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Audiobooks & Radio Dramas: Only Substitutes for Real Books & Theatre?
Are audiobooks & radio dramas only substitutes for real books & theatre, or are they separate forms of art in themselves? I would say that they can be both at the same time.
I am not overly fond of audiobooks, because I'm a very fast reader and find them too time-consuming. However, they have their uses, not only for people with reduced vision, but otherwise as well. You have your hands and eyes free and can do something else at the same time. It is also easier to listen with a hands-free than to read a book, for instance, on a bus or while driving a car (although not with a hands-free while driving) or during physical exercise. Moreover, sometimes audiobooks are easier available and cheaper to get than ordinary books. As a matter of fact, you can find thousands of audiobooks for free on YouTube. They can be downloaded as audio files and it won't cost you anything. Just search for “audiobooks”. The quality of the reading varies, but most of them are at least adequate. After all, they are free.
If you don't mind paying, there are many sites with audiobooks, easy to find with Google or some other search engine.
The quality of an audiobook is not simply the quality of the book someone reads, it is also dependent on the one reading it loud. This is a form of art in itself, a form of acting. It requires a good voice by nature, and the ability to handle it – basically the same qualities making a great narrator in television. It's not surprising that the best narrators often are professional actors. However, that is not always the case.
We have previously discussed a couple of authors of horror fiction, so, for those with a taste for that genre, I want to recommend something called HorrorBabble. That's a YouTube channel with a large number of excellently read horror stories and with new stories coming all the time. There you can find works by H.P. Lovecraft and Edgar Allan Poe, but also many other authors. Ian Gordon reads most of them, and he is doing that very well; indeed, his readings are of good professional quality.
A related, but still altogether different genre is the Radio Drama. That is theatre made for radio. It is not to be seen as a crippled form of ordinary theatre, but as a genre of art in itself, separate from ordinary theatre. The preconditions are entirely different. And a radio drama is not an audiobook, but something else - even if the two genres are sometimes confused, and even overlapping at times.
It is hardly a surprise that the best Radio Dramas in the English language were and are made by BBC, which, in terms of quality, is arguably the best radio and television company in the history of broadcasting. There are lots of them on YouTube. I will not give a lot of links, because this sort of material turns up and disappears all the time. Just use the search function.
If you like old time radio shows (in reality being audiobooks, radio dramas or something in between), especially in the genres of horror, crime, science fiction or, to some extent, western, then I suggest you take a look at these links: