JEDDAH: Audiobooks are quite popular worldwide, but they are a fairly new concept in Saudi Arabia.
Most people Arab News spoke to said they enjoyed listening to English audiobooks, adding that Arabic audiobooks still need to be developed.
Rawan Gashgari, a nurse, said that Arabic audiobooks often suffer from poor pronunciation. “Most of the Arabic books are narrated in a way that doesn’t seem professional, there are a lot of pronunciation mistakes that threw me off sometimes,” she said.
Gashgari added that she discovered audiobooks when she was looking for something to listen to while working a night shift, and “liked the experience a lot,” telling Arab News that they “allow her to kill two birds with one stone.”
Shama’a Jubran, a 25-year-old marketing specialist, said that the idea of listening to audiobooks never occurred to her until her friends introduced them to her. “Many book tubers recommend (them) as well,” she said.
However, Jubran added that the reason for the lack of popularity for Arabic audiobooks was the fact that there are not many choices available.
“I wish we could get the choice of choosing the narrator because there are some books that I stopped listening to because of a bad narrator. In the end, as much as reading teaches you, it’s also supposed to be fun. If you want people to use audiobooks give them an experience that they will never forget.”
Dina Bogari, a 20-year-old student said: “In Saudi Arabia, I don’t see … audiobooks being represented or shown a lot. (People) mostly prefer e-books or PDF books a lot more than ever, and the other half are old-school and are fond of paperback books.”
She added: “When I am listening to the book I get more immersed in it because when someone else is reading it, it’s easier to visualize.”
The Arabic audiobook scene has begun shifting a little in recent times, with audiobook applications like Storytel offering more titles. Dhad, the Arabic version of Audible, has been publishing many titles in standard Arabic, and is owned by a young Saudi woman, Manar Saud Al-Omayri, who wants to strengthen the Arabic reading community and provide them with high-quality audiobooks to immerse themselves in.
However, some people still prefer reading books over listening to them. Ahmad Khan, a Pakistani expat said: “I tried listening to an audiobook once, and immediately I started feeling like I was the loneliest person on earth and I couldn’t get past a chapter of it.”