I get audiobooks. I do. It's a fun experience. Having a professional performer read a story to you is an interesting way to experience it. As an adaptation, it's just as valid as seeing a film or a stage play.
But it isn't reading the book.
Hell, Darwyn Cooke is an amazing comic book talent, and his second PARKER adaptation, THE OUTFIT, is coming out next month. Reading it will be a wonderful experience. It will be the chance to see an artist and craftsman take Stark's story and find a new way to tell it. A blending of the words with fresh images, with an exciting colour palette, and with the illusion of movement between panels that only the best can produce.
But it isn't reading the book.
I'm sure there's some deep part of us that misses the times when we could lay in bed at night and have someone read a story to us, or the times we sat around a campfire as someone trued to thrill or scare us with their words. Verbal storytelling is one of the oldest traditions we have and, as pretentious as it sounds, I'm sure audiobooks tap into that in some small way.
But it isn't....well you get the idea.
Reading the book is having a relationship with the words on the page. With the look, feel and smell of the book in your hands, or these days with the glow of the e-reader. It's not just about the story that the writer wants to tell, it's about how it's done. How are the words arranged on the page? How short are the sentences? Do they look like some strange work of art when you stare at them.
We may never put our finger on what, exactly, a writers voice is, but part of it is formed in that strange alchemy of arranging words in a particular way on a blank page. Having a good idea is not the same as being a good storyteller, but this doesn't come across in audiobooks because you're not reading the book. You're listening to someone else read it to you. Their voice is getting in the way, their tone and mannerisms are filtering the words. Sure, the books original author can narrate the audiobook, and that's as close as you can get. But it's still only close. Its still a totally different experience. How many times have you attended an authors reading, heard the way they read the words, and found that it doesn't match the way the words flowed in your head?
We each form our on bond with those words on the page. It's why reading is so much fun, it's a truly personal thing. A roomful of people can sit and read the same text but have totally different experiences.
I've had many recent conversations with people who talk to me about books that they've read, only to find out that they've not read the book. They've listened to a version of it. It's like watching the film adaptation of THE PRINCESS BRIDE and then having an opinion on the book. Inconceivable.
My favourite audiobook of all time might actually be THE PRINCESS BRIDE. An old cassette version, narrated with great humour by Rob Reiner. It was the good parts of the 'good parts version,' and I wore that tape out in my teenage years. In fact, I think I listened to that before ever reading the book. And i'd watched the film before listening to the audio. Each one was a different experience, but only the book was the really personal one.
I understand the time argument. I do. People listen to audiobooks in their daily commute, or at the gym, or on a long holiday drive across country. It's a chance to enjoy the story whilst doing something else, and it can be very easy, very tempting, to begin relying on that for your 'reading.' Except that it's not reading.
Nobody said it would be easy. We get older, we gather people, and jobs, and hobbies and chores. What we find is that time becomes reeeeeeally important. But do the book a favour; make the time. Find the personal bond with the words on the page.
Recently I bought a bike so that I could cycle the six mile round trip to work each day. It would get me fit in a hurry, and that's important to me. But i'm not willing to give up that twenty minutes on the bus when I can sit and read. At my day job I don't have access to my books. And when i'm at home i'm working on my writing, or a website, or a podcast, or living my life. Those two bus trips each day are when I make the time.
Not everyone can take the bus. Not everyone can make time the same way. But if you take one thing from my many angry rants in this here interworld, make it this. Make the time, somehow.
I preach it at the day job, and not always to great success. I'm sure many of you have had the same conversation, sat with someone telling you that they spent two hours looking for something to watch on the telly, but looking at you strange if you suggest turning the damn thing off and picking up a book.
A film might leave you cold, but the book might get you hot in a hurry. You might love an audiobook, but then find you hate the book. On the other hand, you might listen to a story being narrated and find it dull or lifeless, but then find that the page somehow makes the same story take off. It's one of the best magic tricks around.
Anyone with me? Anyone else want to go and tell a few people in their lives to make the time?
And how do you do it? What little sacrifices do you make in order to sit and read? What tips and cheats do you have for anyone out there struggling with the same problem?