The Voices in My Headphones: Listening to Audiobooks on the Go
Listening to audiobooks allows me to read more books more easily than ever before. I’m an audiobook junkie. I can’t hide it. It’s a sickness. An obsession. And I love it. However, the general public does not always share my affection for aural literacy. This is understandable, as audiobooks historically have been inconvenient, clunky, expensive, and hard to find. That’s not the case anymore! Savvy readers with iPods, smartphones, and library cards have easier, more abundant access to excellent audiobooks than ever before. Set aside your previous notions of cassette tapes in plastic clamshell packages and prepare to discover the hidden world of audiobooks.
The Benefits of Listening to Audiobooks
I love to read. If you’re reading Bookkaholic, you probably like to read, too. Bookkaholics read in bed, while waiting for appointments, in a favorite chair, or during lunch breaks. But finding enough time to read can be tricky for busy folks. I rarely meet anyone who says, “Gee, I wish I read less often.” Audiobooks are the perfect solution to finding more time to enjoy good books. Think of all the time available in a typical day for listening! Book can be enjoyed while cleaning, exercising, crafting, and commuting.
Getting started with audiobooks is easy. There are a lot of options, but Audible.com is the easiest option for beginners. The site is affiliated with Amazon, and downloads books directly into iTunes. Customers can buy books a la carte, but most readers subscribe to a membership plan and receive monthly “credits” to be redeemed for any book on the site (a few books cost two credits). I have the two books per month plan, and download the books directly to my iPhone. My credits roll over each month if I don’t use them. Audible books can also be burned to CDs and shared on up to five devices.
Listening to audiobooks can be very different from reading physical books, adding whole new dimension to reading. Hearing a non-fiction book read by the author or two different voices reading a dual narration novel are experiences that just can’t be replicated in a print book.
The Drawbacks of Listening to Audiobooks
There are some technical drawbacks to audiobooks. First, audiobooks are generally more expensive than print books, sometimes costing thirty or forty dollars. Joining a subscription service like Audible can reduce that cost (usually $14.99 or less for each book), but that still makes this format more expensive than e-books or paperbacks. Audiobooks also take longer to read, with most books coming in between six and twenty hours of listening time. Finally, it can be harder to retain information aurally than visually, so some people report difficulty concentrating on the story as it is read.
The social drawbacks, on the other hand, can be kind of funny. I listen to audiobooks on my iPhone on the bus, walking to work, and at the gym. It can be a very strange experience to be emotionally involved in book while surround by people who have no clue what I’m listening to. I sometimes look like a total goober! A few months ago I was listening to a novel with pretty steamy sex scenes while on public transportation. I was pretty sure the nice elderly women next to me knew what I was blushing about! People look at me funny when I laugh to myself in public. And I can’t lie — one time a book made me cry on the elliptical at the gym.
Overall, the benefits of adding audiobooks to your reading list outweigh the negatives. If anyone asks me why I’m crying at the gym, I just consider that an opportunity to recommend a great book. There are definitely ways to cut down the costs and discover new books, too.
First Listens for Audiobook Newbies
Audible is one of the easiest places to get audiobooks, but it isn’t the only place. Public libraries have started to offer downloadable books through the popular Overdrive service. Users can download these books using a library card (for free!), and they are automatically returned at the end of the lending period. Various sites offer free audiobooks (usually from the public domain), too. In fact, classic novels are found through pretty much every service for reasonable prices. Most are free or less than five dollars. I highly recommend anything narrated by Simon Vance.
For reading suggestions, check out the American Library Association’s Odyssey Awards for the best children’s and young adult audiobooks. AudioFile magazine reviews current audiobooks and has the full list of Audie Award winners, the audiobook award sponsored by the Audio Publishers Association. My personal favorites over the past year have been Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, narrated by Wil Wheaton; Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, narrated by Simon Vance; and Bossypants by Tina Fey, narrated by Tina Fey.
So, Bookkaholics, I hope I’ve managed to convince you that audiobooks are easy and a great way to read more, more often. What do you think? Love audiobooks? Hate them? Have a favorite you want to share? Leave your thoughts in the comments!