A Beginner’s Guide to Audiobooks

by Karen Green

Audiobooks are a sonic gift to enthusiastic readers. They are a hands-free, accessible alternative to a print book and, like ebooks, are a great way to save shelf space without compromising a love for reading. And with the rise of digital audiobook services, apps, and lending and subscription programs, their availability just keeps growing. If you’ve been curious about audiobooks but you weren’t sure where to start, we think we have the answers to the questions you’ve been asking. And once you start, we have a feeling you’ll become an avid listener in no time.

 

What are audiobooks?

The modern version of books on tape, audiobooks are sometimes on a CD, but are now usually a digital file of an entire book (unabridged) or portion of a book (abridged), that’s read out loud by a narrator—often the book’s author or a celebrity. Audiobooks are not limited by length, genre or publication date of the original print book, and more and more books are being rereleased in audio format alongside new releases.

 

Where do I get them?

Audiobooks on CD are less available now, though libraries still usually have a collection. Much more popular are digital audiobooks, which are available as files to be downloaded, either from the library, a publisher, an online bookseller or a subscription service like Audible.com.

 

How do I listen to them?

Audiobooks on CD must be listened to on a player that is CD compatible (i.e., a car or home stereo or CD player, a DVD or Blu-ray player, or a gaming system). A digital audiobook is usually downloaded as an MP3 (universal), .wma (Windows) or .aac (Mac) file. To listen to these files, a player and an app are necessary. But don’t worry; whether you want to listen on a computer, tablet, phone or other device, when you buy or download your audiobook you will be directed to the app you need, which will then live on your device.

 

When and where would I listen to them?

The short answer is, any time, any place! People often listen to audiobooks in place of music—for example, in the car on a long commute or while exercising, cooking, working or doing chores. Audiobooks are also great for when your eyes and/or hands simply are not available or are too tired to do the work of reading. Listening to an audiobook is incredibly relaxing.

 

How long are audiobooks?

Audiobook length varies and depends on how long the original book is. Unless it is a children’s picture book, you’ll need anywhere from a few hours to a few days to listen to your audiobook. Most novels translate to approximately eight to twelve hours of audio.

 

How do I pick a good audiobook?

Start the same way you would when deciding on any book you want to read next: by consulting lists, getting word-of-mouth recommendations or browsing audiobook availability. Because the enjoyment of audiobooks relies so much on the quality of the reading, though, you must keep this element in mind when choosing an audiobook.

Audiobooks are not a specific category on most bestseller lists yet, but book sites like Goodreads, as well as suppliers like Audible, do provide lists of popular audiobook downloads. Once you think you’ve found an audiobook you’d like to try, be sure to listen to a sample, if possible—we all know how important “voice” is when reading, but it takes on an entirely new level of importance in an audiobook.

 

Are you ready to get started? Tell us how your audiobook experience goes!

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