Sunday, January 02, 2005

Reading with Your Ears

An interesting essay by Lawrence Block at the Village Voice on audiobooks. I am not much of an audiobook reader, my commute is less than ten minutes, but I have enjoyed a good book while driving on a trip or while working on a project at home (the Lord of the Rings Books and Harry Potter are wonderful). My Bookman loves audiobooks and always has one in the car. Like Block, neither of use ever listens to abridgements. I don't read abridged books, why would I want to listen to one? It's like Block says,

The audiobook I recorded of All the Flowers Are Dying runs 53,000 words; the unabridged version, which Alan Sklar will narrate for BBC America, runs to 99,000 and change. Anyone who listens to my version will get the story. They'll know what happens, although a whole subplot's been excised, but they'll miss far too much of what most concerned me as a writer. The book's the 16th in my Matthew Scudder series, and what the book is about, as much as its plot, is aging and mortality, and Scudder's response thereto. All of it grist, alas, for the abridger's mill. And how could it be otherwise? What sort of book could be cut essentially in half without losing a certain something?
Unfortunately for readers, abridgements abound and in spite of how inexpensive CDs have become, full length audiobooks will take a big bite out of your wallet. Full length audiobooks are hard to get at the library too, especially in this time of budget cuts. So what's a person to do? You could always rent a book or download the book for a reduced price. Perhaps as audiobooks become more popular publishers will start to lower the price to be more in line with the price of the hardcover book. But maybe that's just wishful thinking.