Anatomy of An Audiobook Review

Audiobooks are becoming increasingly popular, and audiobook reviews are likewise becoming an increasingly important way listeners can find outstanding books. But audiobook reviews need to address more than just the plot and writing to be useful.

Audiobook reviews are not just book reviews, because an audiobook is not just a story. Audiobooks have many more elements that can make or break the production than just the story, and so reviews of audiobooks are distinct and unique things that may include some critique of the story, but the focus is on the audio production itself.

The most important thing reviewers consider is how well the narrator captures the feeling and voice of the book. Does the narrator’s voice and tone get in the way of the book, or does it become part of the story, bringing it to life.

With all the professional actors and artists bringing their voices to audiobooks, you would think that there would be no audiobook productions that were read like your fourth grade teacher was reading you a story, but I have heard some books narrated quite like that by well-known actors. Clearly, narration isn’t the same as screen acting.

If the narrator fits the story and reads it well, there are a few other nitty gritty things that reviewers can examine:

Is the production clear and consistent? There should be no gaps or missing pauses between chapters and thoughts, and the sound quality should be good throughout.

Pronunciation of names and places needs to to be consistent and correct. This can be particularly tricky with Fantasy novels and the weird place names and sometimes languages invented by the authors that write them.

Character accents and inflections, if the narrator chooses to perform them, should also be as accurate as possible, and very consistent.

Do the music and sound effects enhance the experience or detract from it? Every avid audiobook listener has had a negative experience with chapter intro music that was too long and distracting, or other odd sound effects that pulled them out of the story rather than drawing them in.

Is the story well-suited to the type of narration? Whether it’s a single narrator doing a fully voiced narration, multiple narrators, or full cast audio, it’s important that the type of narration suit the text being narrated.

And it just might be that the book in question doesn’t translate well into audio. Some books rely on details that just don’t work well in audio format. I personally feel this way about cooking themed mysteries with recipes between each chapter, but there are many other examples as well.

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