Some Thoughts on Format
Posted by: Ted Balcom
At a recent meeting of the Adult Reading Round Table book discussion group, one of the members mentioned that she can only select titles for her seniors book club that are available in regular print, large print, and audiobook formats, and this factor sometimes limits her choices if she is looking for a particular kind of book. This comment made me think about the importance of checking to see if book discussion titles are available in other formats besides regular print, and then publicizing this information to potential book club participants (before the discussion takes place).
It used to be that all we book group leaders were concerned with was if a book was available in paperback as well as the original hardcover edition. But now it seems many discussion participants are choosing to listen to the audiobook version of the book under scrutiny, and perhaps leaders need to promote this idea to group members as a legitimate way to prepare for taking part in discussions. The concept of publicizing all possible formats as ”reading options” can serve to encourage greater participation, so it’s an opportunity that shouldn’t be overlooked.
The book we were discussing that afternoon was The History of Love, by Nicole Krauss, and it turned out that half the group had listened to the book rather than reading it. The book employs multiple narrators, a device that some who read the book found confusing — whereas those who had listened to it had no problems, because several readers were involved in the creation of the audio version. One listener went back and read the text after finishing with the audiobook, just to make a comparison — and claimed she would have had difficulty following the print version had she not listened to it first!
It’s interesting to reflect on how the experience of accessing the book one way or another actually impacts the reaction we may have to a particular story or the characters who act it out. Members of the discussion group commented on how sometimes authors reading their own works can make them seem more enjoyable and interesting (e.g., David Sedaris) or less so (e.g., Tracy Kidder) — and these sorts of responses can add another dimension to the discussion, beyond just the story and the way it was written.