Complete set of Harry Potter audiobooks at Amazon.com

by Michael Alderete on 1/30/2008 · 20 comments

Harry Potter audiobooks set

I’m still waiting for a deluxe boxed set of all the audiobooks, like the deluxe print books set, but if you’re just looking for a great deal on a complete set, packaging be damned, here’s all seven Harry Potter audiobooks at Amazon.com, at a 40% discount from full retail.

It’s still $275, but considering what they cost individually, if you want to own all seven, this is the way to go. The total running time is almost five days — at under $2.50/hour, it’s hard to imagine a better value for your entertainment dollar. Enjoy!

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Jensenly March 20, 2008 at 2:05 pm

Do you know why there are two different narrators for the Potter series? Jim Dale does the US audiobooks and Stephen Fry does the UK versions. I have heard that it might possibly be due to the textual differences between the UK and US editions, but the differences are so slight it doesn’t make sense. Also, where there are differences, couldn’t the same narrator just read it twice and have it edited for whichever country?

This has perplexed me from day one, as I have heard Stephen Fry does an amazing read and it’s a shame we don’t have access to him here in the States. Any information, insight, or guesses as to what the deal is?

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Alderete March 23, 2008 at 3:57 pm

@Jensenly: It seems like it’s not unusual (and perhaps common) for audiobooks to have one narrator for the recording released in the US and a different one in the UK. I suspect it has to do with accents; what is pleasing or understandable to the British ear may not be so to an American.

There are also definitely textual differences, at least in the Harry Potter novels, but they’re mostly trivial. But they necessitate extra time in the recording studio, additional pre- and post-production effort, etc. I imagine at that point doing an entirely different performance isn’t as huge a deal as it might seem, especially if there are different aesthetic goals for each.

I have listened to only the first 15 minutes of the Stephen Fry performance of HP #1, so it’s very hard for me to judge his qualities as a narrator for the series. Fry’s performance seemed more understated than the Jim Dale recordings, which I love. While I very often prefer the more subtle sensibilities of British vs American actors, in the case of the fantastical and whimsical Harry Potter books, I suspect that Jim Dale’s more energetic narration will be my preference.

I plan to purchase complete box sets of both the Dale and Fry performances, though, and will give them a complete review once I’ve listened to them thoroughly (which means it’ll be a year or two before this gets done).

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Jensenly March 24, 2008 at 1:02 pm

Very much looking forward to your review of both box sets somewhere down the line……

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Mark Gibson April 30, 2008 at 1:53 pm

Just came across the above discussion and was suprised to hear that a different narrator had been used for the American version. Retrospectively maybe I should not have been as the comments mad by Alderete seemed most sensible.

My only bone of contention was that of the comments made about Stephen Fry’s narration which to my mind, is absolutely brilliant. Hence the many audiobook awards he has been given. Please US readers, give him every chance as 15 minutes does not give him the respect he deserves.

Having said all that, I will have to listen to Jim Dale’s narration now. This is going to cost a fortune!

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Alderete April 30, 2008 at 2:23 pm

@Mark Gibson: I could not agree more that Stephen Fry deserves more than the 15 minutes I’ve given him. I’m a huge “Stephen Fry”:http://www.stephenfry.com/ fan, and I’m quite certain I’ll enjoy his performance, once I get to hear it.

But as you point out, it’s ridiculously expensive to get access to the complete set of Fry-narrated books. It’s not just that the set is $275+, but the Fry performances are impossible to get in the U.S. So it’s Amazon.co.uk, and the big shipping charge that’ll come with it. So I’m waiting for the deluxe sets, so I only have to buy them (both Fry and Dale) once. (And don’t get me started on the children’s vs. adult’s editions of the Fry performances — the artwork on each is amazing, and wildly different. I want both!)

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jensenly July 14, 2008 at 10:47 am

I managed to get my hands on three of the Fry audiobooks while I was in Ireland this last April (COS, GOF and DH). They were terribly expensive and even more so since the US dollar is at an all-time low against the Euro ( I just decided to bite the bullet - who knows when the opportunity will arise, again?).

I have managed to listen to the COS audiobook and I must say Stephen Fry is, indeed, as amazing as I had heard. While I also aprreciate Dale’s reading, I think Fry has a slight edge. Can’t quite pinpoint why I like Fry more, but maybe after listening to the other two audiobooks, I’ll have a better idea. I agree with you Michael, I think Fry is a bit more understated. I am particulary anxious to listen to DH with so many characters making an appearance.

I’ll check back later…

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shelladawn July 18, 2008 at 1:20 pm

I have listened to all seven HP books read by Jim Dale and Stephen Fry. I’ve had the Jim Dale version for a while and couldn’t wait to listen to the Stephen Fry version. I was very disappointed. Don’t get me wrong, Fry is good, but in my opionion, he doesn’t come close to Jim Dale. With Dale you know whose voice your hearing without being told, but not with Fry. It seems that Dale is acting, but Fry is just reading. Again, Fry is OK, but he sounds the same as ten other talented British narrators I’ve heard. Dale is one in a million!

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jensenly August 12, 2008 at 1:54 pm

Well, now that I have listened to Fry’s COS and GOF, I am starting to waver on my ealier comment about thinking Fry’s slightly better. I’ll have to re-listen to Dale again to see who I definitively like better.

shelladawn - very impressive that you have listened to both versions of the audiobooks. That must have taken quite some time! Do you own them all or borrowed them from the library?

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Tessa September 14, 2008 at 3:40 am

I absolutely love, LOVE, Jim Dale’s voice. He is sooo superb with displaying the characters. I totally agree with Shelladawn, you always know which character you are hearing with Jim Dale, which makes it easier to listen too. And his voice is just very gentle.

I have heard HP 1,3 and 5 (and this last one multiple times) of Jim Dale, and HP 2 and I am halfway HP 4 of Stephen Fry. I won’t say at all that Stephen Fry is bad, not at all actually. But I had already fallen in love with Dale’s voice. Does anybody know of other audiobooks read by Jim Dale?

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Aaron October 13, 2008 at 8:27 pm

I have listened to several books by both narrators and I find it odd that Jim Dale was chosen for the American audience rather than Mr. Fry. Jim Dale’s I listened to years ago and absolutely loved. However his penchant for pausing in the middle of sentences (apparently to inhale) as well as his odd sense of accenting certain syllables I found very strange and at times distracting. I suspect that it would sound less strange to a british ear whereas the Stephen Fry narration is very smooth and fluid even to my American ear. The point that Dale’s Narration is much more animated and more playful is completely true and I do enjoy that aspect. Personally I would like to have the complete collection by both Narrators for whatever mood I happen to be in.

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jensenly April 15, 2009 at 10:07 am

After listening to OOTP and HBP by Dale, followed by DH by Fry all within the last 2 months, I am now certain that I enjoy Dale’s style over Fry’s. Dale’s voices are more distinctive (especially women characters). I agree with Aaron that Fry is more fluid and also his pacing seems to be slower. I seem to pick up on very distinct words when Fry reads and come away with more vivid scenes in my mind as a result. However, I enjoy Dale’s voices much more than Fry’s.

And it is fun to a little of both to listen to.

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Alderete April 15, 2009 at 11:40 am

@jensenly and everyone else: I recently listened to the entire Harry Potter series twice in a row, once the Jim Dale recordings, and once the Stephen Fry performances. Then I re-listened to key sections of the Jim Dale versions.

I hope to post a more complete review in the future, but the short version is, both are awesome, and whichever set you have, you can be happy with it. Jim Dale’s performance is more energetic and whimsical, and that suits the material well. Stephen Fry’s performance is more subtle and understated, and brings out some of the more adult themes of the books, and makes for a more sophisticated experience. Both are wonderful, and I’ll certainly listen to both again in the future.

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jensenly April 16, 2009 at 2:09 pm

Nicely put, Alderete.

Oh, and I finally ended up cruising through other parts of your blog. Loved your “CD audiobook transfer to your iPod” posts. The first time I tried to transfer a CD book to my iPod, it took FOREVER. I gave up and just started lsitening to it on my soon-to-be-obsolete portable Walkman CD player.

Your instructions and photos were most informative.

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LauraHolt June 22, 2009 at 7:28 pm

Dale vs. Fry What I’ve found is that this debate tends to be more about popularity and country pride rather than the actual performances. I think that a lot of the people who haven’t listened to Dale but proclaim Fry to be better then Dale do so because: 1. Stephen Fry is an [b]AMAZING[/b] writer and a [b]BRILLIANT[/b] comedic actor (the preference is based more on the general Awesomeness of Fry himself then the actual performance) 2. Fry’s version is the UK version (the preference is to support the version released in your country.) 3. J.K.Rowling picked Fry for the UK version. (of course she did .More Americans and Brits know Fry then they know Dale. I had to look Dale up on imdb.com and my response was ‘Oh that’s the bad guy from Pete’s Dragon…that’s random.’) I’ve seen a lot of comments in various forums regarding this question and people say things like Fry is a proper Brit or only an Englishman should read HP which is absurd because Dale is an Englishman too. In fact because of Dale’s [b]BRILLIANT[/b] readings Dale was awarded the M.B.E. (Member of the order of the British Empire) in the 2003 Queen’s Birthday Honours List for his services to British Children’s Literature in America. If you have the ability purchase Dale and Fry but if you can only buy one then buy Dale I have listened to Dale’s reading of the series 7 times and Fry’s twice. Stephen Fry was good; pleasant to listen to and easy on the ears. Fry is a great audio book reader. Jim Dale approached the books as an actor first, and a reader second. Listening to Fry was like listening to a children’s story. Listening to Dale is like listening to poetry that has been ignited. It’s literally a West End or Broadway one man show. Dale’s reading of the HP series has a constant sense of urgency to it. Even in the parts that aren’t dramatic Dale finds a way to keep the story alive He makes the exposition exciting. Fry , not as much. This is the reason why Fry’s readings of COS, POA, GOF, OOTP,HBP and DH are 45mins - 3hrs LONGER than Dale’s readings. Dale’s ability to employ a multitude of accents and various speech affectations helped him to create distinct characters. Fry, especially in the first few books of the series, has a limited amount of voices/personas and he struggles to keep his voices separate. Dale’s vocal portrayals of JK’s female characters are far more realistic than Fry’s. Instead of trying to physically sound like a woman Dale, rather wisely, focuses on the cadence of female speech as well as all of the non-verbal speech things that we girls do. Stephen’s use of his falsetto to portray girls, women and the Creavy brothers in the first few books of the series is very cartoonish and so Monty Python in nature that it is distracting.
Dale’s Dumbledore is just like Richard Harris’s Dumbledore; sophisticated, clever, observant, elegant, wise and too cool for school Dale’s Snape is very similar to Alan Rickman’s Snape whereas Fry’s Snape sounds a bit like an evil Fraiser Crane. Dale’s Voldermort supports JK’s text of him being snake like whereas Fry’s Snape is a bit high pitched.

That’s my opinion.

As far as critical acclaim goes here is how they stack up.

Stephen Fry has won six awards for his readings of the Harry Potter books of which I could only find specific names for three of them - 1999 Talkie Award for his reading of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone - 2001 Gold Spoken Word Award for his reading of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - 2004 Gold Spoken Word Award for his reading of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

[b]Jim Dale’s Awards & Nominations for Dale’s Reading of the Harry Potter Series[/b] 1999 Grammy Nomination 2000 Audiofile Earphone Award 2000 The Benjamin Franklin Award “Best Children’s Audio Book” 2000 Grammy Award “Best Children’s Audio Book” 2001 Audie Award “Best Solo Narration” 2001 Audiofile Earphone Award “Best Children’s Audio Book” 2001 The Benjamin Franklin Award “Best Children’s Audio Book” 2004 Grammy Award Nomination 2004 Audie Award “Audio Book of the Year 2004” 2004 Audie Award “Best Children’s Audio Book 2004” 2004 Audiofile Earphone Award “Best Children’s Audio Book” 2005 Grammy Award Nomination 2005 Audiofile Earphone Award 2006 Publishers Weekly’s Children’s Narrator of the Year Award
2006 First inductee in the Audio Publishers Association’s “Hall of Fame” 2008 Grammy Award “Best Audiobook For Children” 2008 Audie Award “Best Solo Narration USA and Canada” 2008 Publisher’s Weekly “One of the Audiobooks of the Year 2008 [b]Jim Dale’s Three Guinness World Records for Harry Potter[/b] - Most Character Voices in an Audio Book - 134 for HP and the OOTP - Most Character Voices in an Audio Book - 146 for HP and the DH - Jim Dale occupied the first SIX places of the ‘Top Ten Best Selling
Audio C.D’s of America and Canada’,with his recordings of the Harry
Potter books. Jim awarded the M.B.E by the Queen.

You should still listen to both as both performers bring something to the Books.

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Jensenly June 23, 2010 at 8:41 pm

Wow, LAURAHOLT, that was a great summary! It’s been a while since I have been to this blog, but I am terribly glad I decided to come back and visit the site. You nailed it for me when you wrote that Fry’s version was so much longer than Dale’s - he just seems to take too long in making anything exciting. I love having both sets of audio books, however.

It’s still bizarre to me why there are two different sets of audio books depending on where you live, (especially given that both actors are British), but whatever! More for us Potterheads to discuss!

Cheers to you all!

Lynn in CA

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Theo October 25, 2010 at 6:52 pm

Obviously I’m very late to the party here, but thought I’d throw my opinion into the hat anyway.

I have just finished listening to Deathly Hallows narrated by Jim Dale, having previously listened to the first six books read by Stephen Fry. For my money Fry is better. What it largely boils down to for me is the accents.

This may not be perceptible to an American listener, but the way Dale voices some of the characters is extremely peculiar. The most egregious example, for me, is the way he portrays Ron with some mix of generic Northern English working class and a more specialised kind of broad cod-Yorkshire accent. It struck me as odd at first, having never really imagined Ron with that voice, but I was prepared to roll with it. But then as soon as I heard Dale’s reading of Fred and George, neither of whom have an accent at all like Ron’s, or really any distinctive kind of accent at all (despite growing up in the same household!), it was kind of a deal-breaker for me.

I would say that, when it comes to reading the basic prose, Dale is more energetic, which is certainly suited to the high-tempo parts of the book. For the more subdued scenes, though, Fry has a slightly more dignified approach, which suits the dark subject matter of Deathly Hallows in particular.

I’d say that if you’re an American who is unfamiliar with English regional accents, then Dale will suit you just fine, and might be the much better option for the more light-hearted early books. For any British people reading, though, I’d say we got the best option in Stephen Fry, and it’s not worth the effort or expense of seeking out the Dale recordings for anything other than curiosity’s sake.

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Alderete October 25, 2010 at 7:49 pm

@Theo: Thanks for the great insight into the accents! As an American, I would have to say that I don’t notice any inconsistencies with Dale’s accents, and indeed, the subtleties of Fry’s accents are such that I don’t actually notice them. To my ears, many of the characters sound virtually the same. LauraHolt wrote above that preference is more about country pride, but I would guess it’s more about having the ear training of growing up surrounded by British accents, or not. Dale’s accents are more broad, more exaggerated, so that they will be identifiable to a non-English ear. Fry has the benefit of a more constrained, better ear-trained audience, and is able to give a more serious performance that is nonetheless clear and entertaining.

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Taz August 14, 2011 at 7:57 am

Hi can I just say that Jim Dale is English!! I only recently (today) found out that there even was another version of the audiobook as I have only ever listened to Stephen Fry. I got the first Harry Potter on tape years ago when i was a little kid (im 17 now). I expected Jim Dale to be American as I can totally understand an American audience wanting a person with an American accent to read. But seeing as he’s English I dont understand why there are two people. I have noticed the US and the UK front covers are different, does anyone know if the words themselves are different, if only just? Stephen Fry is absolutely incredible. You might prefer Dale if thats what you’re used to but Fry has an extremely distinctive clear voice and does the characters’ voices extremely well. As far as credit and awards go because it appears Americans only are aware of the Jim Dale version and considering the enormity of America it makes perfect sense for Dale to be voted higher where sheer numbers are concerned. Honestly i absolutely love Stephen Fry’s version, he has the talent and understands the wit exeedingly well. I havent listened to Dale enough but enough to know he is extremely talented also. I think it comes down to what you are used to. There is not a ‘better’ voice, its really who you enjoy better. Having started to listen to the tapes when i was about 7, it would be deeply hard to imagine any other person read to me at night (I dont mean that in the creepy way it appears!!). Stephen Fry in many ways is the voice of my childhood! I remember laying in bed when i must have been 8 to the second book with the flying car. That awe that i felt… lets be honest it came from JK Rowling.. Dale or Fry. who gives a flying toss eh

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Alderete August 14, 2011 at 4:32 pm

@Taz: There are minor wording differences, but the overall story is obviously the same. Things like “chips” instead of “fries”, “biscuits” instead of “cookies.” Little things, but it does add up, and I would say that the Fry version is more distinctly British (which is a good thing). But Jim Dale’s range of voices is far more dramatic than Fry’s. In this area, it may come down to whether you prefer an understated or a dramatic performance. Both are terrific, you can’t go wrong with either.

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Aju C Daniel February 8, 2013 at 9:07 am

I completely agree with Aaron. My ears have found the pauses taken by fry impressive,thus I have a clear favorite.

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