Listen Up! A Beginner’s Guide to Audiobooks
by Karen Green
It used to be that if you wanted to consume a book through any other means than holding a hard copy in your hands, you probably went to the library, perused a very limited selection and perhaps eventually checked out a briefcase full of cassettes—books on tape. But the days of limited selections, clunky hardware and questionable, fuzzy audio are gone, and in their wake an audiobook renaissance is taking place.
There are lots of reasons to choose an audiobook over a more traditional reading route: for one thing, you can listen with your hands free to do something else, so you can get through another chapter or two while still doing chores like driving and making dinner. Audiobooks are also perfect for people with physical challenges that make holding heavy books or reading print difficult. Being able to enjoy a great book should always come without limitations. And anyway, as millions of children know, being read to is a singular joy that should not end when youth does. Listening to audiobooks, with today’s talented and professional narrators, is a treat and a pleasure that we can all enjoy.
Like much of our media these days, audiobooks are most popular in digital form, and though CD audio books still exist, we’ll focus on how to become a digital audiobook connoisseur. From your daily commute to your daily exercise, we’ll have you searching out opportunities to plug back into your favorite book in no time. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
To get started:
Download your app
Audible, owned by Amazon, is the big name in audiobooks. With a giant selection of audiobooks, Audible works on a monthly subscription basis, though audiobooks can also be bought through Amazon on a per-book basis. (The cost per book is generally higher this way.) Your books are yours forever, and you can listen through any device that has the app on it. $14.95/month.
Audiobooks.com also works on a monthly subscription. Their library is currently smaller than Audible’s, with about 100,000 titles, but is growing. The books are yours to keep and Audiobooks.com also has multi-device listening capabilities and a user-friendly interface. $14.95/month.
Scribd is slightly different, as it offers Netflix-style on-demand use with about 30,000 audiobook titles plus access to tons of ebooks, magazines, newspapers and documents. $8.99/month.
Don’t forget about your library! For free audiobooks, all you need is a valid library card and the Overdrive app, which also gets you access to ebooks, magazines, journals, newspapers and whatever else your library offers digitally. As with all library materials, audiobooks are borrowed for a specified period of time, and are subject to limited licenses, so you may have to go on a waiting list for the audiobook title of your choice.
Find a book
Every audiobook provider allows you to sample an audiobook before you buy it, so before you pick your title, give it a short listen. While audiobook production these days is top-notch and often uses well-known voice actors or celebrities to record, you still want to make sure you’ll be able to listen to six to twenty hours of that narrator’s voice without getting annoyed.
New releases and bestsellers are almost always given an audiobook companion right away, so they will be easy to find, but older titles and obscure books may be more difficult. Most classics are available, and nonfiction is just as plentiful as fiction. There are many, many audiobooks available for kids, and Audible has even begun to put out original podcasts. More original material is sure to follow.
Once you’ve chosen your book, buy it (or borrow it), download it and enjoy! It really is that simple, and that wonderful.
Do you enjoy audiobooks? Let us know which ones you’ve listened to lately!