Audiobooks vs. ‘the Real Thing’

I never did like the idea of listening to books. At the risk of sounding kind of poetic, let me just say, I like the process that goes on in my head when I read – letting the words sink in, hearing them in my own voice inside my head. Going back and reading that last line and understanding it better, knowing what happens next. It’s a great experience. And something I get to enjoy without having to meet/talk or listen to other people.

Being read aloud to was fun only till I couldn’t read myself, and the one reading to me was my grandmother. When someone reads aloud to you; they are interpreting the lines in their own style. They might not pause just right or chuckle at the right time. As a reader, I like the freedom the author gives me in a book; the chance to use my own imagination. I’d rather not have a narrator steal that from me.

On the other hand; there are those practical, non-poetic advantages of an audiobook. You can read it while driving, while standing in queues, when you’re forced to go shopping with your friends. An audiobook can come in quite handy when you’re at a family function, gloomily listening to your relatives gossip. Which is why I decided to skip the skepticism and actually listen to an audiobook first. I chose to ‘read’ Mirrormask by Neil Gaiman, narrated quite nicely by Stephanie Leonidas.

Would I have liked it more had I actually read it? Probably not.
Mirrormask was a beautiful book, very imaginative and it had the kind of story that works better as a movie, anyway. The narration was great, and since you do not require too much concentration for a fantasy story like that, I’d say an audiobook worked quite well.

Does this mean I now like audiobooks? Not really.
There are a thousand things that could go wrong – one of the worst being an incompetent narrator. Another thing I’d hate is if the book were abridged – even by a sentence.
I also think the first person perspective played a big part in making Mirrormask good. One point of view, one voice. When there are too many dialogues and too many characters; each with a different voice, I would find it very distracting to have to figure out who is speaking every time. If one person pretends to be seven different characters with seven different voices; don’t even get me started on how wrong that could go.

Listening to an audiobook is like watching a movie without the video and reading a book, without the, well, pages – neither of which I’d be particularly eager spend money on!