Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Audiobook Week Discussion: So You Want to Review Audiobooks…

 
Audiobook Week is hosted by Jen at Devourer of Books.

I didn't start out specifically wanting to review audiobooks, I just started out reviewing books, and it just so happened that some of those happened to be audiobook.  Over time, I began to think more about the audiobook reviews, and in the last year I have actually started labeling those reviews specifically as audiobook reviews rather than just book reviews.

When I review audiobooks, the story is still my primary focus.  Was the book well written, and did I enjoy it.  After that I begin to look at the nuances that make the audiobooks special, narrator, production quality, suitability of material, and anything else that I notice about the recording.

Probably the most important aspect to me about an audiobook is the narrator.  A narrator can make or break an audiobook for me.  There have been times when I have just stopped listening because I couldn't handle the narration.  One read the story as if he were reading a bedtime story.  Since I primarily listen while driving this isn't a good thing.  I want a narrator to relate the story in a way I can enjoy and in a way that doesn't put me to sleep.  Also, sometimes it is a stretch for narrators to do voices of the opposite sex.  You get high falsettos and guys that sound rather girlish from time to time, which can come off as distracting.  A good narrator can do those voices without making them sound funny. One other thing that influences my opinions on narrators is how old they sound.  I read a lot of teen books, and on occasions you get narrators that don't sound convincingly teenaged--sometimes too old, and sometimes too young.     

Production quality is where I look for any obvious flaws.  Did a book have finish one chapter, start in the middle of the next chapter, then go back to the beginning of that same chapter?  Yes, that one has happened to me, and as a librarian it was very frustrating because every patron who checked it out reported to me that disc 4 of the set was damaged.  It wasn't actually damaged, it was a production flaw that the producer failed to fix.  For the most part, these are trivial and something that can sometimes be overlooked if the rest of the audiobook is good.  Sometimes they are huge and can effect the enjoyment of the book.

Suitability of the material can be a bit subjective, but there are books that are just simply better suited to audio.  My favorite audiobook, Jay Asher's Thirteen Reasons Why is one of those that just seems made for audio, and the way the producers did it with two narrators, made the novel seem so real.  On the other hand, sometimes there are books with illustrations, lists, or other misc. material that you need the physical book to get the full effect.  Two of these that come time mind are Westerfeld's Leviathan with its impressive artwork which can help you visualize the ships, and Matson's Amy and Roger's Epic Detour which had playlists, that just don't come across the same when read aloud.  Both these books were good audio, but you lost part of the experience by listening to the material and believe me listening to a narrator read lists can be a bit annoying at times. 

There are many things that I like or dislike about audiobooks, and every day I learn more.  In the end it all comes down to what you like, and what you feel your experience was with that book.  

What is important to you when you listen to an audiobook?

10 comments:

  1. These are great tips, but I have to TOTALLY disagree on the Leviathan audio. The pictures and illustrations are beautiful, but the audio is incredible and ranks among one of my most beloved. Alan Cumming does such a great job with all the different accents and characters. I just looked at the pictures after I was done reading.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the audio for Leviathan--I just think it would have been nice to see the pictures at the same time.

      Delete
  2. I know what you mean about missing some of the illustrations, playlists or pictures with the audiobook experience. I wish that there was a way to include that info with audiobooks somehow. And agreed that Thirteen Reasons Why lends itself perfectly to the audio format.
    Great tips, thanks for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sometimes playlist, or any kind of list comes across weird in audio--I prefer books without those features in my audiobooks. Thanks for dropping by.

      Delete
  3. Oh my gosh, that is a TERRIBLE production flaw! I can't believe that got sold as a finished product!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I even tried reordering hoping that it was a flaw with that batch. I had the same problem with the new ones--then I tried contacting the publisher and was completely ignored. So we ended up returning them all. I was terribly disappointed.

      Delete
  4. Sometimes I think a book would be difficult in audio (because of pictures or other material) and it ends up being fine. I think it makes a big difference how the audio publisher handles it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're right--how they handle does make a difference, but sometimes seeing those pictures can really clear things up for you.

      Delete
  5. The book must have merit first, but after that a good narrator is most important to me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree, I don't just pick anything off the shelf, so I look for something I am interested in. Still a narrator can make it or break it for me. There have been times I have ended up reading the paper book because I didn't like the narrator, but wanted to read the book.

      Delete

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