Friday, 13 April 2012

Audiobooks - To Abridge or Not To Abridge

Due to a change in my work circumstances I now find myself travelling in the car for several hours a week. I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to try some audio books. As I need them in CD format I decided to borrow a couple from the library and to see whether I enjoyed listening to them in the car. Firstly I'll do a quick review of the two I have recently listened to.

Blue Shoes and Happiness (author - Alexander McCall Smith, narrator - Adjoa Andoh)
I have only read a couple of the books in the No 1. Ladie's Detective Agency although I have a few on my shelf (including this one!) but I know these are nice relaxing books and so thought it would be perfect for my first exploration into audio books. I thought the narrator was incredibly talented and did so well with many of the accents and different voices although a couple of them grated a little in the early morning. I like these stories and it was just as enjoyable on audio.

Silver Wedding (author - Maeve Binchy, narrator - Kate Binchy)
So after the success of the first one I decided to try another one. This time a chick-lit style book, again easy and light hearted so should be fine for audio. Silver Wedding essentially follows a family and other interconnected characters as a Silver Wedding approaches. This audio book was only on 3 CDs so it was a lot shorter than the first. Unfortunately this was it's downfall. About half way through I realised I was quite lost. I couldn't work out who some of the characters were, the story had jumped so quickly that I felt I had missed a whole heap of the character development and there was even one chapter where I was so confused I thought I had been understanding one aspect of the book completely wrong. And then all of a sudden it all ended. I was at a loss, it all happened so fast.

And that's when I realised the downside of an abridged audio book. Now I knew both audio books were abridged versions - I mean it's pretty obvious you can't fit a whole book on 3 CDs. The problem was in Silver Wedding it was glaringly obvious that I was reading an abridged version. I felt like I had missed whole character developments, plot lines and lead ups. The whole thing made me think I'd missed half of the story.

Now Blue Shoes and Happiness wasn't as bad. That felt like a whole story in it's own right and I think was put together really well (it was on 5 CDs). But here's my problem - I still want to read the book because I know that I've missed some bits. Maybe it's the perfectionist in me but it really bugs me to think that I haven't heard every word of the book, that the story is just slightly different, that my experience of Blue Shoes and Happiness is different to that of someone who has read the book. I just can't get over it.

Who else out there has this issue with abridged versions? For those of you who read audio books - have this ever concerned you? Do you read the book version too just to see how different it is?

And what about reviews? Should reviews for abridged audio books be lumped together with book reviews when the total story is slightly different? Maybe I would have liked the full version but I disliked the audio version? Should reviews clarify if they are reviewing an abridged version? Wouldn't the narrator also have an impact on how good the 'book' is perceived in these situations also?

For me I'm now going to be a bit more careful with audio books. I can see them as a fun way to listen to a story but I probably still want to read the full book version of any I listen to. Unless of course I can find some unabridged versions at the library.