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Retrograde



Joined: 23 Feb 2008
Posts: 458

PostPosted: Fri May 23, 2008 4:32 pm    Post subject: Audio books Reply with quote

I recently started listening to audio books, and while I would probably never buy one, I came across some free downloads and decided to try it. I'm still not sure if it's something I would continue with, but it's allowed me to check out some books I was unlikely to pick up in a bookstore. I don't know if it's common practise to have females narrate the whole thing, but it's a bit jarring for me, especially when they attempt various accents and male voices. The book i'm currently listening to, for example, is book 2 in a series that i'm a little familiar with (having previously bought the first installment). It's set in Ireland, but everyone seems to either have a Scottish accent, or a confused mix of Scottish and Irish (something similar happened in another book with an Irish character, but I didn't stick with it for very long). For a Brit that's very familiar with the various dialects and accents used in these isles, i'm finding it a bit distracting. Also, the hero has a very strange (dare I say, unsexy?) voice, which is at war with my first impressions of the character. I'm following the story well enough, and it's probably fair to say that i'm enjoying it a little more than if I had read it (I generally had a lukewarm reaction to book 1 anyway), but it's still a bit bizarre for me.

Anyone listen to audio books, and what are your impressions with regards to quality of narration, consistency, enjoyment of the story, etc?
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ladynaava



Joined: 11 Apr 2007
Posts: 938
Location: California

PostPosted: Fri May 23, 2008 5:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I listen to more audiobooks than I read these days. I enjoy them. I tend to find most romance novels aren't beefy enough plotwise though to sustain a good 8-15 hour read, though. It would depend on the author, but its gettings so I don't buy 'em in audio format. I tend to prefer action or thrillers because they are fast paced. But I've ben surpised by the books I've enjoyed.

I buy audio novels via audible which has an excellent selection, and which I can just downoad to my iPod. You've brought up a point that I find I cannot stand some of the accents done in audiobooks seem unnatural, particularly Scottish and Irish accents, and particularly if the narrator has no range and all characters sound the same with the same accent.

I'm listening to queen of the Mersey by Maureen Lee, and loving it. Its set in Liverpool during WWII and its quite gripping.
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melann



Joined: 28 Apr 2007
Posts: 85

PostPosted: Sat May 24, 2008 5:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

After overcoming my initial reluctance, I'm now into audio books in a big way. I mostly listen to them while walking, driving long distances, or working around the house.

I don't like romances on audio and can't tell you how well they fare. I've got Jane Austen and other "classics" on audio. I've also got some historical mysteries, Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit, and quite a bit of YA stuff.

For me, the reader/narrator/performer is critical. NOTHING ruins a book like a bad narrator. No matter how good the story, if I can't get past the voice(s), I can't enjoy the story. I'm happy to say, however, that things are really looking up in that respect. Audio books are finally coming into their own and the publishers are paying more attention to the narrator. Also, there are increasingly more unabridged books available. I do NOT want an abridged book.

I can't prove it, but I really believe much of this improvement comes back to the Harry Potter saga, since those audio books broke as many sales records as the printed books did. Publishers realized that people really would pay for a 17 disc, 20 hour recording, and Jim Dale continues to be my personal gold standard for audio book narration (although I understand that Stephen Fry is also excellent on the UK versions). Since the HP books came out on audio, I've noticed an improvement in the quality and selection of audio books in general. I hope that trend continues.

I haven't tried audible.com yet. I buy mine directly from iTunes, or I buy them on CD and trade out with a woman at work. We can each load the CD version into our respective iTunes libraries, so it works out well enough.
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Diana



Joined: 23 Mar 2007
Posts: 1044
Location: Washington DC

PostPosted: Sun May 25, 2008 3:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm into audiobooks big time. I started with borrowing CDs and tapes (yuck!) from the library, progressed into buying them, and finally made the leap into downloading to my iPod.

Audible.com is best source I've found. They're currently having a half price sale for one week only, however I haven't been able to find a start or end date for that one week. I downloaded a batch this morning which will keep me happy for a while. Melann, a lot of the titles on iTunes are cheaper on Audible, some as much as $10 or more. If you open iTunes first and then download from Audible, it goes directly into your iTunes library.

I'm amazed that Brilliance Audio, who produces some of the biggest authors and does not share with Audible, is sticking with a format that is incompatible with iTunes. You have to buy the MP3CD and load it into iTunes which I'm only willing to go to the trouble for must-haves such as Linda Howard. Although just in the past couple of days Audible picked up the entire In Death series which had previously been exclusive to Brilliance.

I also wonder why some of the current hottest authors don't have audio deals. JR Ward, Nalini Singh, Rachel Gibson, Shannon McKenna, Meljean Brook off the top of my head. And I really, really wish that some brilliant entrepreneur would put AAR's entire Top 100 on audio.

And I so agree that the narrator is key. Gabra Zackman who reads Anne Stuart's Ice Blue is pitch perfect, OTOH the the reader they chose for Ice Storm is just so wrong for me -- she's got slight lisp and does a miserable job with whatever accent she's trying to do. Laughably, and mean hilariously laughably, she makes dark and dangerous bad boy Killian sound exactly like Pepe lePew. I wasn't blown away when I read Linda Howard's Up Close and Dangerous, but the narrator is wonderful and brought the book alive -- one of my favorites now. Pet peeve -- male readers (Dick Hill for example) who try to "do" a female voice and end up sounding like a petulant drag queen. The best male readers just read it straight out without the falsetto or badly faked breathiness. Real women aren't breathy. Wink

These are some of my 5 star grade A audiobooks where author and narrator are in perfect symmetry:

Darkling I Listen/Katherine Sutcliffe
Heaven Texas, Kiss an Angel, It Had to be You/SEP
Ice Blue/Anne Stuart
Kiss Me While I Sleep, Up Close and Dangerous/Linda Howard
Blue-Eyed Devil/Lisa Kleypas
Outlander (et al)/Diana Gabaldon
Envy, Play Dirty, Ricochet/Sandra Brown
In Death series/JD Robb
Chesapeake Blue/Nora Roberts

And here are some duds I wish I hadn't bothered with:

Ice Storm/Anne Stuart (the reader's fault, not Stuart's)
The Dollmaker/Amanda Stevens (bad author)
Raintree: Inferno/Linda Howard (bad readers)
Coyote Dreams/CE Murphy (not a bad author, just not an author for me)

What are your best recs as well as what to avoid?
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melann



Joined: 28 Apr 2007
Posts: 85

PostPosted: Sun May 25, 2008 4:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Diana wrote:
Audible.com is best source I've found. They're currently having a half price sale for one week only, however I haven't been able to find a start or end date for that one week. I downloaded a batch this morning which will keep me happy for a while. Melann, a lot of the titles on iTunes are cheaper on Audible, some as much as $10 or more. If you open iTunes first and then download from Audible, it goes directly into your iTunes library.


I've been thinking about Audible.com, but I've heard some horror stories - a few about their billing practices but mostly about people trying to end their subscription. I was about to take the plunge anyway when Amazon made their move, and now I think I'll wait to see how that all washes out before I hand my credit card number over to anyone. Now, if Audible.com had gift cards available in stores the way iTunes does, I'd be all over it. I don't know why more internet-only retailers don't do that - Audible.com, Amazon.com, etc. I've seen more and more gift cards cropping up in stores all over. Even our local grocery stores carry gift cards for B&N, Borders, and numerous brick-and-mortar stores and restaurants.
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Diana



Joined: 23 Mar 2007
Posts: 1044
Location: Washington DC

PostPosted: Sun May 25, 2008 7:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

melann wrote:


I've been thinking about Audible.com, but I've heard some horror stories - a few about their billing practices but mostly about people trying to end their subscription. I was about to take the plunge anyway when Amazon made their move, and now I think I'll wait to see how that all washes out before I hand my credit card number over to anyone. Now, if Audible.com had gift cards available in stores the way iTunes does, I'd be all over it. I don't know why more internet-only retailers don't do that - Audible.com, Amazon.com, etc. I've seen more and more gift cards cropping up in stores all over. Even our local grocery stores carry gift cards for B&N, Borders, and numerous brick-and-mortar stores and restaurants.


I hear you. I'm a little uncomfortable with Amazon controlling so much of the book business though. Years ago Borders turned their website over to Amazon shortly after they set it up. Amazon bought out Brilliance Audio not so long ago. I've noticed that Amazon sends you to Audible when you click download and I wondered if they've bought out Audible as well. When you go into Audible from Amazon are you required to purchase a membership? I've never had a problem in my personal business with Amazon -- it's clearly a well-run company, nor have I experienced any problems with Audible. I wish there were more sellers to chose from but if there were, Amazon would be quick to buy them out. Amazon has a lock on audiobooks and now with Kindle it won't be long before they own the ebook business as well. And that kind of market dominance isn't good for consumer pricing.
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melann



Joined: 28 Apr 2007
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PostPosted: Mon May 26, 2008 8:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes, Amazon bought Audible earlier this year, but I don't think everything will be finalized with the sale until later in the year - this quarter or the next one - so the changes due to new ownership aren't yet obvious. I haven't tried to download anything from Amazon, so I don't know if it requires an Audible membership.

What concerns me is that Audible has been the almost exclusive supplier of iTunes audiobooks. On the one hand, you wouldn't think Amazon would want to sever that relationship since it's bound to be a major source of income, but then again Amazon is obviously trying to compete with iTunes to some extent.

I just would rather wait and see what happens over the next year or so before jumping in over at Audible.
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ReadingGrrl



Joined: 26 Mar 2007
Posts: 13

PostPosted: Mon May 26, 2008 10:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

melann wrote:
I've been thinking about Audible.com, but I've heard some horror stories - a few about their billing practices but mostly about people trying to end their subscription. I was about to take the plunge anyway when Amazon made their move, and now I think I'll wait to see how that all washes out before I hand my credit card number over to anyone. Now, if Audible.com had gift cards available in stores the way iTunes does, I'd be all over it. I don't know why more internet-only retailers don't do that - Audible.com, Amazon.com, etc. I've seen more and more gift cards cropping up in stores all over. Even our local grocery stores carry gift cards for B&N, Borders, and numerous brick-and-mortar stores and restaurants.


I'm a long time Audible.com junkie and have never experienced any problems with them billing, or otherwise. BTW - if you look at places like BestBuy and others, I believe there are Audible.com gift cards out there. They're just not as ubiquitous as iTunes cards.

Other than the selection, the thing I like most about Audible.com is the fact that I have been able to sync up the content with pretty much anything - my Nokia phone, my Palm E2, my Blackberry... the list goes on. Further, I also have the option of burning my downloads to audio disc - so there are a lot of options.

Another thing I like especially about Audible.com and Brilliance Audio books, too, (at least the ones on CD) is the fact that the tracks are short enough that you can go forward and back without too much effort. Some of the Brilliance/Overdrive media out there does 1 track per file, and this can be a bit of a pain if you don't have a player that can go back or forward just a few minutes - especially if you lose your place.

While Audible.com is the chosen supplier for iTunes, there are many other ways to get downloaded audiobooks on an iPod - most of the sites such as audiobookstanddl.com provide instructions on how to do that.

Now before you think I'm a total Audible.com fangrrl... please note that I'll take my audiobooks wherever I can get them - purchase, the library, downloading from NYPL.org (which I can do as a state resident), and netlibrary.com (through my local library), too. It's not about the source. In fact, I've recently been able to hold on to my audible credits for a rainy day because of these other sources.

I just finished listening to Kelley Armstrong's No Humans Involved last week, and am now listening to the latest Sookie Stackhouse.

I've managed to get my husband totally hooked on audio books, too. Harry Potter got him totally hooked.
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ladynaava



Joined: 11 Apr 2007
Posts: 938
Location: California

PostPosted: Mon May 26, 2008 1:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've never had trouble with audible's billing practices. I've always had no problem whenever I've contacted their support people. Their editors have corresponded with me a couple times. This las, was when I've had a problem with a narrator, letting me know the title was released with a different narrator and giving me a free download. It was very kind.

Audible recently added some more Nora Roberts titles including the JD Robb series.

They also appear to take risks with new authors. Several titles I've seen there I've seen nowhere else.

Granted, I've had some goose eggs through audible, mostly the blaze harlequin stories which just don't seem to be as well-written. But I blame myself for buying them, rather than audible for producing them. Obviously there are people who really enjoy them.
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MrsFairfax



Joined: 27 Mar 2007
Posts: 1069

PostPosted: Mon May 26, 2008 2:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I listen to a lot of books that I wouldn't take the time to stop everything to read - not necessarily a good thing, but there it is. Being able to multi-task while listening has made me very conscious of all the things I'm NOT doing while holding a book. I've been keeping track this year, though, and I'm about half and half print vs audio.

I hadn't really thought about it, but I'd agree that the Harry Potter audios changed the way audio books were produced. A lot of older audios are just a straight reading, like listening to your third grade teacher read "Freckle Juice" after lunch. Now there's much more attention paid to the performance and quality of the production.

Then again, that's not always a good thing as the horribly overproduced and confusing full cast recording of Kostova's The Historian proves. Philip Pullman's Dark Materials series, in contrast, has a wonderfully done full cast recording.

Like LadyNaava, I think fast-paced plots work a bit better as audio (although someone at Shelfari persuaded me to listen to Allan Corduner's recording of The Book Thief instead of re-reading and it was wonderful - I wasn't sure all the narrator's asides would work well in audio but I was so wrong. )

Narrators can definitely make or ruin the audio. Losing Anna Fields (and earlier, Frank Muller) was very sad for audio listeners. I'm really not a fan of George Guidell - he's fine as Quilleran in the Cat Who books but I guess I've typed him and his vocal rhythms in that laid back character so him reading Alan Furst's spy thrillers or Jeffrey Deaver completely does not work for me. I don't mind Dick Hill as much as Diana does (although it's nice when they pair him with a female reader like with a couple of Linda Howard's books). Phyllidia Nash is wonderful reading Heyer. I like Simon Prebble a lot but I haven't heard him read Stephanie Laurens.

Some people you'd think would be wonderful as narrators are not - I thought Timothy Dalton would be great narrating Benjamin Black's mystery series but his voice is almost too deep and ... fluffy. I don't know how to explain it, but the words aren't sharp and it's hard to understand. Not hard to understand like Kenny Blyth putting on a heavy Scottish accent for some of Christopher Brookmyre's villains (to hilarious effect), just ... mushy. Seems like that could be an audio engineer problem, but I didn't get very far into the first book before I gave up. (The plot was pretty evident from the first 15 minutes anyway.)
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Diana



Joined: 23 Mar 2007
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Location: Washington DC

PostPosted: Mon May 26, 2008 7:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

MrsFairfax wrote:

I don't mind Dick Hill as much as Diana does (although it's nice when they pair him with a female reader like with a couple of Linda Howard's books).
Some people you'd think would be wonderful as narrators are not - I thought Timothy Dalton would be great narrating Benjamin Black's mystery series but his voice is almost too deep and ... fluffy. I don't know how to explain it, but the words aren't sharp and it's hard to understand. Not hard to understand like Kenny Blyth putting on a heavy Scottish accent for some of Christopher Brookmyre's villains (to hilarious effect), just ... mushy. Seems like that could be an audio engineer problem, but I didn't get very far into the first book before I gave up. (The plot was pretty evident from the first 15 minutes anyway.)


Actually I'm fine with Dick Hill when he sticks to his own gender. His ultra manly performance with Joyce Bean in Kiss Me While I Sleep is worthy of an Audie award. What gave me shivers was Hill's reading of Hannah in Elizabeth Lowell's Pearl Cove where he was doing the breathy drag queen thing. Cool

One celebrity reading I highly recommend is William Hurt on Stephen King's Hearts in Atlantis. King himself does some of the reading and is surprisingly not bad but Hurt is absolutely riveting.

By the way, someone mentioned one alternative as Audiobookstand. However Audiobookstand=Brilliance Audio=Amazon. Sadly, it appears there's really only one vendor. Publishers who produce their own audio are distributing through Audible and Audible is providing iTunes inventory. iTunes is marking them up -- a lot with some books, so I tend to buy from Audible.
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Diana



Joined: 23 Mar 2007
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PostPosted: Tue May 27, 2008 10:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

ReadingGrrl wrote:



Another thing I like especially about Audible.com and Brilliance Audio books, too, (at least the ones on CD) is the fact that the tracks are short enough that you can go forward and back without too much effort. Some of the Brilliance/Overdrive media out there does 1 track per file, and this can be a bit of a pain if you don't have a player that can go back or forward just a few minutes - especially if you lose your place.


This is the biggest pain in the butt IMO. iPod only allows me to go back an entire chapter. Big problem especially when I go to sleep (hey, it's been known to happen) while listening. I bought the clunky Soul player from Brilliance which allowed for easy backtracking. However that pos predictably just quit working one day and emails to Brilliance got me the news that they no longer sell it or support it. IMO Audible's chapters are too long for relistening or trying to find your place, and it's incredibly annoying that their "chapters" don't match the book chapters. If you've figured out a way to get around this, please share.

Quote:


Now before you think I'm a total Audible.com fangrrl... please note that I'll take my audiobooks wherever I can get them - purchase, the library, downloading from NYPL.org (which I can do as a state resident), and netlibrary.com (through my local library), too. It's not about the source. In fact, I've recently been able to hold on to my audible credits for a rainy day because of these other sources.


Could you share some of your other sources? Free ones are good.
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ReadingGrrl



Joined: 26 Mar 2007
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PostPosted: Tue May 27, 2008 7:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Diana wrote:
ReadingGrrl wrote:



Another thing I like especially about Audible.com and Brilliance Audio books, too, (at least the ones on CD) is the fact that the tracks are short enough that you can go forward and back without too much effort. Some of the Brilliance/Overdrive media out there does 1 track per file, and this can be a bit of a pain if you don't have a player that can go back or forward just a few minutes - especially if you lose your place.


This is the biggest pain in the butt IMO. iPod only allows me to go back an entire chapter. Big problem especially when I go to sleep (hey, it's been known to happen) while listening. I bought the clunky Soul player from Brilliance which allowed for easy backtracking. However that pos predictably just quit working one day and emails to Brilliance got me the news that they no longer sell it or support it. IMO Audible's chapters are too long for relistening or trying to find your place, and it's incredibly annoying that their "chapters" don't match the book chapters. If you've figured out a way to get around this, please share.

Quote:


Now before you think I'm a total Audible.com fangrrl... please note that I'll take my audiobooks wherever I can get them - purchase, the library, downloading from NYPL.org (which I can do as a state resident), and netlibrary.com (through my local library), too. It's not about the source. In fact, I've recently been able to hold on to my audible credits for a rainy day because of these other sources.


Could you share some of your other sources? Free ones are good.


Free sources? Depends where you live. Check out your public library to see if they have an affiliation with NetLibrary.com. Most public libraries are ditching audiobooks on cassette in favor of CDs these days, too. If you live in the state of New York, you can actually get an NYPL library card to use the eNYPL service that does videos, audio, and eBooks.

Hope this helps.
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braxa22



Joined: 12 Jun 2007
Posts: 67

PostPosted: Sat May 31, 2008 10:10 am    Post subject: Audio Books Reply with quote

Just wanted to add a few comments re: favorite audiobooks and readers
+++
I've enjoyed several multiple voice audiobooks with the best of these being Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card (science fiction).

I'd second the posters complimenting Susan Ericksen's reading of J.D. Robb's In Death series.

Scott Brick does a wonderful job with just about anything (espionage, mystery, sci-fi, etc.). You can count on Mr. Brick for a good read.

James Daniels. I loved his reading of Nora Robert's Chesapeake Blue (Seth Quinn's story). He also reads Robert Crais's Elvis Cole detective mysteries.

Gary Littman. Littman's reading (and Nora Robert's prose) make Nate Burke come alive in Northern Lights.

Patrick Lawlor. Lawlor is another good reader. I've enjoyed his reading of California Girl by T. Jefferson Parker and his dual reading with Melanie Ewbank on Hot Target by Suzanne Brockmann. This is the book that introduced me to Brockmann, FBI Agent Jules Cassidy and the Troubleshooters series.

~B
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MrsFairfax



Joined: 27 Mar 2007
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PostPosted: Sat May 31, 2008 10:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Diana wrote:


This is the biggest pain in the butt IMO. iPod only allows me to go back an entire chapter. Big problem especially when I go to sleep (hey, it's been known to happen) while listening.


What version iPod do you have? I can move forward or back incrementally by clicking the center button once and rotating the wheel.
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