I took this photo by mistake, but I quite like it. Me and earbuds. In a coffee shop, not on a boat.
I took this photo by mistake, but I quite like it. Roz with earbuds. In coffee shop, not Pacific.

Yesterday I received the good news that Audible.com are giving me 10 book credits. This certainly won’t be enough to get me all the way to Australia (or wherever), but it all helps. Leo Laporte is also giving me his latest selection of audiobooks, and I still have a few left from my last row, although I’ve listened to all the ones that looked good.

This is the message that I sent to Audible through their website contact form:

Hi Audible

I am a British ocean rower. In 2005 I rowed solo across the Atlantic, and I am now about to embark on the final stage of a 3-stage row across the Pacific, a total distance of 8,000 miles from San Francisco to Australia.

I couldn’t do what I do (at least with any shred of sanity left intact) without my audiobooks. Each of my ocean voyages takes around 100 days, during which time I am totally alone. The audiobooks are a fantastic diversion for me – they help me escape from the monotony of sea and sky, day after day. My imagination can take off into magical worlds of fantasy and sci-fi, or I can educate myself and expand my mind with works of non-fiction.

I have a rule that I can only listen to audiobooks while I am rowing. It helps motivate me to get back on the rowing seat for up to 12 hours of rowing a day. I listen to between 70 and 80 books on each crossing.

I hope you enjoy this glimpse of how much audiobooks mean to me.

With thanks and best wishes

My growing collection of book-loaded iPods. I put them in a waterproof Aquapac bag when in use at sea.

I received this response:

Thanks very much for writing to us about listening as you row. In the 14 years I’ve been at Audible, I’ve heard lots of stories about where people listen, but yours is the most exciting. I admire what you are doing and am glad that Audible can play even a small role to help.

So now I have to carefully consider how to spend my precious 10 credits. Last year I got 100 credits from Audible.co.uk (and am still hoping they will contribute again, but am still waiting to hear) which completely spoiled me. I didn’t need to be quite so selective. With just 10 credits to play with for now, I am considering how to get most bang for my buck.

My main criteria for an audiobook are:

1. Length: even if it’s a really great book, a 4-hour audiobook loses out to a 24-hour audiobook.

2. Escapism: edifying though non-fiction often is, on the ocean I’ve largely given up on edification. Life is hard enough already. When faced with yet another day of sea and sky and little silver rowboat, my imagination craves stimulation. Books that take me temporarily into a different time and/or place are a welcome escape from row-row-row-reality.

3. Quality of narration: the best book in the world can be ruined by poor narration. Most Audible.com readers are excellent, as I’ve really appreciated when I’ve listened to some readers associated with other audiobook companies. I have an iPod full of free audiobooks – free because they were written over 100 years ago so the copyright has expired, and because the readers are maybe less than professional.  Project Gutenberg and other volunteer organizations are digitizing thousands of public domain works.  I especially enjoy the bits that somehow missed the edit, e.g. in the midst of a Charles Dickens an unexpected aside like: “oh bugger, I messed that bit up – let’s try it again”. This would never happen on Audible.

I’m attaching my wishlists from Audible and Goodreads (Goodreads, incidentally, has a good iPhone app), and would welcome any comments or recommendations.

Audible Wish List

Goodreads Wish List

You can see the books I read on Pacific Stage 1 on my new Bookshelf page. It’s still under development – my wonderful, long-suffering mother has been charged with the unenviable task of posting the rest of the links to Audible and Amazon.

And yes, if you click through from my site to purchase, I do get a commission on the book and anything else you buy from Audible.com within 6 months. The Pacific II book list coming once I am in the same place as my logbook again – currently it is in San Francisco and I am in Oregon.

(And if you feel moved to contribute the price of an audiobook, please check out the Audible.com website to find out how much your book of choice costs, and use the PayPal button in the top right corner on my website. Thanks!)


  • Have sent the following email to Audible. If enough of us request it and are willing to give up our credits hopefully they will listen and help Roz meet her goal.

    Roz Savage is rowing across the Pacific and depends on Audible audiobooks to keep her sanity. Currently, she is getting ready to depart on her third leg and is trying to get 65 Audible audiobooks to listen on her journey.


    Currently, my account has 12 credits built up. Is there anyway I can donate my credits to help Ms. Savage get the books she needs for her journey?

    Thank you for any help you can provide

    Jim Kershner

  • Roz;

    Here’s the answer so far:

    Dear Jim,

    Normally, we do not donate credits, but after reviewing the article in which you have provided a link to, perhaps there is something we can do for you and Roz Savage. I am going to forward this email over to our Public Relations department for further review. Once I recieve an update, I will let you know.


    For additional questions, how to contact us and hours of operation, please visit us at: http://www.audible.com/contactus

    Raphael C. (Supervisor)
    Audible Customer Support

  • Hi Roz,

    Just wrote to them on your behalf. (Good luck with ’em!)

    “I am a BIG fan of Roz Savage who is rowing, solo, around the WORLD! She entertains herself bylistening to books while she rows, and tehn telling her blog readers all about them. She is a GREAT promoter and it would behoove you to give her as many credits as she needs to make it all the way across the second half of the Pacific.

    Last year she thanked Audible (uk) profusely and frequently. You’ll get your money’s worth in spades!

    Check her out. Roz Savage.”

    Laurey Masterton

  • Hi Roz, I just put enough in your PayPal account to buy another four books or so. Of course you can spend it on other necessities for your boat also 😉

  • Here are a few of the longer books from my library which I can recommend:

    The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas, read by John Lee, 47 hours
    Wizard’s First Rule by Terry Goodkind, 34 hours
    The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan, 29.5 hours

    Also, Under the Dome by Stephen King, 34.5 hours, which I have just started.

    I thought of you while attending an excellent talk by Rich Wilson who finished 9th in the 2008 Vendee Globe solo sailing race. Like you, he has worked a strong educational program into his voyage: http://vg.sitesalive.com I would love to attend one of your talks at NG or TED if I wasn’t on the wrong coast… Knock ’em dead!


  • Don’t forget your local library, Roz. It doesn’t take long to download a set of CDs onto your iPod. The Outlander series, while perhaps a bit too romancy, would provide a long LONG diversion. And there’s usually some long Ken Follett novels on CD at our library.

    Recent audiobooks I’ve listened to and enjoyed (with good audio):
    Darkness Falls – Kyle Mills
    Round Ireland with a Fridge – Tony Hawks (very short, very funny)
    Forgery of Venus – Michael Gruber
    Whiteout – Ken Follett
    Dune – Frank Herbert
    Ender’s Game – Orson Scott Card

    You’re probably already aware of stuff available in the public domain.

    If you DO try some non-fiction, here are some other good audiobook titles that I’ve enjoyed recently:

    A Short History of Nearly Everything – Bill Bryson
    Salt: A World History – Mark Kurlansky
    Cod: A Biography of a Fish – Kurlansky
    Great Escape – Kati Marton
    The Last Lecture – Randy Pausch
    Born on a Blue Day – Daniel Tammet
    The First Humans – Ann Gibbons
    Longitude – Dava Sobel
    The Case for God – Karen Armstrong

    You might also consider some podcasts. I like the BBC Radio 4 comedy shows, and the fascinating interviews on “Point of Inquiry”. The only problem is I don’t know how to get podcasts to just play one after the other so you can play a bunch without touching the ipod.

    Good luck with your Australia preparations! We’re all watching and wishing you well.

  • Andy Warner – thanks for the book recommendations. Added to my wishlist – although maybe not the Stephen King one. I had some of his books on the last leg of my row, but the first one I started listening to the reader was so good in a completely over-the-top, scary-dramatic-sinister kind of a way that it totally freaked me out and I had to stop listening before I got too frightened!

    Thanks also to RickK. Trouble is, I don’t have a “local” anything – I’m a homeless nomad. So library memberships are a dim and distant memory… but book recommendations noted!

  • Roz,
    Andy’s book recommendations are great. I have read the entire series of the second and third books on his list. Be careful, if you become hooked, both book series are around 11 to 12 books long at about 1000 pages each. Lots of listening!!!

  • Hi Roz,
    I’m a huge fan of audio books. I listen to them during my commute and they keep me sane and free of road rage. Some great books were made ordinary due to the poor performance of the person reading them. For this reason, most books narrated by their authors should be avoided. The exception to this rule of thumb is Neil Gaiman. He’s a great narrator!

    Following are my recommendations of great reads, all of which I listened to on audio CD:

    1. Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley, read by Jayne Entwistle. FANTASTIC reader!
    2. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman.
    3. The Eyre Affair: A Thursday Next Novel by Jasper Fforde
    4. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. (amazing story by AUSTRALIAN writer)
    5. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
    6. The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
    7. My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult. (have tissues handy)
    8. The Spellman Files: A Novel by Lisa Lutz (almost had to pull my car off the road from laughing too hard)

    That’s all I can think of off the top of my head. I’ve read a great deal more fantastic books but they’re not on this list unless I’ve listened to them.

  • One more for you…

    The Help by Katherine by Kathryn Stockett is a fantastic audio book. The readers are AMAZING. I know this one is already on your list but I just wanted to give it an endorsement.

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