by Lesley Smith
Back when I first started, audiobooks came on tape, like ten of them. Now I have at least a hundred sitting on my phone. Let me first explain that I’m visually impaired and so I tend to rely on audiobooks more than your average person. Also, for the purposes of this article, I’m going to be talking about Audible. This is simply because it’s a service I’ve used since 2009 and it’s also one of the largest out there.
First up audiobooks are essentially books on tape except now the very best ones have one narrator playing all the parts. Voice acting used to be really badly done but now, partly thanks to people realising it’s as much an art form as acting in a movie, audiobooks have become their own auditory experience.
The one thing you need to be wary of, regardless of where you buy an audiobook, are the words ‘abridged’ and ‘unabridged’. The practise of chopping out bits of books — abridging them — and is slowly dying out, thankfully, but it sometimes still happens. The important thing to remember is that you should always go for an unabridged title if you want all of the book.
Audible is basically the Amazon of audiobooks (and is now, funnily enough, an Amazon company). You have two options with them; the first just to buy books from their expansive catalogue, the second is a subscription services which gives you a set number of credits per month (the general rule of thumb is 1 book for 1 credit). If you’re a member on a subscription plan you’ll also get a discount on books if you find one you want to buy, plus there are often ‘top up’ credit offers.
Personally I find two credits are plenty per month and you can stockpile them too so when I know a specific title is coming out I’ll either save a credit or put in a pre-order. You can, if you’re so inclined buy up to twenty four credits at once, more than enough for a year’s worth of books. One thing to note is, like Amazon, Audible has different marketplaces for different countries. I use — despite living in the UK — audible.com because it has the largest selection of books that I want to listen too.
Audible, you see, not only produces content but it also acts as a supermarket for specialist audio producers, like Brilliance and the various in-house audio departments of the Big 5. This is fantastic because, when I was a kid, not all books were done in audio, maybe 25% (and that’s being generous and assuming the book was a best-seller) and those which were often found themselves abridged. Even today abridged audiobooks remain the biggest pet peeve.
You can still buy audiobooks on CD (or MP3 CD) if that’s your thing. Take a look at Amazon or iTunes and you’ll find them waiting for download or purchase. The only bad thing is the hefty price tag; audiobooks can sometimes cost triple what the paperback costs.
This is where Audible’s subscription model comes in. Not only can you pre-order a book but it will usually be out the same day as the e-book and print version. Even better, the Audible app for Android and IOS can allow you to stream audio or download books direct to your device. You still have to buy from Audible, of course, but I love being able to access content without having to download to my computer first.
The best audiobooks you can buy
There are, literally, millions of audiobooks to choose from. Audible has the option of a wish list (storying books you want to buy) and a library (storing ones you already purchased). Handily it also has series groups so if I, for example, started listening to Hounded, the first book in the Iron Druid Chronicles, it will link me to the rest of the series. I also tend to listen to certain narrators, in particular Luke Daniels and Mary Robinette Kowel,
So what would I recommend to you?
First off it has to be the — albeit slightly abridged — movie-tie in version of World War Z. This has a full-cast recording and some a-list names as well. The book is one of my favourites, in any format, but the audiobook, recorded as a series of memoirs, really gives me the shivers.
Next is a horror series by Mira Grant, called the Newsflesh Trilogy. This recording is not only top-notch but they also have male and female narrators to reflect the gender of who’s talking (this gets important later on).
If you like fantasy then there’s a massive selection, from the Dresden Files to Merry Gentry and the Toby Daye series. If you like history with a supernatural twist, try the Numinous World and Order of the Air books. The one book everyone needs to download, just for kicks and awesomeness, however is Go the F**k to Sleep just because it’s narrated by one Samuel L. Jackson!
There’s plenty to choose from and audiobooks aren’t just things listened to by blind people (though we remain hardcore users) rather they make a nice change to reading on the bus or working out at the gym. Even better Audible now syncs with Kindle so you can read a single book across multiple platforms and devices without losing your place. I know quite a few writers who are now hooked on listening to books as it allows them to read but also do other things at the same time.
In a former life, Lesley Smith was a freelance journalist, but now writes fiction full time. Her debut novel, The Changing of the Sun, is due out this summer. Lesley’s hobbies include baking, archery and binge-watching box sets. She lives in a quaint Norfolk market town with an ever-growing number of cats and her guide dog, Unis. You can find her at:
Note from Sue
Many indie authors are also having audio editions of their books made. Personally, I have ebooks out for my Mindjack and Debt Collector series, with more on the way. And if you download the ebook, you can get a substantial discount on the audiobook price. For free ebooks, like Open Minds, this is a no-brainer, but even if the ebook isn’t free, the price of the ebook and reduced audiobook is usually less than the regularly priced audiobook.