Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Singing and Driving

Anyone who's had the dangerous pleasure of driving in a car next to mine will be treated to a view of my tonsils as I try to sing along with my favorite music. Sometimes it's Van Halen, sometimes Dianna Krall or Amy Winehouse, or a Donizetti aria sung by Anna Netrebko, but whatever it is, I give it my all. Music enthralls me. The artist creates the recording, but I get to play along. You can't do that with a painting, and acting along with the TV is too weird (but hey, that's CosPlay, isn't it?). Books have a bit of that pleasure baked into them. You read the text, and the story unfurls in your head, like magic.

I was hesitant to try audio books for fear that the magical element would be lost. If someone read the story, it would be the reader's voice I would hear, their intonations and characterizations. A few years ago, when my commute became hellish, I checked out an audio book from the library. I remember that it was a Nora Lofts novel, although I'm not sure which one. Just as a new bicycle rider spends a while concentrating on balance and maneuvering before thrilling to the wind in her hair, I spent a little time hearing the narrator and not the story. Three tracks into the first disk, I was hooked. Now audio books take the chore out of cleaning floors, dusting furniture and scrubbing bathrooms.

It took much less time to appreciate ebooks. Before I asked (begged, pleaded) Santa for my Sony reader, I tried them out on my computer. I loved the experience. Maybe my audio books gave me practice with accepting stories in different media, different formats. My only annoyance is that not enough titles are available. I still buy paper books, but I'm now duplicating all the titles on my "keeper shelf" with electronic versions.

I've been thinking a lot about new media as I plot a post apocalyptic young adult novel (it's actually more of a Peak Oil novel). What happens to ebooks without electricity to charge the reader? Paper books are always ready to be enjoyed, barring darkness, illiteracy, or misplaced reading glasses. I'm giving this a lot of thought, and for that, I have to remove my headphones. Can't think if you're listening to someone else's story.