Audiobooks


The arguments about e-books vs. paper books vs. audiobooks are as heated as ever. Luckily, I'm not here to say "this is the right answer forever and for always, amen" and assume that'll be the end of it. Instead, I'd like to take a minute to make a few observations about the medium of audiobooks, and what that's added (or rather, returned) to the storytelling art as a whole.

So the art of writing down stories came about around 2700 BC. It wasn't exactly common, the people of that time being restricted to clay and stone tablets. So books weren't a thing yet.

The first book to roll off Gutenberg's amazing new printing press was of course the Bible, in 1455. It was only 30 years later in 1485 when Thomas Malory published Le Morte d'Arthur, his collection of what amounts to Arthurian fanfiction*, rewritten to suit his taste. (More on that later.)

In the intervening centuries, the prominence of oral storytelling has declined in much of the western world, though the practice hasn't entirely died out. (Any of you that have listened to an older relative tell the family about a time when gas was cheaper and electric gadgets hadn't taken over the world know exactly what I'm talking about.)


One positive thing that has come from electric gadgets taking over the world, though, is the new ubiquity of audiobooks in first-world countries. Those folk who have no free time to devote to reading can listen to stories while they drive, cook, clean, or work. In addition, those who love to tell stories can do so and get paid for it. Narrators and voice actors can hone their craft, delivering character, setting, narrative, and action through voice alone, guiding their enraptured audience through the story scene by captivating scene.

In case it's not clear, I love both listening to and telling stories, so I'm terribly biased in favor of audiobooks.

Years ago, when I was still too small to sit in the front seat, my parents owned the complete Harry Potter series on cassette tape. We listened to them in the car back and forth to school, over and over and over again. I suspect my parents did this to keep me occupied in the back seat while they enjoyed the temporary cessation of noise out of my mouth.

Later on, when I discovered the library had audiobooks on CD that I could borrow, I started doing that. Constantly. I listened to them while I was falling asleep, while I was driving, while I was cleaning or cooking or starting a fire in the wood stove. Then came streaming. I could purchase and download audiobooks directly to my tablet or phone or laptop. I could listen to my entire library anywhere. Overdrive meant that I could even check out audiobooks from the literal library, and I never had to worry about leaving a disk in the player when I turned them in.

I've learned vocabulary, pronunciation, and sentence structure. I've learned the potential and uses of negative space (silence between words), tempo, pitch, different voices for characters, and the importance of closure.

And if a kid with a diagnosed learning disorder can pick up on things like that, what can other kids learn from just listening to someone read a book to them? What about adults? It doesn't even have to be a book that's explicitly academic (though I picked one up once about multiverse theory that was fascinating) - Harry Potter, Redwall, When Calls the Heart, or just about anything by Janet Evanovich are fun to listen to. If you like stories, then there's a book out there for you, and if you don't have the time for a book, you can probably find an audiobook that suits your taste.

For the sake of argument, let's say you don't have any audiobooks at your local library (or maybe you don't have a library at all) and you don't have the money to pay for a service like Audible. What then? Try Librivox. It's a free app with hundreds of classic books recorded by ameteur narrators that you can download and listen to, absolutely free.

So now you have no excuse! Go find an audiobook and give it a listen! (But not while you're trying to read or write. That probably won't work very well.)

*Earlier, I mentioned Le Morte d'Arthur being more or less a fanfiction. You can hear all about it from someone who did WAY more research than me in this video by Overly Sarcastic Productions. Tell them InkFire sent you!

#Audiobooks #Reading

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