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.
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!
I adore audiobooks. A big part of my reading are audiobooks and I got no shame.
— Wilmarie (@WinkWinkWinki) January 30, 2019
I like listening to books I’ve already read- with a good narrator the reading really enhances the text. I get frustrated that books that are available in the US are not available in the UK (& vice versa I expect).
— Jane Petrie (@petrieperson) January 27, 2019
Listening doesn’t come as easily to me as reading. I don’t feel it’s active enough to keep my mind from wandering.
— Madison Diaz 🐘 (@MadisonDiazAuth) January 27, 2019
As someone with migraines and vision deterioration, I rely on audiobooks for my sanity. I wouldn’t really be able to read much anymore without them.
— Cora Carmack (@CoraCarmack) January 26, 2019
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. 🙂
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:
Love audiobooks. I love reading whenever I find time and on the train is the biggest time I can find to read. But I get motion sick so easily. 🙁 So audiobooks are my saviour. And I love to practice English with them. Outlander would be never as good if I read it myself. 💕
— Honey 🇦🇹 (@Mitsubachiii) January 26, 2019
I used to be in the ‘not my thing’ camp but I’m a convert! I’m so time poor that audiobooks have become my go to: in the car, while cooking, while cleaning, any other menial task = audiobook!
— Kat Colmer (@katcolmer) January 28, 2019
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.
I have a lot of attention issues when it comes to reading and I am a very auditory person when it comes to narrative, so I love audiobooks!
— ⛄Alexa Windsor ☃️ (@alexa_windsor) January 26, 2019
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.
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.
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 usually prefer a paper book in my hands. I have a kindle but the backlight bothers me sometimes. I usually use readercoin and podcoin while I’m doing housework, so I can ‘read’ while still getting other things done.
— Sara Cronin 📚 (@SJCBookReviews) January 26, 2019
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.
My answer is complicated 😀 I love listening to books! But only on text to speech (it’s actually quite natural with the google narrator). I dislike audiobooks because people make weird voices and also they interpret emotions for me. TTS lets me interpret myself as I listen.
— Evelina | Avalinahsbooks (@AvalinahsBooks) January 26, 2019
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.
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 generally love them, but I can’t get into it if I don’t like the speaker’s voice or they are doing a regional accent badly. Luckily I haven’t come across many of those!
— Anstice Brown 📚🖋 (@dustingthesoul) January 25, 2019
I love the ones that I do listen to – I’m quite fussy with narrators though. I’m Welsh and for some reason a lot of American narrators don’t sit well with me 🙁 my favourite is Strange the Dreamer/Muse of Nightmares, and the Red Sister series by Mark Lawrence
— full metal bitch (@rxwanevejxnes) January 27, 2019
Audiobooks are my life! Lol. I’m a designer & since my job is so visual, it’s easy for me to listen & work. I love audiobooks but they def bring a whole new layer to the reading experience. Narrators can really make or break a book & sometimes I have to stop & actually READ it.
— Loretta (@LaughnListener) January 26, 2019
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.
I started listening recently but takes a while to listen and is quicker to read. Could read if can’t sleep or if I want to chill. But not for hours
— Jen_ bookworm (@Jen_wales) January 26, 2019
I love the CONCEPT of audiobooks, but I’ve found that most narrators read a lot slower than my typical reading pace so I have a harder time staying focused. I still think they’re a perfectly legit form of “reading,” but I’d definitely prefer to have the words in front of me.
— EJ Fisch (@EJFisch) January 27, 2019
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.
I can only listen if I’ve read the book before. I get focused on other things and miss giant segments of the book. I end up very confused
— Brittany (@behappybehickey) January 26, 2019
I’ve very very barely tried them, but from what I’ve gathered so far, I’m not sure they’re for me. I get distracted super easily, and I absorb information better if I’m reading it. @alexa_windsor, however, loves audiobooks as far as I know!
— Azalea Forrest (@AForrestWrites) January 26, 2019
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.
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 recently got into audiobooks and I don’t know how I functioned without them honestly. I am getting twice as much reading done because I can listen on my commute to and from work and while at the gym, then read at my usual time before bed.
— Aimee Davis (@writingwaimee) January 27, 2019
It really depends on occasion for me. I like listening to audiobooks when I’m doing something mindless with my hands. But I find I tend to miss details listening rather than reading.
— Celine ‘my lit review is a dumpster fire’ Wu (@readingceline) January 27, 2019
I prefer audiobooks. I don’t have a a lot of time to read print books, but have more opportunities to listen to audiobooks when I’m driving, exercising, etc.
— Kelly🤘🏼Librarian 🤓 (@punkrocklib) January 27, 2019
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.
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
- I’m Forcing Myself to Like Audiobooks. Kind Of. @ Flying Paperbacks
- How Audiobooks Changed my Reading @ booknerdtan
- Why You Should Try Audiobooks @ Chasm of Books
- 11 Reasons Why I Love Audiobooks @ The Caffeinated Bookworm Life
- 5 Tips for the Audiobook Newbie @ The Caffeinated Bookworm Life
- Audiobooks @ Inside My Mind
- Audiobooks Pt. 2 @ Inside My Mind
- In Which I No Longer Hate Audiobooks @ NovelKnight
Posts reviewing audiobooks specifically
- Why Tim Curry Makes Sabriel Worthwhile @ Laughing Listener
- Why Dream Thieves is the Drug High We’ve All Been Waiting For @ Laughing Listener
- White Cat @ Laughing Listener
- Bliss(ters): How I Walked From Mexico to Canada One Summer by Gail M. Francis @ Secret Library Book Blog
- Audiobook Playlist @ Fabulous Book Fiend
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!