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Reviewing Audiobooks - Some Things to Think About

Reviewing audiobooks adds an extra dimension to the book reviewing process - you must pay attention, not only to the story, but to how the story sounds. You’ll want to make some additional observations regarding the audio aspect of the material. Below are some things to consider while you’re listening to the performance. In your review, try to mention at least two observations about the audio – they can be about the narration, narrator, or production. Most of the items on this list were originally part of a checklist I received when serving as an Audies judge a couple of years ago.

1. Suitability

* Does the material lend itself well to audio presentation?
* Was the original work appropriate for adaptation to the audio medium?

2. Performance

*Be sure and mention the name(s) of the narrator in your review - especially if you enjoyed the       performance. Would you review a movie and not mention the actors? Narration is a performance!
* Is the production single or multi-voiced?
* Are characters clearly differentiated? If so, how – by tone, inflection, tempo, accent, or some other technique?
* Does the narrator handle variations in gender and/or accents well?
* Is the narration unvoiced (doesn’t differentiate characters) and if so, is that approach appropriate to the material? (Lots of non-fiction and some fiction work well with this approach).
* What does the narrator do for the book? Make it more interesting, understandable, etc. or make it boring, uninteresting, voice doesn’t seem appropriate for content, etc.

3. Production & Sound Quality

* Is an appropriate pace maintained throughout the production?
* Does the plot flow without interruption?
* If it’s a multi-cast production, do the different voices fit the characters? Do the different voices enhance the production or are they distracting?
* Are sound effects / music used? If so, to what extent are they a positive enhancement to the text?

* Recorded sound is free of blatant edits and technical flaws. Signal, voice and music levels are conducive to audiobook listening conditions. (My big complaint here is that listening through my home stereo unit may be great, but in my car, I’m constantly having to adjust the volume to hear soft voices and turn down loud ones.)

4. Abridgements – If the work is abridged:

* Does the content flow smoothly with no loss of plotline, dangling plots, etc.?
* Is the program length appropriate to the plot?

5.  Overall reactions to the listening experience

* is there anything unique about this audiobook that separates it from others of the same genre? Do the text and narrator compliment each other? Do you feel it is a worthwhile use of time? Was listening a positive experience? (Sometimes a good performance can save a less than average story, and sometimes a good story can save a less than average performance – but when the story and performance are both less than average, it’s best to tactfully state that, with examples).

*Memorable scenes – was there a scene that really stood out as far as its impact on you, the listener? Was that the result of how the narrator handled the scene and or characters? How would you describe that scene if you were telling a friend about the book you just finished hearing?

*Did listening have an impact on you while you were listening? I’ve heard of instances where people were late to work because they stayed in the parking lot to finish a chapter or book, drove around the block one more time before pulling in the home driveway to finish listening, stopped walking, running, exercising, etc. to just stop and listen to a powerful reading/scene, did more cleaning, laundry, dishes, etc.

6. Basic Bibliographic Info

Be sure to include basic information. Make it easy for others to find the book you review if they decide they'd like to listen to it. You should include:

Abridged or Unabridged
Length of Production (hrs & min)
Year of Publication