Since you’ve found your way to a reading and writing website, I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to think that you’ve probably heard by now about the current audiobook craze. Audiobooks have been expanding for the past few years, to the point where major authors from Gladwell to Sanderson are releasing some of their new pieces first as audiobooks, and only later sending them to print (if they send them to print at all). The way people are talking, this is a new thing, the next big thing to accompany the podcast moment.
Of course, the idea of a well-produced, high-budget “audiobook” type of entity is not really anything new. This modern idea of the audiobook, with voice actors and sound effects and massive production budgets, is really just a new incarnation of the radio play. A lot of people really like them, especially people with long commutes, and the sort of people who tell me they don’t like to read, but want to be able to claim that they read something “professionally enhancing” recently in their next conversation with their boss. I’m afraid that the format doesn’t do much for me.
Part of the problem is that I mostly associate audiobooks with monotonous readings of books that we rented from the library on tapes to listen to on long road trips, but the main problem is that I find it hard to follow a story that is being read aloud to me. In fact, the only audiobook that I can think of that I really enjoy is Patrick Stewart’s recording of A Christmas Carol, which even inspired my dad and I to put on our own radio play of that story for several years in a row.
I’m not against audiobooks in general, just because I am not personally fond of them. To my mind, anything that encourages people to “read” more is probably a good thing. However, I will admit to skepticism about the claims that audiobooks are superior too, and could replace, traditional texts as the dominant communication medium for literature. They may be having a moment, but it strikes me as being the trendy thing, and few trendy things endure. My guess is that in a few years, the obsession with audiobooks will settle down, and we will be left with something very close to what audiobooks have been for a long time. Perhaps some improvements in quality and production value will continue, since publishers now recognize that they can provide an additional revenue stream with their major releases, but the sweeping “audiobook only” releases will probably be just a peculiar feature of this current moment.
One day, I may even consider providing audiobook versions of some of our own stories here on IGC Publishing. That, however, is a long ways off for a multitude of practical reasons, so for now I encourage you to read our stories in the traditional way. It may not be trendy, but text can still tell a good story.