Thursday, July 19, 2007

Mostly Useless Story about Audiobook Narration

Unlike paper books, audiobooks have "the narrator question." A friend recently told me he was head-over-heels about Moby Dick. Yes, that Moby Dick. He never read it back in the day (neither had I) and was amazed at how fantastic it is (long passages on the best way to strip off whale blubber notwithstanding). He took the time to burn me a copy of the book (yes, a legal copy--that's not the point. Stay with me here.) It's 20 CDs! And I want it for a vacation going "out to sea" tomorrow (Ok, it's a cruise, but there will be lots of water). And it was going to take 350 hours to get the files off the CDs. But he'd done so much work.

And I had this credit at Audible see? And the stack of CDs was really big. And files were small and disconnected. And they came into iTunes with funny names. And to tell the truth, I get my media electronically, so at first I forgot how to get the files off at all. I researched file conversion and downloaded an application just for getting the files off. Then I realized I could just use iTunes and didn't need that app at all. But we're leaving tomorrow and I need Moby Dick on my iPod for listening at sea. And, ok, out with it, I used my credit at Audible and bought a copy and didn't use the CDs he worked so very hard to create. It all took 3 minutes over a cable modem, rather than, well, 350 hours. I know. I'm evil. But there. I've said it.

So that is just part of the story (not that it was much of a story). There are TWO Moby Dicks at Audible. For any sane person, the choice is easy because one (call it A) is less than half the price, since the other (call it B) requires you buy the two parts separately and each part costs more than the whole A version. But if I'm going to spend weeks listening to some guy whisper in my ear, I'm going to wonder about the options. So I read the reviews. Of the reviews that mention the narrator, they totally trash A's narrator: "effete," "affected," "annoying," etc. While B's narrator (the expensive guy) is "a real man" who "brings out the humor," etc. Hmm. So the first question is: to whom did my head-of-heels friend listen? Answer: Mr. Whiny. So I listened to both Mr. Whiny and Mr. He-Man. Both had samples on Audible and I could, of course, hear lots of samples from the disks I'd received (Page with samples: Mr. Whiny, Mr. He-Man). Very different. And at least on first listen, you could see how a reviewer might use some of the terms above. My initial preference was Mr. He-Man. (Notice that I've dropped the A/B designations for something I'm suddenly finding more colorful.) I had my wife listen. She immediately keyed into something different: Mr. He-Man sounds like he's doing a high school play. Really into it. Giving it his all...when a little less would be better. Yes, Mr. Whiny was, well, a little whiny. But his "performance" was less distracting. We weren't sure. There was the money thing, but that was mitigated by the fact that a credit at Audible is a credit. That is, even though Mr. He-Man was in 2 parts, either of which cost more than Mr. Whiny, since I was going to use a credit, the only difference was the cost of the second part. (That's very unclear, but suffice to say, the money difference didn't matter much.) In the end, Mr. Whiny's straight-forward narration combined with the fact that my friend was head-over-heels on the book and had listened to Mr. Whiny made him the winner.

So we now both go to sea with the White Whale on our Nanos.


Matt said... has the whole thing for free. I have listened to several book and while the reading is not professional, still very enjoyable, especially at the price.

Dox O'Ryan said...

Great tip Matt. Thanks.

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