I’ve been listening to a lot of audiobooks lately. I have been training for the Seattle Half Marathon (coming up Thanksgiving weekend), and there is nothing that gets me through a 10 mile run like a good fantasy novel piped into my earphones.  Currently I’m listening to Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare and The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss.

Listening to an audiobook is an entirely different experience than reading a novel, in my opinion. For one, the narrator is key. Whether the narrator is endearing or annoying can truly affect whether you like the book or not. The voice of the narrator is of such importance that it can create a level of separation between the reader and the author—if the reader is connecting with the narrator, they may not be connecting with the author in the same way. So, perhaps a point in the negative column.

But audiobooks also allow the reader to engage more deeply with the prose. I am a devourer of novels; I read them fast and furious. I frequently skip over sections without realizing it until something doesn’t make sense and I am forced to backtrack and read more carefully for what I missed. I want to get to the next plot point, I turn ahead pages to see what happens to my favorite character, flip to the last page, do all the things a reader shouldn’t do. Occasionally, when I really love a book, I will force myself to slow down, pace myself, and chew slowly, to stretch the wonderfulness as long as possible. But usually, I fly.

With an audiobook, that is not possible.  I lave listened to epic audiobooks like The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson (I think that was 36 discs!) and Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke, and I was able to digest every word. With the audiobook, there is no skipping ahead, no going back, no skimming over the page of description. You digest every wonderful word of the novel, just as the author intended. And in doing so, the experience is much richer.

I also love that audiobooks help me double task. I can “read” a book while running, walking the dogs, driving to a hearing, or cleaning the house. With time at a premium, reading can feel like a luxury I can’t afford, and audiobooks assuage some of that guilt.

I have been listening to audiobooks while running for about six years, and I run familiar paths, often along Seattle’s Burke-Gilman trail. When I pound those same paths without headphones (sometimes you just need to be alone with your thoughts) I hear snippets of this book or that in my head: The Hunger Games as I pass Log Boom Park, Ready Player One as I get to the University District, The Magicians as I run through Magnuson Park. Those books were my companions in those places and their words float through my memory in a way that a novel read the normal way does not. What author wouldn’t want their words fondly remembered months or years down the road?

I’m curious if others like audiobooks. As a reader? As a writer? Have you considered turning your novel into audiobook format? Maybe there is a whole other group of readers out there just waiting to find your work!

Featured Image by Brett Levin, cc license https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

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