(Me and almost every other writer on the planet. If there’s one thing writers fight doing, it is actually getting the words down. I don’t know why that is, although therapists make millions off the question.)
To that ends, our noble and fearless leader has allowed me a tiny corner here to once again regale (or torment, depending on how you feel about such things) you on what’s tickling my brain. In the past we’ve talked ancient myth, and I imagine we will be on the playground a bit.
But currently, I find most of my time these days absorbing different media. I don’t read as much as I would like (although I could read 18 hours a day and I would say the same thing), but the Mom Life means I spend a fair bit of time listening.
I’m not alone in that. The Audio Publishers Association reported last year that they’d seen three years straight of growth in sales above 30%. Audible doesn’t release membership numbers but did report in 2016 that they’d logged over 1.6 BILLION listening hours in the previous year.
It’s the age of the audiobook. Our ubiquitous phones mean that listening is easy and portable, and interfacing between devices means that it is almost seamless. I can pick up my phone, read a book for ten minutes while dinner is cooking, then switch over to the audiobook and let the narrator read the next chapter while I do the dishes, then switch back to the printed format to read in bed. And I’ll never lose my place.
For myself, audiobooks and podcasts fill a valuable function. I spend a lot of time in fairly mindless, rote tasks that are, for lack of a better word, really boring. I manage a household of two elementary kids, a husband with demanding work hours, two cats, and a dog. The laundry alone is a job, and let’s not talk about how many hours I spend in the car.
So I turned to audiobooks at first to confront boredom. Laundry is much more likely to be folded if someone will tell me a story while I do it. But I quickly fell in love with them as a form of art all their own. The performance of an audiobook can make or break a story. Bad readers can butcher even Shakespeare. An excellent reader can take flat, cliched dialogue and make it lively.
And since audio is booming business, audiobooks are now attracting stellar talent. The Dresden Files are wonderful, fun urban fantasy novels. They become absolutely tremendous when read by James Marsters, who has both a talent for wide range of accents and voices (you haven’t lived til you’ve heard TootToot in audio) and for a sensitive, emotional reading that pulls the depth out of Butcher’s prose. Rachel McAdams received acclaim for her reading of Anne of Green Gables. And there are a number of narrators who’ve gained fame in their own right for the skill.
And then there are Podcasts. Podcasts are the new blog: everyone has one, or knows someone with one. But while the market is glutted, the quantity is producing some truly stellar quality.
Much of it comes from known sources like NPR (Serial, This American Life, The Moth are all available as podcasts), but some others are smaller productions that have gained real followings. Welcome to Night Vale has become a full phenomenon, The Black Tapes and Rabbits have gained strong traction in the Speculative Fiction market, and every interest group has its small circle of notable podcasts.
Next week, I’ll be diving into this sea and to determine what pearls we can come up with. For now, I’d like to know what YOUR favorite listen is.
Are you an audible member? Have you explored your library’s online options? Have a favorite podcast? Have you ever slept with the lights on because The Magnus Archives crept up on you? Has NoSleep produced the desired effect? Tell me more.
Elizabeth Cady’s last post for us was Lost and Found Treasure.