. You can detect rhythms and aural patterns more easily.
• Choice limited, preselected by people who are prepared to go to great lengths to make sure other people hear them, this being a powerful form of recommendation.
• Free. (presuming access to computer and/or iPod and/or pre-burned CDs. So, not utterly free.)
• Force one to allow confusing (but perhaps ultimately unimportant) detail to wash over you, and be forgotten in the bigger picture. This can be very liberating, and very helpful when approaching the 'Classics', which, coincidentally enough, make up the majority of the LibriVox catalogue.

LibriVox Audiobook Disadvantages

• Need some 'quiet time' to be enjoyed. In iPod form, can be risky to listen to in the bath.
• Can be distracting wondering what the weather is like in Oceanside, Cal-If-Or-Nia.

If anyone has their own suggestions, please comment, and I will add them.

4 comments:

Kri said...

You can knit while listening to an audiobook, only the very skilled can knit while reading (not me). The point being, your body is free to do what you will while listening to an audiobook.

Jack Edinburgh said...

Don't get me wrong I LOVE libravox and think it's a wonderful resource, but I think your being a little unfair on books and actually trying to decide which is "better" is missing the point. Ok so first the defence...

Books are free...just go to your local Library
It is perfectly possible and I personally think much more pleasurable to read a book in your head at the same sort of pace that a Libravox book is read out loud, it takes a little bit of self control and practice but hey...if you can read fast...you can read slow.

I really can't take the limited choice offered by Libravox as a disadvantage of books...come on! I understand your theory about this proving the book is worth listening to, but it also means that you can't hear anything that was written for 70years or 95years or whatever the rule is. That is undoubtedly a disadvantage of libravox not an advantage. If you want to make sure the book you read is a classic, just find out if it's still in print after 50 years..if someone is still making money selling it, it's probably pretty good.

Of course the whole point is that Libravox doesn't have to be an alternative to actually reading books, it can be an addition. It's wonderful doing both...oh and as a killer blow for books...you can't spend hours grubbing round a dusty second hand Libravox site looking for a lovely old recording and discovering something completely different but equally as wonderful...I couldn't ever give up books!

ChrisHughes said...

Thanks kri, I will add your point, which I am amazed isn't there already (doh!)
Jack: I don't think I was trying to say one was ultimately better than the other, but that each had its built in advantages and disadvantages. I was wondering what they were. I also DO believe the 'limited choice' argument. Book shops are packed to the ceiling with worthless tat, which is forgotten almost as soon as it is published, and then swiftly pulped. There are so many truly great books out there, why not spend some time with those, which have stood the test of time, and are well loved?
But you are right, LibriVox does not replace books: I often listen to some chapters while commuting, then pick up a printed copy to read at home, skipping the chapters I have read on the following morning commute.

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