Sunday Coffee – Rerecording Audiobooks

Toward the end of our road-trip last fall, Jason and I began listening to Elantris by Brandon Sanderson. I’d already read the book twice, once in print and once on audio, but it had been awhile and Jason had never read it, so I didn’t mind. We listened to maybe a quarter to a third of it during the last couple days of our trip. When we got home, I didn’t continue the book because again, I’d already read it several times, and I had other books I wanted to read. Jason didn’t continue it because he was already in the middle of listening to a long podcast series.

Six months went by, and then I needed something to listen to in the background while working on a project last month. I wanted something that I’d enjoy, but I wouldn’t have to concentrate to comprehend. Finishing that re-listen of Elantris was perfect, and as I went through the book, I told Jason that I’d love it if he could finish his listen at some point, too, so we could discuss. After he finished his listen-in-progress, he grabbed Elantris from Audible and started over from the beginning.

Here’s where things got weird. Jason bought the tenth anniversary edition of the audiobook, which is not the one I have. We figured they’d be the same, particularly because it was the same narrator, with perhaps some extras added to the re-release as a way of drumming up interest in the new edition. The newer print editions of Elantris have an added Hoid chapter at the end that explores a part of the Cosmere system only mentioned in passing prior to this. Maybe that was added to the audio version, I thought. What I didn’t expect was that the entire audiobook was rerecorded, with the pronunciations of 90% of the names/places changed. Examples:

  • Serene: In the original, this is pronounced like the normal word; the updated version adds an extra “ee” to the end, so it’s like sir-EE-nee.
  • Telrii: Original is tell-RYE-eye. New version is TELL-ree.
  • Jaddeth: Original pronounces the J as a Y, new one pronounces it as a J.
  • Roial: Original says ROW-aisle (with the “row” as in “row your boat”); new version is the word “royal” with normal pronunciation.
  • Ashe: Original is A-she (with the A being a long a, like in “day”); new version is the word “ash” with normal pronunciation.

Like I said, these are just a few examples – nearly all of the names (people, places, concepts, titles, etc) have been changed. I can only think of about a half dozen – out of hundreds – which didn’t change in some way.

Maybe it’s just me, but this bothers the hell out of me!! Why would you do this? Why would you change the entire language structure of an audiobook?? Research tells me that the new versions are apparently closer to what Sanderson envisioned originally, but I don’t care – the originals are what I first heard and learned, so those are the final versions in my head. Especially as a character from this world shows up in Oathbringer. He’s not named in Elantris, so I can’t say how the two versions of his name might differ, but in the audio recording of Oathbringer, his name (Riino) is pronounced rye-EYE-no. That is exactly like the original – the updated would be REE-no. So in my mind, no matter what anyone says, the original versions are correct! Ha.

Every time Jason and I discuss something from the book, we trip over each other’s pronunciations. We keep discovering new ones, too. We’ve also played portions of the same chapters to each other, to see how different they sound with every other word being pronounced differently. And since Jason didn’t really remember the portion of the book we listened to back in autumn, he’s got all the “wrong” versions in his head now! Oh well.

Anyway, I thought the whole situation was so bizarre. I’ve seen authors change things to update a book over time, or fix minor continuity issues, etc. (Rowling did this between hardback and paperback versions for almost every HP book!) This was really extensive, though, and I wonder what others think about “updated” versions of books that change so much of something as essential as how language sounds in a particular world!

About Amanda

Agender empty-nester filling my time with cats, books, fitness, and photography. She/they.
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