I was planning a dreaded 36-hour car ride from Ontario to Nova Scotia, with many stops in between, and I was desperately trying to find ways to pass the time. The problem was that I get car sick and I knew I wouldn't be able to read, write, or watch movies during the ride. Then it occurred to me, why not try an audio book? Plus I hadn't yet started my book club book, so an audio book would help me stay on top of my reading. However, I soon learned that listening to the audio book, all 14 hours of it, wasn't exactly what I had bargained for...
The night before my departure, I logged on to my iTunes account and for the first time clicked on the iBooks option. I already knew which book I wanted to buy, The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown, and I easily found it in the new release section. But when the page came up, I was shocked to see a price of $29.95. How come so much? It's a digital file after all, and I'd assumed it would be priced similarly to an ebook. I began surfing around for other titles but soon realized that the average price of audio books was around $30, with larger books, like Dan Brown's Inferno, going for $42! That was a lot of money to pay for one book and I wondered again why so much? Then I flashbacked to my songwriting days and imagined the extra expense of actually producing an audio book. The publisher would have to hire someone, perhaps even a celebrity voice, to read for hours and hours until all 85,000 words had been perfectly spoken into the microphone, then pay a studio technician to record all of it and edit the takes into one seamless audio file.
So, with a sigh, I finally clicked the 'buy' button and told myself that this was the cost of travelling across half the country by car.
Audio books make you sleepy (in cars)
Soon I was on the road with my husband, in our comfy Ford Focus, chatting and listening to music. A few hours later, with still many more hours to go, I decided to start my audio book. I was pleasantly surprised when the first chapter opened with a grand orchestral piece as the narrator introduced the book. His voice was interesting, familiar, with a nice steady timbre. I leaned back and exerted no more effort than simply listening to him tell me a story. And then I fell asleep. I woke two chapters later to a strange man speaking into my ears and it startled me, until I realized it was just my narrator and that he was a very nice man. After that, I spent a good 15 minutes figuring out how to rewind within a chapter on my tiny Nano iPod screen, to find the last place I remembered hearing the story. And this entire scenario continued to repeat itself many more times throughout the course of the trip.
Okay, I get it now
After hours of driving and many, many kilometres later, I finally started to get it. To understand the rhythm of an audio book. It really was a way to 'experience' the story. To have an interaction much different than reading the words directly from a page in a book. A friend told me that she likes listening to audio books of stories that she's already read because she learns new things about the characters and thinks of them differently based on the way in which the narrator tells the story, whether through a raised voice, an accent, or a simple pause. An audio book is like an adult bedtime story. It's a nice way to let go and just follow the silky smooth voice as it leads you along the threads of a sticky spider web, slowly wrapping you up in the story.
In the end, audio books get a thumbs up from me and I know I will buy more in the future...if only the price could come down a little bit! To ease yourself into it, you could sign up for an Audible account (an Amazon company) where they give you your first audio book for free.
Stacey D. Atkinson is preparing to launch her debut novel Stuck, due for release under the indie company Mirror Image Publishing.