Copyright by Shutterstock
Technically speaking an audiobook isn't a book, at least not when you define a book as that think with pages. Yet on second look the audiobook is a thing that takes you back to the roots of all narration - the oral tradition of telling stories. While oral literature is something we imagine our fore-fore-fooore-fathers to have practiced sitting around an open fire, it is also something many avid readers love to enjoy today. Maybe this is the right moment to confess that apart from my childhood I never tried myself on audiobooks. As a kid I loved listening to fairy tales of Enid Blyton on tape of record (I guess we've moved on from those ancient times as well), but as an adult I never tried out whether audiobooks still have the same appeal for me.
Basically an audiobook is a recording of a text being read. It is not necessarily an exact audio version of a book and you'll often find abridged versions of books in this format. Apart from the nostalgia setting in when I think of my fairy tale tapes, today audiobooks are usually distributed on CDs or as downloadable digital format.
What makes people rather listen to audiobooks than read the actual book then? Well, apart from some people simply preferring to listen instead of reading, there are in fact several reasons why audiobooks are a great invention. For starters they may be used to teach children to read and to increase reading comprehension, but they are also useful for the blind or people with poor eyesight who often find reading small print very strenuous. So it's no big surprise to learn that the idea of audiobooks originated in 1931 with the advent of the Books for the Adult Blind Project aimed at helping the blind adults.
Producing an audiobook obviously involves one or more narrators, and that is (at least to me) where problems start to build. The voice on a recording is obviously different from the voice you hear inside your head when you read a book yourself, thus simply may not work for you, be it because of the voice being too cheerful/whiny/etc or to fast/slow. On the other hand, for some, a dialog or a conversation in a book can be better comprehended in the audio format due to the voice modulations and other vocal cues. And as helpful they may be for reading comprehension, one might argue that audiobooks do not encourage children to read but instead provide an easy alternative for reading.
What are your thoughts on audiobooks? Upsides? Downsides? Feel free to share!