Buying Audiofiction


I thought I might do a post all about my love of audiofiction and how to buy it, since the culture and world of audiobooks is so very different from the print and electronic ones.

My love of audiofiction all started in 2007 when I received my first mini mp3 player. I was living in France at the time and had a real hardship finding English-language books at my local bookstores.  This was before the e-book, so the only real access I had was through  I bought a Gold membership, and in exchange for a monthly fee of $20 or so, I could download two audiobooks per month no matter their list price.  I soon latched onto the idea of listening to an audiobook while cleaning my apartment, making dinner, or doing other chores.  I lived alone (and had no TV) and so it staved off both boredom and loneliness.

When I returned to The States, I kept up the audiofiction habit, instead listening to audiobooks by downloading them from my library account as well as Audible while I worked my (mindless) data-entry job.

Now, years later, I have the minimal membership, and I use them as bedtime stories to help with my insomnia. For $10 a year, I have access to Audible’s membership prices on its books, and I receive their e-mail newsletter notifying me for any and all sales.  For example, my latest purchase was the epic fantasy Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss which I bought for about $8 (off the list price of $32 ), totaling 40+ hours of entertainment for less than the price of the paperback ($12).

I should mention here that the normal prices for your average-length audiobook are between $10 and $25, and books generally range between 7 and 16 hours in length.

From this, what are some of the advantages to audiofiction?  The main advantage is that you don’t have to be connected to the story in order to have an adventure. Your hands and eyes can be engaged elsewhere.  Audiobooks are great for artists. They’re great for insomniacs like me and people with tedious jobs. They’re great to listen to while you do chores around the house.  They’re amazing for long car drives.

Think you have no time to read? Guess again.

Another advantage is the narrator. As they say, a great narrator can make a mediocre story amazing, and I’ve found this to be absolutely true. A good narrator can bring all the characters to life in ways the actors in your head perhaps couldn’t and really make you laugh out loud at the funny bits.

The disadvantages are also tied up in the advantages.  A different part of your brain has to be engaged to receive the story than normal.  For example, if you’re a writer, you can’t “listen to an audiobook while you work” on writing.  Otherwise, you have to actively listen to what’s going on around you, though that part of your brain can be trained, especially if the story is interesting. And like an e-book, it’s hard to flip back a few chapters to “check something real fast”, though you can skip backwards by 30 second intervals and browse by chapter.

There is one more thing that you should be aware of. Anything that makes you uncomfortable, whether it be salacious smooching or gory death sequences will be, well, rather prolonged in an audio version. Your ears can’t skip into the future the way your eyes can across the page. There’s no skimming.  Same goes for pacing. If you hate “reading” descriptions, the narrator is going to present them to you whether you like them or not.  (Though you may find descriptions are not so boring when a talented narrator does it, at least.)

Now that you know a little more about audiobooks, here are the rules you must know to buy one.  These may or may not sound like common sense, but I’ve seen a lot of people new to audiobooks make these mistakes, so I’m going to spell them out here.

There are only two rules to buying audiofiction.

1. Always always “preview” the audiobook. Listen to a sample. Do it. If you don’t, you might regret it forever.

No two narrators are created equal. Some narrators will annoy you to no end, and if you don’t like the narrator, you will not be able to finish listening to the book, no matter how well written it is, no matter if it happens to be your favorite book on the planet.

I am dead serious.

Don’t just listen to a few seconds, either. Listen to a few minutes. See how well they can act the various parts.  Do they sound annoyed when the dialogue tag says they should have sounded clueless?  How well can they voice the opposite gender? What’s their distinction between narrator and character voices?

Every “listener” has different tastes. Decide what you like and what you don’t and then listen for that in the preview or sample recording.  And remember, if you don’t like the narrator but still want to read the book, you have plenty of options. 😉

(Also, be aware that classic fiction–basically any book in the public domain–may have multiple narrators to choose from.  Sample a few and pick your favorite.)

2. Remember that audiobooks can be expensive at list price and you can’t resell them.

Check out what your local library’s website has to offer, take advantage of sales, and remember that otherwise this “book” is nonreturnable and nonrefundable.  There is no “used mp3 store” where you can sell a book if you don’t like it. Purchases on a whim are probably not a good idea in the audio department.  Then again, you can’t return or resell e-books, either.

Good luck!



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