Did I Manage to Swap Books for Audio?
One month ago The Duchess challenged me to exchange my beloved paperbacks for headphones (this is how I felt about it at the time). I was about to leave for my kid-free holiday with my husband. All I could think about was those glorious minutes, hours and days ready and waiting for us – just me and my man, a sun-drenched beach and nothing but the sound of lapping waves and the slurp of my Mojito to replace the usual whines and battle cries of our two kids (who were now safely ensconced at their grandmother’s house). Could listening to a story, an Audio Book, be as relaxing as reading one in utter sacred silence?
I was about to find out…
My first step was downloading the App. Audible is part of Amazon and it was easy peasy. I had to delete a few useless things off my mobile phone first – the App is pretty large, and because I have a shitty phone with only 4 wassanames of memory – but as soon as I remembered my password for my Amazon account I was good to go.
Next was the fun bit, getting to choose my totally FREE book which I would get to enjoy hands free. I was really looking forward to the multitasking possibilities that were before me with my audio book. I could cook – and ‘read’! Ride a bike – and ‘read’! Drive – and ‘read’! Have sex and… maybe not.
Since I had seen that the coolest girl on the planet, Cara Delevingne, was going to be in John (the coolest of Young Adult Fiction writers) Green’s novel adaptation of Paper Towns I just HAD to read the book. I don’t like to watch a film without having read the book first as I find that creating people, places and scenarios in my head is so much better than having been spoon-fed the visuals in advance – so I was over the moon to see Paper Towns was on the Audible play list. My choice was made… yay… except I hadn’t bargained on what was to come.
Making sure I liked the voice reading it.
It had never occurred to me before, but every book I have ever read has been narrated by my own internal voice. A voice I listen to every day. And when I imagine the voices of characters in a book that I am reading, their accents or idiosyncratic lilts are but a figment of my imagination. But now, now I would have to listen to someone else read it out to me, in their own way… and that was going to be weird.
There are voices I could listen to forever – Stephen Fry, Joanna Lumley, Matthew McConaughey (no, I don’t know why either… I’m normally too busy staring at his beautiful arms) – but unfortunately, one voice I couldn’t spend more than two minutes listening to was the over-strangulated sinusy voice of the American guy that had been chosen to read Paper Towns on Audible.
And it pissed me off.
You know when you accidentally click on an online ad and there’s a pop up window trying to convince you to join a pyramid scheme or take out a loan, and the whiny voice doesn’t stop boring into your skull until you find that little window and close it? That’s what the chosen narrator, for what I knew was going to be an amazing novel, sounded like. How the hell was I going to enjoy the talent that is John Green when read out to me by this chump?
Maybe Audio Books should be like a play, with each character having their own voice and a neutral person reading out the direction? Like a movie that you add the pictures to, or a radio play? But as soon as I clicked on the ‘demo’ button (thank god they let you test each book first) and sat through this man’s monotonous voice chewing on each word and spitting it out in a phlegmy guttural spitty mess, I resigned to the fact that I would have to choose a different book.
And I wasn’t happy. Had I just bought the book, a paper version, I’d have been on Chapter 2 by now without such a bloody palaver…
Then I remembered Marian Keyes and her new book ‘The Woman Who Stole My Life‘. Yes!! That was also on my summer reading list and this one came with the melodious hypnotic sounds of a young Irish girl doing the reading. I could cope with that, I tend to read Keyes’ books in an Irish accent anyway and this woman (although worried she may send me to sleep with her soothing tones) was rather nice to listen to.
So headphones at the ready (I opted for the retro big padded ones, even though I was hot and they made my ears sweaty, because the little hard bullet ones hurt my delicate little ear’oles) and mobile phone fully charged, I was off.
And it was pleasant. I could could lay in the sun and have a mini doze and listen; walk around the beach and still listen; even idly flick through the photos in a gossip magazine and still listen. But I’m not a listening type of person. As a writer I actually enjoy watching how the author has formed the words on the page, I like to spot alliteration and sentence structures and I like to go back and forth to recap or re-read another page. You can rewind an Audio Book, of course, but it’s not quite the same.
The great thing though is that you can really zoom through a book in record time. I could see myself listening in the car on long journeys, enjoying books like Harry Potter or Roald Dahl favourites with the kids when stuck in holiday traffic, or simply filling up the monotony of my mummy chores (sewing, ironing, stacking the dishwasher) while enjoying a good book. It was a revelation.
But like all good things, it came to an end. A very wet one. On the last day of our holidays, after successfully having been able to ignore my husband all week with my nifty headphones firmly in place, I joined him on the sun lounger on a little jetty with the Mediterranean turquoise waters lapping gently below us.
“I’m just going to go back to the hotel to grab some sun cream,” I said, as I unplugged my phone and ‘book’ from my ears and placed them in my bag. I then absentmindedly reached for my sarong (where my mobile phone lay), pulled it out of my bag and… plop! My phone, and of course my Audio Book, went for a refreshing swim. I have never jumped into the sea so fast but it was too late. My phone was ruined and so was the ending of my wonderful book, whose outcome I will never know. I presume it was a happily ever after, which is more than could be said for my Android.
And I couldn’t help thinking, had that been a paper book it would have dried off in the sun while I finished my Mojito and olives and I could have still managed to find out what happened on those last three crinkly pages.
So did I stick with Amazon Audible and pay my (pretty reasonable) monthly membership for my audio books? Yes I did. Okay, so the first month I actually forgot to cancel, but after that I downloaded another book and another and I got pretty hooked. I’m now whizzing through my Book Bucket List AND managing to do boring stuff while enjoying myself. So The Duchess, you converted me… I owe you a Gin Cocktail.
Plus spending my days with headphones on means I can no longer hear my kids arguing or my husband moaning – an added bonus Audible forgot to mention. Happy days!