Bookish Ramblings: Audio Books – Love Them or Hate Them?


To be frank, I’ve never been into audio books. My daily commute doesn’t take more than 10 minutes each way, I don’t normally drive and even if I do, it’s never for great distances and I’m never alone. Ever since I’ve been blogging I kept saying audio books are not for me. I once listened to the first few minutes of an Agatha Christie audio book on a friend’s computer and I didn’t like it. At all. I found the reader’s voice slightly irritating, she talked too fast for my liking – or at least faster than what my reading speed would have been – and even in that short time, my thoughts sort of just… drifted away from the story. So how is it that here I am a little more than a year later, listening to one of Lindsay Barclay’s thrillers, just for fun?

I had an English literature exam the other day, for which I had to read a huge amount of books. Most of them I’ve already read a few years ago but obviously, I can’t remember all the details about them and while I needed them for the exam, I didn’t have time to re-read all of them. And that’s when I decided to give audio books a try one more time – and that was when I realised they are actually really good.

I have to admit that I’ve been both a bit wary of these books – and at the same time, I was prejudiced too. I’ve never given them a second chance. I’ve never considered that maybe, just maybe… I just wasn’t in the mood for audio books at the time or that it was the reader herself I didn’t like and that other books might be a lot better than that. Since the Agatha Christie disaster I’ve listened to two other books (Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe and Linwood Barclay’s Fear the Worst) and surprisingly, I enjoyed both of them. So much so that I’m considering listening to a few more in the future and starting to post some audio book reviews if you guys are interested.

I figured out that the most important thing in my case is to listen to the audio samples. There’s always a short sample recording included on websites that sell audio books and you can listen to them before you download the actual book . They’ll give you a fairly good idea of what the reader’s style, pace and accent is going to be and if you’re as picky as I am, you can decide whether it’s something you’ll like or something that will lull you to sleep. Since I’m moving to London sometime early next year and I’ll probably spend a lot more time with commuting, I was really hoping I would be able to get into audio books. I can’t read in cars or on buses or even the tube (in fact, planes and trains are the only two vehicles on which I don’t feel like throwing up if I attempt to read) so the fact that I’ll be able to at least listen to them on the go gives me some comfort.

And as much as I was against them in the beginning,  I do think they’re great. They’re great if you don’t have too much time for reading, if you’re constantly on the go, if you’re a commuter but don’t want to carry your books everywhere or if – like me – you’ve motion sickness and you can’t read on public transport. I love the fact that you can just put your earphones in and listen to them while doing housework or anything else that doesn’t require you to listen to someone else. For me they’re a bit similar to how I feel about ebooks. Neither of them will replace paperbacks/hardbacks and holding a real book in my hands but they’re very convenient, very practical.

What do you think about them? Are you wary of giving them a shot like I was or have you tried them before? Do you love them or do you hate them?

Some websites where you can listen to audio books:

Audible | AudioBooks | Ambling Books | LibriVox | Books Should Be Free | Naxos

47 Responses to “Bookish Ramblings: Audio Books – Love Them or Hate Them?”

  1. Audibooks really are great. I love them for new reads and for rereads, but I do agree with you to listen to the audio sample before buying a copy for yourself. I try to get lots through the library, but for the ones I buy I can be very picky. The narrator can really make or break a book. Also, I’m quite particular on the genre that i listen to — if it’s too complicated, I probably won’t listen to it!

    Great discussion, Vicky!
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    • Vicky says:

      I agree, the narrator can really ruin the whole thing. (Or maybe it’s because I’m really picky) I just wish our libraries had some audio books too! *shakes fist*

  2. I like you have less then a 10 minute commute. I read on average 2-4 books a week. The thing that scares me the most about them is the length of time they require, some are like 30 hrs..eep!
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    • Vicky says:

      I know!! I downloaded some of the classics that were free and some of them were longer than 30 hours. I mean… that’s a lot for an audio book!

  3. Well, I love audio books. I find that they are an excellent way to help me get through my TBR pile!
    I love reading, and because I live on my own I usually end up listening to audio books whilst I’m in the kitchen cooking, or doing the washing up- any time when I can’t physically hold a book to read, but I’m not too distracted to pay attention to it. They are company for me as well.
    I always have a physical book and an audio book that I’m reading.
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    • Vicky says:

      That’s a great method! I’m pretty sure I’d do the same if I was living on my own, actually. But since I’m (almost) never alone I’ve never thought about listening to audio books because I just know I’d be constantly interrupted. But it’s a great way to relax in the evening and it’s very convenient when I’m too tired to read or keep my eyes open :)

  4. Katja says:

    Glad you’ve been converted! :) I listened to The Diviners as an audio book and the narrator -January LaVoy – was fabulous…same goes for the narration on The Name of the Wind. I was sort of biased against dramatisation, but I loved the cast of narrators and sound effects on Eyes Like Stars. There are just so many audio books I love.
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  5. Hi Vicky. Good to hear that you are enjoying audio books. Me, I’ve listened to one but like with your first experience, I really didn’t like it. It felt weird for me. I just can’t relate, probably because of the reader’s voice. But yes, you’re right. Audio books can really help when you are traveling and it makes sense as reading a book can make you really dizzy (when traveling). I may try it one more time. I think it deserves another chance :D
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    • Vicky says:

      I know, that’s exactly how I feel most of the time. :D I think it definitely deserves a second chance, though. Just try to listen to the samples and find one that you like. I’m very picky and I’m easily put off if I find the narrator’s voice irritating but I still managed to find a few books that I enjoyed. :)

  6. Henrietta says:

    Glad to learn that you now enjoy listening to audio books!

    I seldom listen to audio books but I do buy them sometimes. I particularly enjoyed the audible version of The Hunger Games series :)
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  7. I love audiobooks! For me, I listen when I’m around the house doing chores, laundry, cooking etc. But for me, I can’t listen to classics on audiobooks. It has to be something fast paced – like YA. I usually choose audiobooks simply based on what’s available at the time and if I’m not captured within 10 minutes, I just move on to the next one – easy enough since I use my library system’s website to borrow them.
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    • Vicky says:

      Funnily enough I started with the classics :D But yeah, I know what you mean. I haven’t tried any YA audio books yet but it’s definitely on my to-do list for this year!

  8. I’ve always been wary of audiobooks and ebooks, too – but since I got my iPad and have had ebooks sent for review, I’ve found it really is convenient. I agree that for me it will never replace having an actual book in my hands, but I like that if I’m near the end of a book already and I have to go out, I don’t have to worry about finishing the book and having nothing else to do if I end up with downtime before going home.

    Sure I could whip out my GameBoy or DS, or play something on my iPad, but sometimes you just feel like reading, yeah?

    Anyway, since I decided ebooks aren’t as bad as I thought they would be, I might try out some audiobooks this year. Especially after reading Voice-Over Voice Actor…months ago I tossed around the idea of finding out how one would go about becoming a narrator for audiobooks, and having read about voice acting, I’m curious about the whole thing again. I like that in this digital age, I would be able to sample a book first, not like back in the olden days before the internet, when it was only books on tape. XD
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  9. […] talks about audiobooks — are you a fan of […]

  10. I love audiobooks! I started listening to them when I had a really bad case of the flu and I didn’t have the energy to focus on reading words, and now I use them on my commute and also when I’m cleaning the house! Especially folding laundry….ugh I hate that!

    It’s definitely all about the samples – if the narrator’s voice is irritating you can’t possibly focus on the story. I always try and choose ‘straightforward’ books too – fantasy etc is too complicated for me to focus on completely!
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  11. Kelsey says:

    I’ve only listened to one audiobook before, and it was for a novella, but I didn’t like the narrator so I haven’t tried another one since. I do like the idea of them, but I’m not sure how well they’d work for me, I do have a longer commute by bus, so they’d probably be a good thing.
    I’m worried about my attention span though, most of the time when I listen to music and I’m doing something else I tend to zone out the audio. I do plan to try it again someday, maybe even this year!
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  12. Eustacia Tan says:

    I’ve only listened to an audio book on a plane ride home (it was The Distant Hours by Kate Morton). I didn’t get to finish it, but I quite like what I heard.

    I suppose it’s something I have to try in the future.

    ^_^
    Eustacia Tan recently posted..Long Reads #17My Profile

  13. Molli says:

    To be honest, I’ve never really liked the idea of audio-books. To me, it feels like “cheating,” because you aren’t really “reading” the book; however, if it’s a book I’ve read before and want to “re-read” than an audio book might be really fun!
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  14. I have only tried one audiobook, and it was Incarnate; I did not like the narrator at all – her voice irked me, lol! I tried three times, but couldn’t get past chapter 3. I haven’t tried another audiobook since.
    Lately it seems that a lot of people have been recommending to me different audiobooks, advising that you have to find the narrator and to definitely try the samples before buying.
    Also, my husband (who isn’t a reader, lol) thinks that listening to a book defeats the purpose of reading. That the narrator may influence what you would have imagined if you read it on your own, and that it doesn’t count towards my TBR because I wouldn’t actually be reading the book… he might have a point.
    I hope to one day to try an audiobook again. Maybe I’ll try the library first!
    Great discussion, thank you!
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  15. I just can’t listen to them. I’m not sure what it is. I’ve tried several different books, but there is something annoying about them. I can’t focus on it and it goes far too slow for my taste. So, I just keep reading. I’m happy that you like them after giving them their second chance!
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  16. Darlene says:

    Love ‘em! Audiobooks are what got me back into reading!! With little kids, I have no sit-down time to myself to read adult literature. I read tons to the kids, but not anything for myself. I started listening to audiobooks in the car on my thrice weekly commute and haven’t looked back! Now I have an iPod and can listen even while cooking supper or doing laundry. Love it!!
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  17. Alex :) says:

    I am still weary about audiobooks.. :’)

    a couple of months ago having just read the Fault in Our Stars I picked up the audiobook… Like you said, I should have listened to a sample as the readers voice (the version that wasn’t John Green’s) ruined it and I just found it irritating.

    Having tried a few other I think it is all about the voice! It can really make or break an audiobook I think.

    I think I am going to leave them alone for now :)

    Another thing that out puts me off is the price.. I have seen some around for £30! :/

    Hopefully they will grow on me at some point! :) xx
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  18. Pragya says:

    I too was wary in the beginning but I listened to Looking For Alaska by John Green and was a fan for life. I immediately listened to my second audiobook Snowflower and the secret fan which I really loved too. After that the journey has been a bit slow and not because I wanted it to. I have a 3 hours daily commute but people in the tube are too noisy, I can’t hear anything, so I had to give up on that idea. I take my Kindle on the tube now. However, I did try listening to audiobooks when commuting in train (which is something like once or twice a year) and started The Hunger Games which I’m really liking. And also when I was cleaning up really well, I heard Carmilla and I didn’t knew where 1.5 hours flew. So yes, I am totally into audio books, have a few in store but don’t get the time. And oh yes, two audio books I couldn’t get into – The Messenger and 11/22/63.
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  19. Clock Rewinders on a Book Binge 24 - creativityscorner.net says:

    […] Vicky (Books, Biscuits and Tea) rambled about audiobooks. […]

  20. Anne says:

    I go in fits and spurts on audiobooks. There are some I absolutely love, but it is REALLY easy for it to become background noise for me, so I often end up just putting them down if they’re not holding my interest. I’ve been in the middle of one since November or so, and I have no desire to pick it back up. Sooooo… mostly I stay away from them because I’ve had too many bad experiences, you know?
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  21. I get audio books form the library all the time! I love them, except for fantasy. It is really hard for me to understand the unusual names and words (usually these are made up) without reading the book.
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  22. I love audiobooks now. At first I didn’t see the point of listening to a book when I could just read it. When I initially tried them, I always picked books that I wouldn’t want to read. I wanted to save those books to read myself. But when I let that go and just started listening to any book that interested me, I started having a great time. I have long commutes though so I get extra reading in for sure. I don’t know what I would do without them now. How crazy is that?
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  23. See, I am a HUGE fan of audiobooks and got into them pretty early on thanks to a horrendous commute. They soothed me in a way that music just couldn’t and made me actually look forward to my drive every day. I will say this… the reader makes all the difference in the world. Seriously, a poor reader can ruin a perfectly good book at the drop of a hat. But sometimes, if you find the right person, they can bring the story to life in a way you never imagined possible!

    As an avid book lover, I recommend listening to them wherever you can because they make the most mundane jobs seem so much more fun. You can listen to them while commuting, working out, doing chores, cooking. The possibilities are endless! Plus it can add a whole new perspective to old favourites. You just need to find the right book with the right reader. So yeah, previewing them is a good idea, especially if you’re picky! So happy you gave them a second chance!
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  24. Petra says:

    I wasn’t so much into audio books as well. Then I tried one and it was actually good. But still, I don’t listen to them often. Yet. :)
    And I always listen to the sample, too!
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  25. Marina says:

    I have text-to-speech on my kindle and i don’t like it. The male voice is monotonous and I can’t connect with his reading. He reads the entire page in one sentence. On the other side, there are many audio dramas on the local radio here where I live and it’s very different. There is one person reading with different voices, I can connect with the characters, so I like it very much.

  26. Jade says:

    I am iffy when it comes to audio books. I have never read one, but feel like I don’t like them already (I do this with foods too, surely I should try them before deciding I don’t like them but hey!). I use my Kindle for commuting short distances, and trust me deciding to get a Kindle was a hard task too. I just have problems with things that aren’t a ‘real’ book. The Kindle won me round, so audio books may get me… Give it time.

  27. Tiffany says:

    It’s funny, I had exactly the same reservations for nearly all the same reasons. The only difference is my returning commute which is actually almost an hour long.

    I had tried an audio book and I didn’t like the reader’s voice. If I recall correctly they were very nasally, like they didn’t take the time to swallow every once in a while.

    When I landed a new job, with a 90 minute commute one way, I gave audio books a second chance. I listened to Melissa Marr’s Graveminder and was pleasantly surprised to find my feelings had changed.

    Additionally, I do think sometimes it’s a mood thing for me, though.

    Happy listening!
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  28. I was the exact same way! I have a bunch of friends that always listen to audiobooks and I just kept thinking not my thing. But I decided I wanted to try something different this year so I chose audiobooks since it would help me get through some of my TBR pile, and I actually enjoyed the few that I listened to. I listen to them at work when I’m doing something monotonous. I’m glad to hear that you got into it as well. Great discussion topic!
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  29. Johannah says:

    I haven’t gotten into them yet because they are more expensive. Like a lot more. I don’t understand why. But until price drops I won’t be buying any.
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    • Vicky says:

      I know and good point! Although I’m quite sure their prices will drop with time. It’s still a fairly new thing so I guess that’s why they’re a bit more expensive.

  30. Mama J says:

    I’ve never tried audio books but then I don’t have any regular long commutes and when I am on a bus, I usually have a child or two with me so I’d never get to hear a word anyway!
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    • Vicky says:

      I’m the same – and they just don’t work if you’re constantly interrupted :( I usually listen to them before bed which seemed to work so far.

  31. […] Vicky @ Books, Biscuits, and Tea wrote a really interesting discussion post on Audio Books that I think you should definitely go have a look at! – Audio Books – Love them or Hate Them? […]

  32. This is a great discussion!

    I never used to like audiobooks, but within the last year the library I work at connected to a state database so that patrons can borrow ebooks and audiobooks. Since then I have grown to love them.

    I agree that it’s a good narrator that makes the difference. I personally love Neil Gaiman’s narrations of his own books. I’ll also try audiobooks of new releases and my favorite authors.

    I usually listen to them before I go to bed. Then the only problem is that sometimes being read to puts me to sleep and then it takes awhile to figure out where I left off the night before.
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  33. sprite says:

    I like audiobooks, but I have a hard time considering them books I’ve read. (This is purely a personal response. I can’t/don’t make judgments about others.) It’s just that I process the story totally differently if I physically read the book vs. listening to someone read it to me.

    So where I really find audiobooks rewarding are, as you found with your class, those situations where I can listen to a book I’ve already read. I find I pick up on different details and things that I’ve glossed over in a print book might suddenly spring forward in an audio version.
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  34. Faye says:

    Coming in late to this discussion because, well, I’m cool like that :P

    I was the same as you before like… the end of 2012! I couldn’t see the point of audiobooks and as I have a hard enough time keeping my attention on a conversation that goes on too long, I wondered how I would ever be able to listen to an audiobook and actually hear everything that happens with it.

    And then I got an audio book; “Unrest by Michelle Harrison” out of the library because I have a 40min walk to work and it seems silly to have such a long time of not reading :P, and I found that I REALLY liked the audiobook. I kicked myself for not doing it earlier as it really grabbed me. There were times when I had to rewind it but aside from that, it really worked.

    But then I tried to listen to “Stolen by Lucy Christopher” and while the story did seem really interesting, I didn’t connect with the narrator so much. I found her voice difficult to listen to and stay captivated by so my mind quickly went wandering off to something else leaving me missing large chunks of the narrative.

    So I think that who you listen to, and what you listen to DOES matter but it is something that I think is very likely to work and I love that it means those with bad sight can still enjoy reading :D

  35. […] One of my favorite blogs to frequent, the author, Vicky shares that audiobooks aren’t her favo… At first she was completely against them, but now they’re “OK.” Personally, I’ve always been a huge fan and highly recommend audio books to anyone! […]

  36. Megan says:

    I started listening to audiobooks because of my long comute to work (around 45 minutes each way). I could never get a seat on the tube in London during rush hour and it’s impossible to read standing up on a packed train with people squashing you on all sides. Listening to audiobooks solved that problem. Though I agree, a good narrator helps too.

  37. Eric says:

    I think you’re right. Great if you’re on the go – especially if you have long commutes. When I was still living in Maine and driving to work I loved listening to an audio book of a literary tour of England – made me really imagine myself there.
    Also, one cf my favorite things to do is walk through the streets of London in the morning listening to an audiobook of V Woolf’s The Waves (which is my favorite novel). There are numerous descriptions of London throughout the book and hearing her words as I walk through the city brings it all alive in an amazing way you don’t get from reading it in quiet solitude.
    I saw Hilary Mantel interviewed once and she was talking about an audio book of Wolf Hall and how she wanted to completely re-write the book to suit an audio recording. Can you imagine?
    So I don’t think audiobooks are good or bad. It’s just a different experience of reading/engaging with literature.
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