January 25, 2015

Audiobooks for Beginners (reasons why YOU should be listening to books, and resources for finding great free ones!)

Quirky Bookworm: Audiobooks for Beginners (reasons why YOU should be listening to books, and resources for finding great free ones!)
Book image by Jeff Daly.

I've mentioned before how much I love audiobooks, and how they're one of my not-so-secret secret ways to enable myself to read more than 100 books every year, even though I have small kids underfoot.

Here are just five of the many reasons why you should give audiobooks a try:
  1. They enable you to multitask. I can read books while mopping floors or doing dishes, which assuages my guilty conscience, and makes my house much cleaner.
  2. They add further dimension to a story. I tend to notice authors' word choices more clearly, or to think of characters differently when I have a voice to associate with that character. I love the Maisie Dobbs books on audio book, and now it seems like Orlagh Cassidy's voice IS Maisie Dobbs.
  3. Some books are better read aloud. I think Little House in the Big Woods was better on audio because of the fiddle playing. Or, a few years ago I read Footsteps in the Dark by Georgette Heyer. I remember thinking it was pretty good, but nothing special. Then I listened to the audio version, and loved it -- the narrator did such an astounding job of giving each person a distinct personality.
  4. They can occupy you on a long drive. The miles go by a lot faster when you have a good book to listen to.
  5. They're a great way to introduce stories to kids who are anti-reading. A fun production of a book can go a long way to enticing a reluctant reader. The library also has tons of audio sets, where you get a picture book to accompany the disc, which lets pre-readers "read" alone. 
Now that you're convinced that you should be listening to audiobooks... how do you go about finding them?

  1.  Your local library. Our library offers audiobooks in several formats. You can check out a book on CD, which is handy for in the car. Or you can download audiobooks via a couple of different apps - ours uses OneClick or OverDrive. I'm more familiar with Overdrive, which can be a little confusing at first, but your local librarian will be quite happy to help you sign up and get books downloaded. (Well, at least ours were, one of them spent more than an hour helping my grandpa set up OverDrive on his Kindle!)
  2. LibriVox. These are all volunteer recordings, so some of them aren't great quality-wise. But there are tons of apps out there (I bought one for my iPhone called "Free Audiobooks") which pull recordings from LibriVox, so you can listen right on your phone.
  3. Sync. Every summer Sync will give you 2 free audiobooks a week. And they don't expire, so you can download a bunch in the summer, and save them for later in the year.
  4. Audible. Audible is great for hard to find titles that aren't in your library system. The price is a little steep ($15 a month for one book a month), but I usually splurge once or twice a year, and buy myself a 3 month gift subscription, so that I can buy titles I don't normally have access to. Plus, once you're an Audible member, they have special member-only sales where titles go on sale for as little as $3 or $4.
And finally, now that you've found a good source for audiobooks, how do you choose where to start?

  1. Pick an author you already like, and listen to one of their books. Harry Potter is a great starting place, because Jim Dale is an excellent narrator. If you're trying classics like Sense and Sensibility on LibriVox, search for the versions read by Elizabeth Klett or Karen Savage.
  2. Try different narrators. Once you find one you love, try listening to a book they've recorded, even if it's a new-to-you author. Some of the narrators I love? Simon Vance, Rebecca Lowman, Ralph Cosham, Caroline Lee, and Orlagh Cassidy.
  3. Stay away from most ensemble cast recordings. (Graceling on audio? TERRIBLE.)
  4. Employ the "eject rule". If a narrator's voice is initially irritating for some reason, give it about a half an hour as a test. By the end of 30 minutes, if you're still paying more attention to the narration than the actual story, abandon it! Eject the disc, or delete the download, and get a different book on audio. 

Have any more audiobook questions for me?