I admit I have geeked-out on Audible.Com. Never a practitioner of audio books, I was an out-right scoffer of them. Everything in its season, I suppose. About three months ago, I was lured into a free, 30-day trial from Amazon’s subsidiary company, Audible. Amazon has a way of doing that, at least, to me, as it continues to expand its river of companies.
Even before the dinosaur days of the Walkman, like many of my generation, I walked and ran and played while listening to music. So, I added the spoken word from Audible into my playlist. I was amazed with Audible’s curation and presentation including hundreds of thousands of choices in stories – classic and contemporary – available to me with my “free credits” during the trial. Audible’s mission is to “release the power of the spoken word”.
With cloud technology, I was listening to a story in the car, and continuing it on my blue-tooth headphones while walking in the winter woods, falling asleep to it in bed as the spoken narrative pumped through the nightstand speakers which were blue-toothed to my tablet.
I found new bliss. Alan Rickman who won both the Emmy and the Golden Globe in the role of Rasputin which I had produced with HBO once said, “The more we’re governed by idiots and have no control over our destinies, the more we need to tell stories to each other about who we are, why we are, where we come from, and what might be possible.”
There is a gold standard of artistry in the Audible readings. Elijah Wood’s first-person reading as Huckleberry Finn is captivating. Oscar-winner, Sissy Spacek’s five-star treatment of To Kill A Mockingbird is perfection. Without a doubt, The Great Gatsby is my favorite American novel. I reread it every year. As Nick Carraway, Jake Gyllenhaal expounds this tall-tale with naughty bravura, adding a whole new mischievous dimension to it which I did not realize the text possessed. All the poetic readings of Richard Burton seem to be in Audible’s curation. With his deep Welsh voice, anything Burton reads takes on primordial heave, but there is nothing more epic than Burton performing the works of his favorite Welsh poet, Dylan Thomas.
We often think that immersive storytelling is about over-amped imagery, Lucas-Sound, and theater seats that rock. Indeed, for the human mind, one of the most immersive experiences remains the reading of a book. According to Dr. Maryann Wolfe at Tufts University, author of Proust And The Squid: The Story And Science Of The Reading Brain , reading is hard work. The left side of the brain processes the words of the text, and the right side interprets them. The entire brain is working when reading, filling in the gaps of the story with memory, analysis, imagery, and sensation. I have to believe that’s what also happens when we listen to an oral narrative.
In hearing these recordings, something magical happens. Something transcendent. Since my geek-affair with Audible three months ago, the winter woods have melted to the budding of spring crocus. Like the landscape, I, too, have been transformed. In my case, by these listenings of remarkable narratives.
Such a change-up might be something for you to experience as well, if you haven’t yet traversed the audio world. By the way, the free trial offer is still available, I am not an affiliate of Audible. I make no money from them. I’m just a new fan-geek. The sampling is free, so why not mix it up?
If this format “doesn’t speak to you” (yes, pun intended) , make sure you cancel within the 30 days, otherwise your credit card will get dinged for the $14.95 a month service. Every month you get a “credit” for your subscription which affords you a permanent listen in your library of a really big book (it could be anywhere from twenty to sixty hours of recorded performance) which would normally retail for fifty to seventy-five bucks. I think the subscription is worth it. You can cancel the subscription at any time.
According to Audible, “Audible content includes more than 215,000 audio programs from leading audiobook publishers, broadcasters, entertainers, magazine and newspaper publishers, and business information providers. Audible is also the preeminent provider of spoken-word audio products for Apple’s iTunes Store.”