Thursday, September 14, 2017

Audiobooks: A Beginners Guide

Nothing to Disclose


I've always been a little bit wary of Audiobooks. I mean - why would I want to listen to someone reading a book when I could just read it myself?

Every year, my reading drops off a bit from September onwards. This is for a number of reasons - mainly due to Halloween/Christmas prep. This is my favourite time of the year, and I get a lot of crafting done, but I hate that I have to sacrifice reading in order to do it. Enter audiobooks.

What's an Audiobook?
It's a book, read aloud by a narrator. It's a file that you can send to any compatible device. You can download it and listen at any time offline.

Where do I get one?
The most well known source is probably Audible, because it's an Amazon company. Audiobooks are also available to borrow from the library for free via the Borrowbox app.

Who narrates the books?
This varies. In most cases, a professional narrator will do it. In some (mainly autobiographies), they're read by the author. Sometimes, well known celebrities will narrate books written by other people - for example, Anne Hathaway narrates The Princess Diaries; Alan Cumming narrates Macbeth: A Novel.

How long does it take to listen to one?
This also varies, depending on the length of the book. I've found that most standard psychological thrillers tend to run about 6-8 hours, while something like "IT" by Stephen King is over 44 hours long.

I'm on a limited Internet plan. Will this use up loads of my data?
The only time it uses data or wifi is when you're downloading a book. When you're playing a book, it doesn't use any data or wifi, or require any kind of internet connection. Books average a couple of hundred megabytes to download - the largest I've come across is, again, "IT", which was over 600mb (but it's also a beast of a book physically, over 1,000 pages).

What's the point?
If you want to read more books, or you enjoy reading but don't have the time, you can use listen to Audiobooks while you're doing something else. I let them play while I'm doing housework, or out walking, or at night. This means that I can get through an extra couple of books a week even if I'm busy doing something else. I know other people also listen to them on a commute, on lunch breaks, or in the car. People with certain learning difficulties may also find it easier to listen rather than read. They could be useful for people with arthritis or injuries that make it difficult to hold a book or turn pages.

What apps do I need? 
I use the free Audible app, and the free Borrowbox app to listen.

Tell me more about Audible.
- It's owned by Amazon. You can sign up for a 30-day free trial, using your Amazon account, and choose any book.
- You will need to download the free Audible app to listen.
- If you cancel your free trial, you can keep the book.
- If you decide to keep your subscription, it costs £7.99 per month.
- Every month you are given one "credit" - you can cash this in for a book of your choice.
- If you don't like it, you can return it and pick another one.
- All of the books you get using credits are yours to keep indefinitely.
- If you want more than one book a month, you'll have to pay for it on top of your membership fee.
- If you buy a book on Kindle, you'll sometimes be offered the eBook at a reduced rate.
- There are free books available, but it's quite hard to find them.
- You can listen to a 3-5 minute sample of any book before you choose to buy.

Tell me more about Borrowbox.
- It's used by all libraries in Ireland to provide eBooks and Audiobooks.
- You will need to download the free Borrowbox app and join your local library for free.
- You can borrow a number of Audiobooks at once, return as you read, then borrow more.
- If you are not finished a book before the return date, you can renew it provided no other member has reserved it.
- New releases get snapped up very quickly, so check the site regularly.
- You can reserve a book if it's already checked out by someone else.
- You can listen to a sample of any book before you choose to buy.

Which is better, Audible or Borrowbox?
There are pros and cons to both. I really love that I can borrow from the library, but I find the selection can be very limited. I love the selection on Audible, and the fact that I can keep every book I buy, but some of the books are woefully expensive (Hannah Hart's biography is over £17 and under 6 hours long?!). I would prefer something like the Kindle Unlimited scheme for Audiobooks - where you pay a flat monthly fee and are able to borrow and return as much as you wish.

I usually use my monthly credit on Audible to pick something new or popular that I'd have to wait months for at the library. Then I use the library in the meantime to catch up with books I may have missed, or even sometimes books I already own but haven't got time to physically read.

Some of my favourite listens so far have been:

Stephen King - On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft (read by Stephen King)
Alan Cumming - Not My Father's Son (read by Alan Cumming)
Stephen King - IT (read by Stephen Weber)
Sue Perkins - Spectacles (read by Sue Perkins)
Amy Poehler - Yes, Please (read by Amy Poehler)

I'd absolutely recommend that you give Audiobooks a go - especially if you'd like to read more but find that time is an issue.

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, just shout!

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