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Sharon Bill Music Tutor & Author

I Want to Tell You a Story

As an avid Amazon Audible subscriber I'm a great fan of the audio book. But is this cheating?

There's no doubt that the oral tradition and storytelling is steeped in history. Even now bedtime stories are an accepted part of our culture and despite rumours of decreasing literacy levels there are still a great many readers. My husband read aloud to us as a family from when the kids were young up to well into their teens. In fact, it goes back even further than that to when he read to me when I was pregnant. (I'm not sure how or why it started then.) When the children were very small he began reading Mr Men stories and progressed as they grew, finishing with the Harry Potter books and Terry Pratchett's Discworld series. Sometimes, when we were particularly gripped he took holidays from work to read aloud all day. We'd sit munching, sometime sewing as he read, whilst he avoided chocolate and drank juice to lubricate his vocal cords to keep him fit for a long reading stint. Often my husband would read to the children upstairs while I conducted my few hours of piano teaching downstairs. I began to notice that parents lingered in the hallway to listen as they waited rather than sit in comfort in the sitting room. If the story got particularly exciting I'd have to apologise to my pupil and explain that the children weren't being roasted alive but the story had obviously gathered pace!

Sadly, in the adult world we all have a job of work to do and my husband does have his own business to attend to. Nevertheless, we are always told that writers should be readers - not that I need any such encouragement. Thankfully the audiobook can fill the gap. It began with treasured CD collections. (I've listened to my The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings audiobook CDs innumerable times) and now the wonder of the internet has solved all of my problems. Many books are rmade available by volunteers reading classics which are free in the public domain and now, for a reasonable fee, there is a seemingly endless supply read by the professionals.

The dilemma is; does this replace reading a good book for ourselves? Putting aside educational issues other problems still remain. I have to admit that an audiobook that I loaned from the library brought real disappointment as the reader's rendition of certain characters just didn't match the voices I'd imagined (or the one's my husband so characteristically portrayed) when I first read the book. It was all wrong! It's the same scenario with film adaptations. The dramatised Mr Darcy could never match my own original imaginings and sadly I can no longer remember how I first imagined Aragorn before the films were made.

Nevertheless, a good audiobook is the only sure way of guaranteeing that the ironing pile will get properly dealt with and the only means by which chores stand a chance of any attention. Maybe it's not a case of either/or but more like and/both. We have the luxury of choice and we can make full use of both privileges. Nothing can ever replace the joy of snuggling up and reading quietly (not to mention the benefits for the brain) but as this can't be a continuous indulgence the audiobook gives us a luxurious alternative.

However, it is my strong (albeit personal) opinion that abridged books should be banned from the face of the earth. I also have a strong aversion to radio adaptations. Not only are they abridged but the horror is also compounded by ludicrous sound effects.I guess that TV adaptations and films do have their place - who can resist a good period drama? Even so it's never a pure alternative in my book, if you'll pardon the pun.