Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Books on tape ( Pros & Cons)

I usually enjoy 'reading' books on tape (BOT) but of course that is not always the best way to 'read' a book. There is something very satisfying about getting cozy in my comfy leather chair with my favorite lap blanket (or two - I get cold in the evenings - even in summer I have my lap blanket on). I have my lamp table handy at my right hand with my beverage of choice and maybe a munchy (light or fat free popcorn is best). Of course, these are ideal conditions for me, but I can read almost anywhere else too (in the kitchen, at a stop light, in a doctor/dentist's waiting room, riding in the car, or generally anytime I have a spare moment). Any purse I buy must have room for a book.

I discovered BOT at the library several years ago when a friend suggested them as a way to pass the time on long drives. My daughter attended WSU in Pullman which is located on the eastern border of Washington. Once a year in April I drove by myself across state to visit her for Mom's Weekend - a 5 hour drive with about half of it across flat monotonous terrain with nothing to see except fields and farms. YAWN! Listening to a BOT has been a lifesaver by keeping me awake and making the trip go by faster. She graduated last May and I'm going to miss those weekend trips.

I have found a few other advantages to reading a BOT rather that a 'normal' book. My library has BOT for the newest HB releases of bestselling authors such as Nora Roberts/JD Robb, Linda Howard, Suzanne Brockmann, JAK, Elizabeth Lowell, SEP, Jennifer Crusie, and Janet Evanovich. The hold list for the latest bestselling HB's can get pretty daunting with anywhere from 200 - 500 holds. But the hold list for a BOT is much shorter, usually less than 40, and I can check it out in a few weeks at most.

Sometimes the BOT reader can make a book more enjoyable, and funnier depending on their voice inflections and accents. C. J. Critt reads most of the Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series and I love her character voices. They're hysterically funny, and I laugh and cackle my way through the whole book. But I suspect that Critt's voices and accents have made these books even funnier than if I had read the HB. Recently I finished Eleven on Top read by someone else, Lorelei King, and only had a couple of chuckles. It was not nearly as enjoyable. Her voice for Grandma Mazer was especially wrong. Critt makes her voice gruff and low (like she has been chain smoking for 30 years) and King gave her a high pitched squeaky voice. Yikes, it was so wrong. And I graded the book lowest of all the previous books in the series (a C). I also like the reader for JD Robb's In Death series. Her voices are very good; except McNab doesn't sound right, too much like a spacey skater-dude. JAK's reader was awful. Maybe that's why I gave up on JAK. So I need to be aware of a reader's influence on my grade of a book.

I have also discovered several disadvantages to BOT. They take longer to finish than if I read the book myself. I'm a fast reader and I don't read every word or 'say' the words in my head. But a BOT reader, of course, reads every word. Another problem for me is that I can't peek at the ending. OK, confession time... I'm an end peeker from way back. I'm trying to reform and I'm getting better but really, I NEED to peek sometimes. Especially if it's a non-romance. And I have had a few nasty surprises. I read Barbara Kingsolver's Prodigal Summer (NOT a romance) and hated the ending. It had me fuming and I don't think I would have read it if I had known the ending. I knew beforehand that it wasn't a romance, but it reads like a romance and sort of sucked me in and I started expecting an HEA, but of course I should have known better.

When I listen to BOT in the car on short trips, back and forth to work or running errands, arriving at my destination just when it gets interesting or funny or sexy can cause frustration. I have often sat in the car for 10 minutes or so when I'm in a really good place and can't quit. I was listening to one of Lowell's western romances and arrived home just while one of those really HOT sex scenes was playing. I parked in the garage and turned off the car. Later my son needed to back the car out of the garage and I handed him the keys without thinking anything of it. The next morning I got in, started it up, and the tape with the really HOT sex was still playing at full volume :) I think I must have blushed from the roots of my hair to the tips of my toes. Interesting course in sex education, right? He never said one word and I never brought up the subject. But that Christmas, what does my son get for me? Several books, one of which was labeled on the front: 'an erotic romance novel'. I think he was paying attention :)


CindyS said...

I tried BOT about 10 years ago now when I would drive out to my friend's university for a visit. It was a 4 hour drive and like you, the scenery was boring.

The first tape I listened to was a Garwood or a Quick. The sex scenes were not there.

Then on the way home I put in a fiction book by an author I can't remember now but who I think is very popular. I was so into the story and then the tape ended and needed to be flipped. This was where the tape started to play everything backwards. I FF to see if it would stop but it didn't.

I have never finished that story and decided that I didn't like BOT.

Now, however, I have heard that you can get books that are unabridged so you get everything word for word. I was thinking of trying it but I am not sure I want to have the reader doing different voices for the characters. Might be weird.

Funny about your son ;)


ReneeW said...

Cindy, I had forgotten about that wacky tape problem when it twists and flips over so it's playing backward. I usually fix it myself by pulling the tape out, find the twist, flatten it out and rewind by hand. My library, thankfully, only carries the unabridged versions. The different voices thing was weird at first but if the person is a good reader, it doesn't bother me. Like I said, CJ Critt is excellent and the reader for Match Me If You Can was good.

CindyS said...

Wow, it was a wide spread problem? In my defense, I was travelling in the dark, couldn't see the tape so didn't know it was twisted. Also, the whole driving thing. I just took is back and told the girl at the desk that it was somehow playing backwards. I don't think she believed me ;)

I may have to check out the audios you have suggested. I was thinking that maybe I could *listen* to fiction in stead of reading it because uhm, I get bored and then I put the book down and move on to romance. Oprah picks? I started The Poison Wood Bible by Kingsolver and it was well written but....I put it down and then loaned it to someone and I never got past the third (or was it fourth?) sister.

Literary Elite - I will never be ;)


ReneeW said...

:) Yes, I have found the twisty tape problem many times. I loved The Poisonwood Bible! Very compelling. One of two Oprah picks I actually liked. I have since given up on her picks, too much rape, incest, schizophrenia, child abuse, etc. I don't want that much reality. After Prodigal Summer I decided not to listen to fiction because I need to peek at the end before I invest my reading time into it. Unless I get a rec from a romance reader I trust.

Suisan said...

::hand in the air::

I always peek at endings!

On a romance, I don't bother, but sometimes I flip ahead if I predict an abduction of the heroine by the mustache-twirling villain. Those bore me--I like to know sometimes if I have a lot of page skipping in my future.

But Lit Fic? Always read chapter one, then the last chapter, then the whole book. I'm sure that makes authors insane, but it's a habit I can't break. I learned it in High School--you could figure out in the first reading assignment what the prof was going to focus on if you read the last chapter first. Then you could skim the book looking for the themes which would turn up on essay questions, etc.

Once a teacher's pet, always a teacher's pet. :P

Alyssa said...

I love books on tape. I have all the unabridged In Deaths that are available. I agree about McNab's voice, but think Erickson does a great job most of the time.

I have listened to books by Nora Roberts, Charlaine Harris, and Suzanne Brockmann on tape. All readers are definitely not created equal, so I appreciate it when I have one that helps me get into and enjoy the story.

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