The Impact of Audio

Posted January 11, 2017 / Discussions, Features / 26 Comments


This post is one of three in the Impact of Book Format series I’m starting on the blog. You’ll see how I feel about ebooks, physical books, and audiobooks over the course of three Wednesdays.

As someone who almost always has an audiobook going for the commute, getting ready in the morning, and driving anywhere, I’ve become pretty well-versed in them. I know what I like and don’t like from narrators. I know the best genres to listen to via audio… and the ones that will quickly confuse me or lose my attention. I’ve been perfecting my audiobook listening over the past year or so, after getting off to a rougher start. I shared my experience in a guest post at one point and have wanted to give somewhat of an update with this post too.


Reading ALL the time

The thing I love most about audiobooks is the fact that you can literally listen whenever you want, as long as the task isn’t too distracting. If I lived alone (aka if my boyfriend wasn’t talking to me all the time) I would definitely listen to them 100% of the time I was doing chores around the house. You can listen when you cook, clean, do laundry, drive, get ready for work, take a shower… the list goes on. I even plan to casually reread a few (hopefully) this year while I’m at work, just to refresh my memory during some meaningless tasks I have to complete. For example, I print resumes at work and attach them into our database. It barely requires reading anything or thinking, so it’ll be easy to listen to a book during that time. Regardless of which tasks you choose to read during, you can always have an audiobook going if you wanted!

Rereading books without taking up reading time

I want to reread all the books AND read all the new books, but there is totally not enough time for both. I feel better about “using my time” on a reread when I’m listening to an audiobook. Don’t get me wrong – I do listen to audiobooks for books I haven’t read before, but there’s something nice about listening to an audiobook of a book you’ve already read. I feel like I’m reserving my actual sit-down-and-read time for new stories.

Favorite narrators give me new books to try out

I know Brittany loves Macleod Andrews as an audiobook narrator because I’m a creepy friend and she has listened to books just because he was the narrator. The book may not have been on her radar at all, but because he narrated it, she listened. I’ve done the same thing before too. (Check out my list of favorite audiobook narrators!) I loved listening to books by Julie Whalen, Katherine Kellgren, Jim Dale (be still my heart), Tim Curry, and Amy Rubinate… among others of course! I know that if their name is on the audiobook, I will definitely push the book up on my TBR. I specifically read The Night Circus to finish off 2016 just because of Jim Dale narrating it. New books end up on my TBR just because of the narrators. I love that!


Bad narrators can ruin the entire book

I can try to separate a bad narrator from the story, but it’s HARD. Sometimes the feelings just end up spilling over without my consent. If there’s a narrator I’m not liking, I start to dislike the story or book itself. I know this has happened on multiple occasions for me. The biggest example is When by Victoria Laurie. I just couldn’t stand the slowness (and speeding up the audio made her voice sound worse). Her voice and the speed made me really dislike the story more than I already did. Along those same lines, I’ve heard narrators whose voices just don’t match the characters. In Losing It by Cora Carmack, the narrator sounded SO young. It was weird and jarring to hear that in a story about losing your virginity. It’s a personal choice when you decide to lose it, but I didn’t like hearing such a young-sounding narrator. It felt icky.

Feels like there’s less action

I don’t know how or why this happens, but I always feel like there’s less action in books when I listen to them. I think because it’s a big difference from when I’m physically reading them. I can see myself turning the pages faster and getting addicted, just as the action and climax start happening in the story. When I’m listening to the story instead, I can’t FEEL the tension as much. I’m not sure how to describe it, but I know this happens to me. I get to my review and I write “not a lot happened in this one” even though I know that’s not possible.

Getting sidetracked and losing focus

This is, for me, the biggest issue with audiobooks. My mind wanders. I’m a fairly stressed person on a regular basis and can feel my brain going in tons of different directions. This happens a lot when listening an audiobook. You can zone out just fine when you’re listening to music because you’re not missing much. With a book, even missing a few minutes can confuse you. I hope to get better with this in the future but I really have no idea how. The biggest thing is to just focus in on it and let yourself get into the story. I think if I’m feeling bored-ish, I just zone out. I need to quit!

Overall, clearly I really enjoy audiobooks… or I wouldn’t listen to multiple of them each month! The benefits definitely outweigh the disadvantages. Listening to a book via audio can enhance the story with a great narrator, but it can be ruined just as easily by one. Focusing in and treating it like you’re physically reading is the only way to be sure you don’t lose focus. Multi-task all the way to your Goodreads goal, friends!

26 responses to “The Impact of Audio

  1. I love audiobooks. I’m lucky that I’m able to listen while I’m at work, so I do a lot of my reading this way. I definetly agree about narrators giving you new books to try out, I’ve done this a few times, but I do also sometimes have to skip back if I get distracted.

  2. I love this post! I completely agree with everything you said. I have the same thoughts on re-reading, and I also listened to The Night Circus because it is narrated by Jim Dale – he’s the best! What you said about the action makes complete sense, and I think it’s because the narrator doesn’t start reading faster when things get more exciting. When you’re reading a book yourself and the action picks up, you often read faster and skim the details or only read the dialog, but the narrator still reads EVERY WORD, and so it can seem slower. I hear you. Great post!

    • He is THE BEST. I love his voice so much.

      That’s a good point – my own reading speed picks up in action-packed scenes, but there’s no way of listening to an audiobook narrator faster (aside from the speed, but it’s more of a tension thing instead of literal speed thing?).

  3. My co-worker and I were literally just talking about audiobooks. I’ve never listened to one because I’m afraid of losing focus and missing something important. She said for her, there are certain types of books (i.e. lighter reads) that are better for audio, and that she often rereads books by listening to them. I think rereading is something I could do by audio, since it wouldn’t matter as much if I spaced out and missed something!

    • There are definitely certain books that are better for audio listening! For some reason I like to do fantasy audiobooks because I know I HAVE to pay attention to get it all. And reading fantasy books can make my mind wander somehow. I would start rereading by audio and see what you think!

  4. I used to listen to quite a bit of audiobooks on my commute to school, and I mostly stuck to contemporary because with fantasy I used to lose focus all the time. I agree that a bad narrator can ruin the whole book. I bought the audiobook for JLA’s Titan book and omg, the narration was so bad, I DNFed it AND I still haven’t picked up the book either because now that creepy pervy voice is stuck in my head …
    I love Julia Whelan the best as a narrator! She is fantastic for YA and her voice always draws my attention. Narrators have definitely gotten better now according to Nereyda so there aren’t as many bad narrations.
    I need to get back to audiobooks …

  5. I love you, creepy friend! hahaha. But really, I agree with this whole post! I hate when bad narrators ruin a good book. I’ve pushed through a few but it totally did impact what otherwise might have been a five star book. Others I can tell it’s not going to work and stop before they can ruin it haha. I actually feel like I remember MORE with audio sometimes because I have tone of voice and things like that to remember instead of me just reading it. I do agree that action can kind of fall out of an audiobook though, although it does stop my eyes from trying to skip to the good parts haha!!

  6. Great post! I really like listening to audiobooks while I walk to class or clean my apartment, and they’re especially great for travel (audiobooks have saved my life on many a long-haul flight when insomnia struck). I primarily use them for rereads, because I tend to zone out and miss details since I like to multitask while listening. That can make it hard to get invested in a new story. But like you mentioned, they’re great for guilt-free rereads!

  7. Yes!! I love audio and have recently started to use them as a way to reread. A good narrator can so make a book but you are right the wrong one can tank it too. I do find myself losing focus sometimes but I just go back and relisten. The pros definitely outweigh the cons for me. Great post!

  8. I always listen to an audiobook in the car now. 🙂 I have yet to try it while doing things around the house, but I should on my big cleaning days. Narrators do make all the difference! Next time I shall try one of your favorites.

  9. The fact that I can still ‘read’ while not using my limited actual reading time is a huge bonus. Plus, great narrators can definitely bring a book to life. Sadly, a bad narrator can ruin a very good book. I refuse to read anything by Justine Eyre because she sounds lie shes always horny and it’s disturbing!

    I <3 Audiobooks

    Nereyda│ Nick & Nereyda’s Infinite Booklist

  10. Yes, yes, YES! This post is 100% spot on. I LOVE audiobooks; I practically inhale them, especially since I drive 45 mins to work in the morning (and up to 2 hours to get home if I get the timing bad). And yeah, when I was single, I basically listened to a book a day, just keeping it on while I was doing chores, getting ready, playing with the cat, etc. Now that I’m married and have a kid, I get slightly less time for that kind of stuff (big shock there!)

    It is true though that the narrator can completely kill the book. There are books that I don’t like to this day because I tried them in audio and didn’t like the narrator. But the good narrators add SO much to the book that it’s worth the risk of trying new ones!

  11. I’m jealous that you’ve had such success with audio books! I run into a LOT of the issues you mention above, from losing focus (SO OFTEN, it’s like when I listen to audio books my attention span for some reason turns into that of a gnats) to being really turned off by certain narrators (especially when they try to do super caraicature-esque voices…it just makes me cringe!)

  12. It’s really fascinating to see your updated feelings towards audiobooks, Lauren! I’m personally the type of gal to use audiobooks to reread old favorites (or books in series), and I don’t generally listen to new books on audio. That’s more a personal preference for sure!

  13. I love audio books. I love with great narrators. It sucks when a book would be good, but a narrator is terrible. I usually stop and try to grab a physical copy of the book if I think it’s worth trying in that format. It su ks when you distracted and have no idea what just happened in the book. lol

    I love listening during long drives to visit family (like this coming weekend) and when I’m cutting grass using the riding mower (makes the time go by faster and we have a HUGE lawn).

    Great post!

  14. I am SO with you on these, especially reading all the time, not wanting to “waste” reading time on rereads (it’s super easy to reread and jump back in a world with audio!), and DEFINITELY on the bad narrators. I felt the exact same way about the narrator in Losing It. She’s a college student, for heaven’s sake! She shouldn’t sound like a little girl!

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