Audiobooks are awesome! Enough said, right?
I’m sure for some of you I’m preaching to the choir, so feel free to chime in with a hearty, “Amen!” at any point, should you feel moved to do so.
Still skeptical? Hear me out. You might just decide to give audiobooks a shot. And if you do, I suspect you’ll be glad you did.
An audiobook playing on my smartphone.
What’s so great about audiobooks?
1 – Performance.
A skilled reader can add the element of performance to the written work, giving it an added dimension, much as skilled actors can bring a play to life. You could read the play or the book and enjoy it immensely, or you could witness the performance with the possibility of enjoying it even more. It’s all the same words in the same order either way (assuming your edition is unabridged, as most current audiobooks are). The essence of the story is still there. But the interpretation by the narrator, if done well, can bring a book to life in a whole new way.
Of course, the flip side is that an audiobook read poorly can take away from the enjoyment of the book. So, if you’ve tried an audiobook and been unimpressed by the narration, perhaps it would be worth trying another, maybe one read by a different narrator. The trend is for audiobooks to be read by skilled professional actors and actresses, many of whom are making a name for themselves specifically as audiobook narrators. It’s not unusual for audiobook listeners to identify their own favorite narrators and seek out titles read by those narrators.
2 – Multitasking.
Read more, guilt free. I’ve been known to read while doing laundry, while doing dishes, while jogging, while driving, while changing a diaper, and while cooking dinner. All thanks to the audiobook. The beauty is that you have your hands and your eyes free to do other tasks, unlike when you’re reading a print or electronic book. At this point, I should probably confess to having read a paperback book while walking to class on more than one occasion back in college. While this is possible I don’t necessarily recommend it. Audiobooks work much better when you’re trying not to run into other people or inanimate objects.
Want some more multi-tasking ideas? Check out this Goodreads discussion on some of the things people do while reading audiobooks. As a bonus, I find that I’m less impatient with the time it takes to do housework when I’m listening to a book at the same time. Ditto for jogging. I tend to want to run a little longer if I’m in the middle of a chapter.
3 – Practice Listening.
Our culture tends to focus on the visual, on the written word. The ability to decode written words and understand what they’re communicating is an essential skill and one worth practicing. But historically, oral storytelling played a huge role in communication. Even today, in our social media heavy world where we’re tied to our smart phones, tablets, and laptops, listening is an important skill to practice as well. The ability to focus in on what’s being said, understand the content and the emotion behind the spoken words, and respond appropriately will serve you well both socially (conversing with friends) and educationally (attending a lecture).
And believe it or not, it really is a skill that benefits from practice. The first few times I listened to an audiobook, I found myself easily distracted. The words would continue along at their own pace until I realized that I couldn’t tell you what had just happened. For this reason, there was a lot of rewinding involved in the first few audiobooks, until I got the hang of really paying attention. Fortunately I didn’t let this discourage me, and a few books later I realized I didn’t need to rewind nearly as often. With years of practice behind me now, I’ve become much better at paying attention to the spoken word, even when multitasking. That and making judicious use of the pause and rewind buttons when there are interruptions requiring my attention.
If you’re still in the early phase of trying out audiobooks and finding yourself easily distracted, give it time. Try a few books. You may find one holds your attention better than another, and you may find, as I did, that listening to an extended narrative becomes more natural with practice.
Where to get your audiobooks?
Audiobooks are becoming more and more commonplace. In many cases, the audiobook edition becomes available at the same time as the print and electronic editions, so you don’t have to wait. You can find them available in CD editions as well as downloadable in a variety of electronic audio formats including MP3, WMA, and M4B.
As a librarian, I like to plug the local library whenever possible. And this is a great opportunity to do so. Many libraries loan audiobook CDs as well as downloadable versions of a wide selection of audiobook titles. It’s definitely worth taking a look to see what’s available from your local library. You can’t beat the price!
If there’s a waiting list for a popular title or (gasp!) the title you want isn’t available through your local library, and you don’t mind paying to get it now, there are plenty of opportunities to purchase audiobooks. Amazon, Barnes & Noble, christianaudio, Christianbook.com, audiobooks.com, and downpour.com are all great places to look for your favorite books in audio format. Some of these retailers even offer monthly subscriptions. Be aware, the selections can vary, so if one retailer doesn’t have the title you’re looking for, you may want to try checking another.
And if you’re interested in listening to free recordings of books in the public domain, or want to try your hand at volunteering to help create an audiobook, check out LibriVox.
For More Information:
If I’ve piqued your curiosity, come back here to my blog again next week (consider subscribing now to help you remember) for my first audiobook review. I’ll be sharing my review of Not in the Heart by Chris Fabry. I’ll continue to blog reviews of “regular” Christian fiction that I read in print or electronic formats, as well as throwing audiobook reviews into the mix. I hope you’ll give audiobooks a chance, but either way, bear in mind, with my audiobook reviews I’ll be considering the story and the performance separately to help you decide which format you might prefer for a given title.
For myths debunked check out “Listening to Books is Cheating” and 7 More Myths About Audiobooks from BookRiot.
Check out the Audiobook Insights blog for a variety of information about the audiobook industry. And if you’ve ever wondered if it should be “audiobooks” or “audio books” you’ll find your answer.
If you’re looking for some particularly good examples of audiobooks, check out the list of Audie Award winners and finalists. There are a wide variety of categories in which the award is given annually, including Book of the Year, Solo Narration – Male/Female, Narration by Author, Multi-voiced, and best in a variety of genres, including Inspirational / Faith-Based Fiction.
Do you already love audiobooks? Do you plan to give them a try? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
Happy reading… and listening.