My love of audiobooks blossomed wide like a rose bud during eye surgery recoveries. Over the years I’ve tended to my literary rosebush, pruning away poor listens as needed and fertilizing and watering with new narrators and genres to grow the intellectual interest. 15 years ago, audiobooks demanded more energy to read: the time spent search and selecting a title at the library or bookstore, schlepping the title home and loading the piece one CD at a time into a CD player or perhaps riding around with the whole lot to listen in the car on commutes. The variety of titles lacked depth. I definitely remember checking out books just because they were in audio format, desperate to pass the time. My how things have changed.
Now, we’re surrounded by choice. Smartphones and digital downloads allowed audiobooks to rise in the mass market. According to a Wall Street Journal article, the industry retail sales went from 480 million dollars in 1997 to a robust 1.2 billion dollars in 2013. The convenience of the format increased its popularity. The quality improved as well. Not only do seasoned authors read their works in a professional production but many voice actors make solid careers as audiobook narrators–Jim Dale and Scott Brick and Katherine Kellgren, I’m looking at you.
I have my favorites when it comes to narrators. Also, I noticed I’m starting to develop an appreciation for titles with bonus content. Have you encountered one yet? It’s like watching a DVD and accessing the special features menu to watch a directors cut of the film or additional behind the scenes interviews with the cast and crew.
A couple of titles I finished recently which included more material than the print version were Eddie Huang’s Fresh Off the Boat and Aziz Ansari’s Modern Romance. I’m partial to the comic memoir. I seek out the audiobook version for comedians who write books. Tina Fey and Amy Poehler and Mindy Kaling and Jim Gaffigan are all consumed, by choice, by sound rather than light. The performer’s ability to make a sentence interesting is so much more humorous when I can hear it.
The books mentioned earlier fit in bonus material in a few ways. First, both of the authors acknowledge you’re listening to an audiobook and they didn’t simply read the manuscript. They broke down the fourth wall, adding side jokes for listeners. Secondly, Modern Romance included charts and graphs in the print format. Aziz acknowledged it would be difficult to convey all the information the pictures would’ve shown, so he describes them to give the basic information to you. He also jokingly gives you a hard time for being a “lazy reader” by listening to the audiobook which amused me. With both books, the extra effort to differentiate the audio version from the print version improved the literary experience.
Have you listened to an audiobook in the last year? When and where do you listen to audiobooks? What kind of narration keeps your attention? Would you buy an audiobook rather than a print copy if you knew the writer included additional original content? Tell me about it.