So far, my audiobook experience has been very limited. Every time I endeavour to listen to one I tend to struggle to concentrate on the words being spoken and instead find myself thinking about something entirely unrelated and missing everything that has just been said. However, after signing up for a free trial of Scribd, I decided I would be determined to listen to at least one. My choice was Ray Bradbury’s 1953 dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451. I have wanted to read this book for a while, so I thought it would be a good place to start.
As I began listening, I found the easiest way to make sure I was concentrating on the voice was to keep my hands occupied. I therefore listened to it while creating my latest cross stitch.
It began well. I understood everything that was happening and found it relatively easy to keep up with the plot. However, my next obstacle, as I would find out, would be interruption. A book is relatively easy to pick up and put down and if someone interrupts you, it does not take your eyes long to find the place you left off and continue reading. When someone interrupted my audiobook listening on the other hand, things did not go so smoothly. I would have to pause the audiobook, sometimes in the middle of a word, and once I could play it again, found myself momentarily disorientated while I tried to remember where I was in the plot. This was only a minor inconvenience, but the cynical devil of my shoulder couldn’t help but add it to this list of why paperbacks are my preference.
Another problem I encountered would be trying to listen it before I went to sleep. I often enjoy reading a book before I go to bed; not only does it make my eyes tired and allow me to drift off easily, but I enjoy how my dreams are often filled with distorted fictitious fantasies, loosely based on what I have been reading. However, when I put my headphones in at night, my eyes had nothing to do, so as a consequence when I closed them, I automatically found that there was no way my mind could concentrate on what was being said. I began to drift off easily thanks to the monotonous rhythm of the narrator’s voice and once awake again in the morning, found that I had not digested any of the story. I then had to rewind to find the place in the book and listen to that section all over again the next day.
Audiobooks, in my opinion, just miss the eloquence of the written word. Words are meant to be seen, their beauty is encompassed in their composition on the page, something that just cannot be substituted with a voice. Plus, I am more likely to enjoy a novel if it has – what I call – quotability. What I mean is there are quotes in the story which I would want to write down and remember. But when listening to Fahrenheit 451, I missed these quotes, which, while I’m sure were present, passed me by because I could not see them with my own eyes.
To conclude, while I see the appeal of audiobooks, and could understand anyone who chose to listen to them, paperbacks will always have my heart. Maybe it’s because I’m old-fashioned when it comes to literature, as I’ve already expressed in my reluctance to embrace Kindles, or maybe it’s just that I need to find the right environment to properly enjoy an audiobook. Either way, for now, my tatty novels will do just fine.