Audiobooks – Sometimes, I Want to See the Words


I spend, on average, ten hours driving to or from work in a given week. Much of this time is in crawling traffic and it’s frustrating. Then I started listening to audiobooks during my commute, and I’m
thoroughly enjoying my subscription to Audible.com. Often, the audiobook narration is superb and easily pulls me into the story. The books I have bought from audible have all been complete versions – none were abridged, which was a concern I had when I signed up.

Though the stories are complete and well read, there are times when I want to see the words. Sometimes I want to see the sentences. I want to see the punctuation, paragraph breaks and spelling of unusual names.

Maybe this is the writer in me – my love of the language in written form will always win out over other mediums, time notwithstanding.  Simply, I want to learn how this author wrote the work I am enjoying.

This happened most recently while listening to Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, narrated by Wil Wheaton. The story is compelling and fresh, and it could have taken a turn towards conventionalism but didn’t. It’s an incredible book and I highly recommend it to anyone who remembers the 80’s fondly.

As my traffic-laden commute goes, I pass the Barnes and Noble in Southlake, Texas. Around chapter fourteen of Ready Player One, I couldn’t resist a detour to pick up a hard copy of this great novel.

That night, I started reading where I left off in the audio book, and was delighted to see the starwars-original-novelspelling on one of character’s names was ‘Aech.’ The pronunciation was simply ‘H’ and that’s what I heard, even though the phonetic spelling was described. It just felt good, like reading Star Wars (back before the movie released and before it took on the moniker: A New Hope), and seeing the names of C-3PO and R2-D2 spelled out as See-Threepio and Artoo-Deetoo.

It’s hard to describe, and maybe I’m the only one who thinks that sort of thing is cool, but I do. It’s something I can’t get from the movies or audiobook. I have to see the words.

I continued this pattern on listening in the car and in the evening, pick up reading the hard copy where I left off in the audiobook, and vice-versa the next morning. It’s a long book with reasonably short chapters, so this worked well.

Until I have a car that can drive itself so that I can read a book during my commute, audio books are going to be a regular part of my library. But there will be times when I want to see the words in the story I am enjoying, in print form. I don’t think that is going to change.

© 2013, Mitch Lavender

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10 thoughts on “Audiobooks – Sometimes, I Want to See the Words

  1. I really feel for you, having such a long commute. I did that for a few years while I was in college and it was hell. Mind you that was a long time ago now.

    My drive to work for the past 10 years has been a mere five minutes and I feel like it is time better spent reading or writing. lol The one second I know I can’t pick up a paper or type in my phone is the time all of my ideas crash over me.

    So I would definitely agree that it’s the writer in you wanting to see those words with your own eyes. I get it. 🙂

    • Christa, thank you so much for stopping by and commenting. I know what you mean about getting ideas while you are driving. Some of my most creative thinking occurs when I’m stuck behind the wheel. I admit to being one of those guys who talks to himself when he’s the only one in the car, because I want to hear my thoughts out loud if I can’t write them down. It’s helps solidify the concept until I can write it down. Always carry a notepad and pen. Always. 🙂

      ML

    • I haven’t gone back to re-read a chapter that I recently listened to on audio-book, but it’s not a bad idea. As long as I’m immersed in the story and enjoying it, I’m sure I would pick up nuances that I missed in the audio version. I suppose the drawback f doing this is that you buy the book twice: once as audiobook, and again as print or e-book. Still, if it’s a good book, I want to see the words.

      Thank you for stopping by and commenting!

      ML

  2. As you know, I haven’t been able to read in print and absorb the words for a few years now and audiobooks are the best thing ever for me. I would find living without books so terribly dull and having that (for the most part) superb narration tied in with an excellent choice of books (and now new ones are out the same day they’re available in hardback) has been so wonderful. There are even some books that I don’t think I would have enjoyed as much without the wonderful narration. Peter May’s trilogy set on the isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebridees of Scotland springs to mind. I was transported back to my childhood with the narration in a way I’m sure I wouldn’t have been on paper.

  3. I’ve never listened to an audiobook in my life, but having just finished the second book of the triology Katharine has mentioned above, I might try it for the third book.

    Interesting post, Mitch.

    • It’s a different kind of experience, but I’m really enjoying it. Some are narrated better than others, or have varying production values.
      Needful Things was read by the author, Stephen King, and that was great. For some reason in post-production, they dubbed in this jarring music that was just terrible and made it hard to listen to.
      World War Z had different people narrating different parts, and it was extremely well done.

      Audible.com does allow you to listen to a sample, so you can get an idea of the quality of the narration.

      Cheers.

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