Review: Audible.com

The-Good-The-Bad-and-The-Multiplex-by-Mark-Kermode APTOPIX Germany Book Fair bossypants

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 4th December 2012.

I love books. I really enjoy being told a story, true life or otherwise, over an extended period of time. And that’s my problem. I’m usually so busy that it takes me months to finish a book, if at all. My bookcase is littered with dozens of hardbacks and paperbacks with the telltale bookmark indicating that I made it partway before losing interest, being distracted or starting a new one.

I have great memories from my backpacking era where I would demolish a novel in a day whilst driving across Africa or the Middle East in the back of a truck. Those times are over for now.

Rather than continue this trend which would inevitably result in the transformation of my house into Gould’s Book Arcade, I have recently experimented with audio books and the results so far have been very satisfying.

Previously, audio books were the domain of those with poor eyesight, and they were so expensive that the library was the only place to access them. They are still reasonably pricey but I’ve discovered that a subscription with audible.com can make audio books affordable.

Audible.com is an offshoot of amazon.com and just like its mother ship store has over one hundred thousand titles on offer. From classics to the latest releases, it’s not difficult to find something that will float your boat. You’ll find many titles are read by well known actors, with plenty read by the author especially in the autobiography section.

The subscription fee is around $15 a month and for that you get one credit which equals one book download. Without a subscription, books vary in price from $5 to $40. There are also regular sales which allow you to buy discounted extra credits.

Downloading a book is easy via the iPhone app (android also available) or the website to your PC and soon you’ll be enjoying a book in no time. Speaking of time, that’s exactly what I have relished with audiobooks. I don’t have to be holding a book in my hands to enjoy a good tale. I just press play and listen in as I do my housework, get ready for work or drive. I’m actually finishing books.

I’m currently two thirds through the 24 hour long unabridged version of Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story by Arnold Schwarzenegger, read by Terra Nova actor Stephen Lang with the odd chapter garbled by the author himself. Arnold has certainly lived an extraordinary life so far. From his manufacture in the Cyberdyne Systems robot factory in 1947 to becoming the 38th Governor of California, the Austrian Oak is one driven individual. Whether it is finance, body building or attempting to act, nothing will stop the Governator. Mind you, like all autobiographies, everything is viewed through rose coloured glasses. For instance, Arnold fails to mention that Danny DeVito is his twin brother.

I’m proud to say that two virtual books sit on my virtual bookshelf without a virtual bookmark.

The creator, writer and star of comedy classic 30 Rock, Tina Fey, narrates her own life story, Bossypants, which I completed in a very manageable 5 hours. She is quite possibly the funniest women on the planet right now so I do not recommend listening to this book with headphones on public transport.

My favourite movie critic Mark Kermode narrates his 8 hour examination of what is wrong with modern cinema in The Good, The Bad and The Multiplex. He has very similar sensibilities to me so this book comes highly recommended for cinephiles that hate 3D, detest trapped seating and love The Exorcist.

If you love books but have no time to read, then audible.com is a great way to enjoy the latest and greatest from the literary world. Actually, if you have no time to read, you are unlikely to be reading this column.

Do me a favour. If you know someone who loves books but has no time to read but might love audio books, narrate this column to them. Thanks.

Published in: on December 25, 2012 at 08:32  Leave a Comment  
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I hate Christmas shopping

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 30th November 2010.

It’s a big shame that Christmas falls at such a busy time of the year. Moving it to a quieter month would give me much more time to do my shopping.

I was in a fancy candle shop this past weekend, purchasing a Christmas tree shaped candle. Don’t ask me why. I suppose I’ll be able to experience the spirit of Christmas next time there’s a blackout. Anyhow, the shop assistant approaches me and asks if she can help. I ask her if she’ll do my Christmas shopping. She looks unimpressed, although not nearly as unimpressed as when she took my EFTPOS card and asks what account I would like it on, and I replied, “Yours.”

It was during this shopping trip I realised that with so little time left until the big day and with so many presents to buy, plus the fact that I hate present shopping, I should come up with a plan to purchase as many gifts as possible in one transaction.

I didn’t last much longer in the candle shop. Giving someone you love a Christmas themed candle on December 25 is pretty much a gift for the year after, much like giving someone a Christmas album. You also need to consider that no matter how beautiful a fancy candle may be, once it has be used, it will look exactly the same as every ordinary candle. Coincidentally, I’ve been told that after too much beer and turkey at Christmas time, and no exercise, my body resembles a melted candle, but that’s a different story.

Why not give everyone a calendar? They’re practical and unlike Bieber fever, will last a whole year. The problem is too much choice. There seems to be more calendar themes than there are people to buy them. Is there really a market for that,” Black Cats Looking Rather Startled and Slightly to the Left of the Camera” calendar? And I object to paying full price for something that will be heavily discounted eight days later, on January 2.

Gift vouchers can be awkward. Not only does the recipient know how much, or how little, you have spent on them, but it also indicates a lack of trust. “Here, instead of giving you money to buy whatever you want wherever you want, I’m going to force you to buy something in the store of my choosing, and you only have six months to do it or you miss out. Merry Christmas.”

Those charity cards are a great idea, but not necessarily a great gift to receive. Basically, you give somebody a card that says that you have bought a goat for someone in Africa. They’re a worthy concept, but a complete non-event in terms of Christmas excitement. I tried them on my family a few years ago and they were not impressed. I’m pretty sure the only way they could have been more unimpressed was if I actually bought them a goat each.

With Christmas ever looming, I decided that my only course of action was to bite the bullet and set myself a challenge. I went on one shopping trip to one store with two hours to buy all of my presents. I picked one of those big chain bookstores that also stocks movies, music and giftware. Two hours, one transaction and five shopping bags later, I was out the door and Christmas shopping 2010 was done.

So this Christmas time, why not save time and effort by purchasing all of your gifts at the one time with as little thought as possible? That way, you can spend your time enjoying the finer things in life, like relaxing by the pool, watching the cricket and laughing at people who still haven’t started their Christmas shopping.

Published in: on December 19, 2010 at 20:15  Leave a Comment  
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