As I now mainly listen to audio books and occasionally read eBooks, I was interested to know how sighted people feel about the different media; a small straw poll brought the almost overwhelming preference for print, with some people taking quite a strong moral stand against audio and ebooks. However, even for those who do not find print difficult or impossible, the new technologies definitely give a wider choice. I will be writing a further blog post on this but first of all wanted to post my friend Nicola’s great email reply in full.
“I read much more than I listen. I find audio books are great if I have jobs to do such as decorating or gardening which are time-consuming and physical but not mentally challenging. Listening to a book as I work makes the time go much faster and I stay on task for much longer as I am not bored! I particularly like murder mysteries to listen to. Ironing, however, cannot be redeemed even by a good book. I sometimes listen when I am cooking but, depending on the intricacy of the recipe, this can have a detrimental effect on the end result! I have occasionally missed out an ingredient when distracted by a particularly enthralling chapter!
I don’t think I absorb information as well when listening as when reading. I get confused if there are a lot of characters or places in an audio book and get a bit annoyed that I can’t easily ‘flip’ back to check, when I’m thinking, “who is this?”. I also find that characters ‘sound’ much more varied in my head when reading than a narrator can make them. The other thing that I don’t like about audio is a narrator ‘voicing’ different characters in a way that I find irritating, for example, a male narrator doing a falsetto impression when reading a female character’s dialogue. I find it hard to empathise with the trials and tribulations of a heroine who sounds like a demented Barry Gibb! I prefer audio books read by several narrators when there is a lot of spoken conversation. I particularly enjoyed “Billy Elliot”, which is told from various people’s points of view. Having said that, most narrators I have listened to have been good and sometimes have enhanced my enjoyment of a story through their interpretation.
I haven’t tried listening to a book I have previously read. I’m not sure I would like hearing the characters sounding different to the way I had imagined them, in the same way films are spoilt sometimes, for me, if the actors look very different to my image of the character from the book.
I am more likely to give up on an audio book than a paper one. Even if I’m not enjoying a book I will often read to the end, but have stopped listening to several audio books after a few chapters, possibly because it takes so much longer to listen to a book than it does to read it. Also, if, as has happened, I’m simply not in the mood for the style or content of an audio book, I’m much less likely to return to it another time, than I am to retry reading a book.
I prefer to read, paper or e-books. I haven’t yet experienced getting completely ‘lost’ in an audio book, in the way I often do when reading, but maybe I just haven’t listened to the right books!”
Incidentally, in a later email Nicola conceded that audio books can be a good accessory to a long, hot bath!
I hope this will prompt readers of this blog to comment on her views and to give some examples of your experience, whether you are sighted or VI. For one thing, I disagree with Nicola about ironing! I find it very satisfying to listen to a page-turning story while a mound of ironed clothes gradually accumulates.
Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng. Interesting approach to racism in a small American town. Well written and thoughtful. Not for me though.
In Chancery (2nd novel of the Forsyte Saga) by John Galsworthy narrated by David Case. This is part of a joint reading project and I will review it later. Interesting comparing listening with reading with the other participants. Full of humour, insight and a certain amount of dated mawkishness. It takes a really good narrator to get the balance right and David Case does it.
The Theory of Everything the biopic of Stephen Hawking. Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones and rest of the cast act their socks off. Excellent.
Testament of Youth, taken from Vera Brittains’s autobiography of the same name, , Directed by James Kent with a star-studded cast led by Alicia Vikander and Kit Harrington. Vera Brittain is a great heroine of mine and I enjoyed this movie.