Should You Try Audiobooks? Survey Says….

Posted March 1, 2019 by Amber in Bookish Things / 7 Comments

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I’ve been wanting to do a post about audiobooks for a long time.

Audiobooks became a regular part of my reading rotation back in 2014.  These days, they make up most of my reading.  When I first started telling people about how much I love them, I got a lot of weird looks.  One of my more blunt friends asked, “Why would you want someone to read to you.” After that I stopped recommending them as much in person – maybe it was just a me thing? – but I’ve noticed the community shifting lately, and it seemed like a good time to test the waters.

As it turns out, people are loving audiobooks.

Rather than just going about how much I enjoy them, I want to bring the voice of the community to this post.  You can decide for yourself whether or not you want to give them a try.  Like anything in this world, audiobooks will not suit everyone – but I love them, and a lot of other people do are well.  I ran a week-long survey on Twitter which got a great response, so thank you to everyone who participated!

I would like to preface this post by warning you that I’m a US blogger, so some of the resources I have to offer for audiobooks are likely not available overseas.  I’m going to do my best to represent the voices of international listeners as well, but my understanding is that depending your country, your resources can be quite limited.

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Question #1

Do you listen to audiobooks?

This is pretty well broken down in the community out there.  I’m in part of the 41%.  I LOVE audiobooks.  For me, it’s not someone reading to me.  With a good narrator, an audiobook feels like a radio play, not just someone reading a story out loud.

But here’s what I’m seeing out there.

Between “I love audiobooks” and “It depends on the book”, I see that 73% of the community is willing and sometimes happy to pick up an audiobook.  We’ll get into some of the reasons later.  Of what remains, 32% says they’re not really into audiobooks themselves, but they respect the people in the community to enjoy them.  There’s only 1% who are hardcore judging.

Rather than listen to me talk, check out some of the things the Twitterverse is saying!

There was a comment from the 1% that hates them, but I dug through the thread and I couldn’t find it.  I think that the original poster may have deleted it… but it was basically that the OP is an adult and doesn’t need somebody reading to them.  And, by the way?  That’s a perfectly legitimate opinion, which is why I’m mentioning it here even though I can’t find the tweet. 🙂

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Question #2

When do you read audiobooks?

Half of all responders said that audiobooks were the sort of thing that they only used when they couldn’t read a physical book.  This is great for when you have to do housework, or you’re driving, or when you are at work (if the nature of your work allows it).  I’m in this group, but I nudge a little towards the “supplement print books” group as well.  There are some books that are a lot easier for me to read as audiobooks, especially the longer ones where my attention wanes.

Here’s some other people who use audiobooks to supplement or as their primary source of reading:

I do want to talk a smidge about the 9%.  For some people, the focus isn’t there.  My husband is one of these people – give him a hardcopy book and he’s completely lost.  He never used to read because of this, which meant he missed out on a lot of good stories.  When we started commuting together, we started listening to audiobooks and since then, he’s been reading a lot.  It’s the only way he can read.  And he’s not alone.

So for those people who are open to it, I definitely recommend trying out an audiobook during a commute, or some time when you can multitask so it doesn’t feel like a waste of time to try.  You never know what worlds it may unlock.

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Question #3

How do you listen to audiobooks?

Okay, so let’s say you’re interested in audiobooks, but you’re not sure where to begin.  Don’t worry, loves, I’ve got you covered.  Please keep in mind that these options won’t be available in all areas.  I reached out to the community, and here’s what I found:

54% of people borrow their audiobooks.

Honestly, if it’s not one you’d listen to over and over again, I think this is the way to go.  The best place to start is your local library.  While you’re there, see if your library participates in Overdrive or Hoopla or another digital subscription service.  Overdrive has saved me hundreds of dollars and I love it.  And the Libby app is simple to use and super convenient.

45% of people buy their audiobooks.

If you are unable to borrow audiobooks or can’t borrow the ones you want, but still really want them, you can buy them!  But audiobooks are pricy.  Not only are you paying for the book itself, but you’re paying for the production.  To keep an audiobook collection on a budget, the easiest way to about it is to stream a subscription service.  You have some options here.

The only audiobook subscription service I have tried myself is Audible, and I genuinely like it.  They work on a credit system, which you can use to buy a book.  For $14.95 you get one credit/month.  You can use this credit to buy almost any audiobook (some require two credits).  $14.95 is a good deal on an audiobook no matter how you look at it.

With Audible, you get to keep your audiobook after you end your subscription (though unspent credits disappear).  There are other subscription services available to stream audiobooks, such as Scribd and (believe it or not) Spotify.  With these, you don’t get to keep the audiobook, but you can listen to it.  Spotify seems mostly focused on classics so far.

Free audiobooks?

Now, if you are interested in audiobooks for classics, then there’s a free option for things in public domain.  LibriVox is free and easy to use – honestly, it got me through a lot of my college reading (history major, a lot of dry books).  The only thing to know going into LibriVox is that they are not read by professionals and the narrator tends to change between sections.  These are all read by volunteers… but if there’s some public domain reading you need to do, this is a good source.

Another commenter, who who wasn’t keen on audiobooks but occasionally listens anyway, also mentioned a free source I’d never heard of:

I checked out Readercoin, and it looks like this is an app that, essentially, pays you for reading.  You can listen to audiobooks on here, or read ebooks.  You probably won’t find NYT bestsellers on this app, as it’s intended to help authors promote their work and reward readers for helping, but it’s free books and a great resource if you’re hungry for words.

Besides, you never know!  There are some really fantastic indie books out there.

1% of people use text-to-speech

Even though it’s a pretty small sliver, I wanted to talk about using text-to-speech to convert your ebooks into speech.  I was brought up in the poll by Evelina, who alway has such a great voice when it comes to trends and advice in the bookish world.

I think this is super interesting.  From the look of Evelina’s comment, it seems like she uses the TTS function within her Google Play Books app.  There are a lot of different apps out there that can convert text to speech, so definitely dig in if this is something interesting to you.

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Question #4

What is one thing you dislike about audiobooks?

Not everything about audiobooks is good.  I posted a kind of controversial DNF a couple years ago when I couldn’t deal with the audiobook version of The Never-Ending Story I was listening to.  Sometimes, even if you do love audiobooks, there are things that just work out.

For the people who responded to my poll, that problem was bad narrators.

I really couldn’t agree more.  I’ve DNF’d a few books I was on the fence on anyway because of the narrator.  I’ve also had books that I think were good, but some of the narrator’s choices really put me off (The People of Sparks).

Another pain point is the speed of reading.  If you don’t get distracted, it is a lot easier to read a physical book than to listen to someone else read it.  There is some opportunity to increase the reading speed – most people listen at 2x.  I’ve recently turned up my reading speed to 1.25x personally, but it all depends on the narrator, I find.

Still, if you can read a book faster, I can see why people would choose not to listen to it.

Additionally, if you have a busy mind, audiobooks may not be a great fit to you.  I personally can only listen to an audiobook while I’m also doing something with my hands – typing, driving, cooking etc.  In fact, while I’m typing up this post I’m listening to The Half-Drowned King (which is really good and underrated, btw) because if I’m not listening to something, I get distracted.  But if I’m just listening to an audiobook, my mind wanders too!  So I can see how it wouldn’t work for everyone.

Then, of course, there is still the underlying fact that some people just want to do the reading themselves and that is that!  And like I said earlier, that’s okay too.

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Question #5

What do you love about audiobooks?

All of these things are my favorite things, so I was curious what the community would say was their favorite!  Overwhelmingly, it’s the ability to multitask.  I’ve got to say, if I only got to pick one, that would be my favorite thing about audiobooks too.  My current commute to work is 87mi, which in bad traffic is almost three hours.  It’s terrible, and if I couldn’t multitask listening to a book, I don’t think I could do it.  Even then, just barely.

I used to listen to radio plays when I was a kid – even participated in one when I was in middle school, which was coolest thing ever – so I do appreciate performance aspects of audiobooks.  But there were those in the survey (already quoted) who mentioned they didn’t like that forced perspective of the reading.

Additionally, I have a busy mind, so listening to the audiobook zooms me in to the story, which I like.  Apparently, I’m the only one!  …  Haha, actually I know that’s not true.  Not everyone responded to all the polls – a few people mentioned that they couldn’t focus on print books when they listed it as their primary source of reading.  So, again, if you are an auditory person, audiobooks are a great option!

Finally, perspective.  I think that re-reads help a lot with this as well, but I always pick up different things in listening to audiobooks than when I read print copies!  I love it.

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More reading!

Are you still on the edge about audiobooks?  Many lovely volunteers who responded to my polls left me their blog posts and book tube channels so I could pass them on to you!  I don’t want you just to take my word for how audiobooks have rocked my world – check out what other people have to say!

From what I’ve read, there’s praise and criticism within these posts, depending on which one you are reading.  I hope you find that both sides of the discussion are represented. 🙂  Thank you to all who volunteered their relevant posts!

Posts about audiobooks
Posts reviewing audiobooks specifically
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Finally, I just want to say a great big thank you to everyone who participated in this little project.  It was so much fun for me to connect to a small community of audiobook listeners within the YA community.  I discovered a lot of new blogs and so many people made interesting points and introduced me to new services.  I feel like I learned a lot here, and I hope you did too!

If you have a spare moment, please check out all the quoted twitter users and the content creators noted above.  They’re all lovely people and have a lot of awesome stuff to offer… and not just about audiobooks, I promise!

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Do you read audiobooks?

Do you read different books in different formats, depending on the book?

Has your style of reading changed over the years?
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7 responses to “Should You Try Audiobooks? Survey Says….

    • Amber

      Happy to spread the love! Turns out there’s a WHOLE community of audiobook lovers out there. I feel like there’s so much stigma out there still for audiobooks, I was really excited to connect with everyone.

  1. What a great post!! I find people’s relationships with audiobooks really interesting now, so I’m all over this. I sort of centered my whole blog around my love audiobooks and then discovered afterward that it’s kind of a hot button issue??? People get so WEIRD about them sometimes!

    It sounds like you and I feel the same way. I’m a total fan and I love that they let me read while I’m working, but I also use it to supplement reading physical copies sometimes too. It really depends on the novel. Some books are just better when they’re performed and some books are better read and I love weeding them out for myself. I have totally DNFed an audiobook because of the narrator that I later loved reading (I just went through this with Truthwitch) and vice versa. Sorry about the novel, I could talk about this for ages!! 😆

    • Amber

      Let’s talk for ages! 😂 That’s a good tip about Truthwitch – it’s near the top of my audio TBR but I have a paperback as well. I won’t let myself get discouraged if the narrator isn’t my cup of tea!

      I was actually thinking about you and audiobooks lately because I just reread Sabriel via audio and DIDN’T love it! And I remembered you’d said you loved it because of the narrator! I like Tim Curry, but liked that one in print better (though we can agree his Mogget was brilliant). I went to reread your review and thought we’d have such opposite opinions given how much you liked Tim Curry’s narration, but we agreed on everything else. 😂

    • Amber

      Hehe, I love graphs. I fall in the majority as well. I think that the survey reached a lot of audiobook fans, which may have biased it a little… but it’s really wonderful to see so many people who love them? Until I met Loretta (Laughing Listener) I really felt like I was the only one.