While living and working in Edinburgh in 2008 I set out to write one million words in 366 days... but only managed 800,737.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Millennium People... shelved.

A footnote to my post on
audiobooks vs traditional books.

I started listening to J G Ballard's Millennium People, read by David Rintoul, today. I listened for 25 minutes as I walked to work and 25 minutes as I walked home.

Tomorrow I am going to listen to something else.

This will be the first time I will not listen to an entire audiobook (which I haven't already read or had insurmountable technical problems with).


It's nothing to do with J G Ballard (I felt the story had potential; the prose was assured) and everything to do with David Rintoul: the reader.

Here are the problems with his reading:

1) Entire sentences are often inaudible, while other chunks are indecipherably quiet. The volume I was listening on, my headphones, or external noises aren’t to blame - - I was fine hearing the normal parts, but for some reason, Rintoul uses the whisper-mumble for emphasis.

2) Speaking of emphasis, besides dropping the decibels, Rintoul does not vary his voice enough to be an engaging reader, which makes it hard to concentrate.

3) There is virtually no effort to distinguish the voices of different speakers in dialogue. This problem is exacerbated by Ballard's lack of dialogue tags (usually a plus in a written work). Again, it’s not Ballard’s fault, it’s Rintoul’s: the requirement to put on distinct (yet tolerable) voices to render a traditional book into a comprehensible series of sound files is one of the basic requirements of anyone voicing an audiobook.

I am still an big fan of audiobooks as a form of entertainment on the move (I still prefer books if I'm stationary) - but this experience does make me weary of ever purchasing an audiobook (rather than borrowing it from the library). So much is dependent on a reader (or a half decent reader), which you can't determine from a box of CDs on a shelf in Waterstones.

Digital downloads will eventually be the only way audiobooks are distributed, and I hope publishers are smart and make the first few tracks available to download for free to sample a) the story and b) the quality of the reader.

PS I’m still waiting for that invite to judge the Audies.

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