I recently got home from a long trip in the states! My friends and I took a lot of great long road trips while I was there, and since we were spending so much time behind the wheel, we decided to grab an audiobook from Audible. I suggested that we listen to a book I’d been trying to get them to read: Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger. Between hours of wonderfully charming fantasy of manners, we talked a bit about audiobooks.
I love them. A good audiobook is something totally magical. But despite my affection for them, I generally avoid listening to something that I haven’t already read. And I really put my finger on why when we were chatting about it. To me, audiobooks are a form of adaptation.
Writing and reading are so amazing! It’s one of the forms of media out there where the creator has the least amount of influence over what the audience actually “sees.” While a director can control everything in a frame, we writers are more evoking than anything else. Good writing leaves a lot of blank spaces for the reader’s imagination to flow in and fill. Badgering a reader with too much information makes reading exhausting. You can’t micromanage your audience.
Audiobooks are so fun because they remove a layer of that. A reader gets to bring a level of personality and life to the text that isn’t there in its raw form. I’ve adored some characters in audiobooks who I never paid much attention to in the print version, while at the same time being underwhelmed by characters who were my favourites. A great voice and line delivery can totally bring something to life!
Adaptations often make changes to the source, which can be bad or good, horrible or fantastic. But there’s something pure about an audiobook. An adaptation that’s 100% faithful to the version you love, because it has to be. It’s advertising the full experience of reading the book. And it always delivers! But full doesn’t mean identical.
That’s part of the charm of an audiobook, what makes them just so much fun to listen to. It’s also why I, personally, never read a book for the first time that way.
I can’t wait to hear what my own audiobook sounds like, someday! Will I love it? Will I hate it? Will all the voices be perfect or will I be driven mad by how much they got them wrong? All I can say is that I’m actually bouncing up and down thinking about it.
Oh, and for the record — the Etiquette & Espionage audiobook is fantastic.