I love holding physical books in my hands to read, but in the last six years I have also become completely hooked on audiobooks as well!
Whether you are brand new to audiobooks or a seasoned listener I hope there will be some helpful ideas in here and that it can answer some of your questions. If you have any other questions, please feel free to ask!
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WHY do you listen to audiobooks?
The most common reason I hear for people saying they don’t listen to audiobooks is that they don’t feel like they have the attention span for it. I am not a strong auditory learner and so I didn’t think I did either. I had listened to audiobooks on car rides with my family growing up, but I didn’t really pursue it on my own until I was working a job in college where you were allowed to listen to music or books while you did the more monotonous work. I started trying out audiobooks and I got completely hooked! It definitely took time and practice to get used to listening to the stories and there were some books that I was more distracted on and didn’t get as much out of them. But that was the year I read the most books I’ve ever read in one year!
Audiobooks are the secret to how I am able to read so many books! I listen to them while I do dishes, clean the house, exercise, prep materials for my home preschool, fold laundry, cook, and when I’m driving on longer car rides. Cleaning is one of my least favorite activities, so I know it’s a really good audiobook when I start looking for extra cleaning to do so I don’t have to stop listening!
Beyond that, there are countless studies that show the benefits of listening to books. Especially for children! I have a list of recommendations specifically for children’s books at the end of this post.
HOW do you listen to audiobooks?
There are lots of options to find audiobooks- both free and not. Here are a couple of the options I have heard about or used.
A very popular choice is of course Audible and they have the biggest selection of titles and the benefit of not having to wait on other people who are reading it. You could sign up for a free trial to see how you like it. You won’t beat the span of their titles, but it’s more expensive with only one title included. Once you download the audiobook it’s yours to keep, but since I don’t care about owning most of my audiobooks and because I listen to so many per month, it’s not the best fit for me personally.
I recently tried Scribd for the first time and found it to be a great fit for me. It is a subscription service where you can download audiobooks, ebooks, magazines, and sheet music. It’s cheaper than Audible (only $8.99 a month) and you can listen to as many as you want (rather than paying for each one). There is some kind of algorithm which after you’ve listened to several audiobooks does limit you from listening to certain other ones until your next billing cycle. Their selection is smaller than Audible, but still pretty substantial. I was excited to find they offer many audiobooks not available through my library apps. The app can be glitchy and is not quite as user friendly as Audible or Libby, but overall I still found it to be a great resource for the low cost. You can try a 60 day free trial and see if it’s a good fit for you!
Libro.fm is newer to me, but I love the idea behind it! It is basically the same monthly plan as Audible, but it goes through an independent book store of your choice and benefits their store! Perfect for people who want to support their community and independent bookstores, but love listening to digital audiobooks!
Personally, I listen to most of my audiobooks for free through the library. There is a wide selection of audiobooks either on physical CDs or as digital downloads, but I mostly use digital downloads through free apps because it is so simple and convenient. I have the apps on my phone and then can easily download audiobooks directly into the app and listen to them wherever I go. Most of the apps have no limit on how many audiobooks you can check out in a month so you can listen to your heart’s content!
Each app is free to download and then you sign in with your library card and have access to all e-books and audiobooks your library owns. The downside is you can’t always check out what you want to listen right when you want to listen to it, because the library has a set amount of copies and other people may have already checked them out.
To make the waiting process easier, I always have several different audiobooks on hold so I can listen to available books while my place in line moves up. And to avoid having all your audiobooks becoming available at the same time, you can “suspend your hold” for a certain amount of time so you keep moving up in line, but won’t have the book checked out to you until you’re ready.
These are the most common forms of digital audiobooks that I’ve seen libraries use:
Overdrive has previously been the most commonly used across all libraries and usually has the biggest selection.
The creators of the Overdrive app have recently made a new app called Libby. It offers all the same content that Overdrive does, but is more user friendly with a new design and it makes navigating and browsing between multiple libraries/library cards easier. I really like how it makes it much easier to see all the details and to have a good idea of how long your wait would be for a specific title. Your downloads/holds/etc show up the same on both apps when you sign in with your library card. This is my favorite app to use and I have heard from many people that they think it is easier to use than Overdrive.
Hoopla is another very common app that gives you access to audiobooks, e-books, music, and more. The awesome thing about this app is you don’t have to wait in line and can instantly borrow and download the titles. I have checked out many music albums for my kids and I to listen to as well as many audiobooks. It does put a limit on how many titles you borrow per month (it’s 5 per month through my library, but that may vary depending on the library), but since I am usually using other apps as well it has never been a problem for me. This is always my go to app when I’m looking for an audiobook to fit in between others, since there is never a waiting period.
I’m not sure how widespread axis360 is, but my library uses it and has a good selection. In all the previous places I’ve lived, I’ve used Overdrive pretty exclusively, but at the library I currently live near the audiobook selection on Overdrive is surprisingly small and I’ve had to branch out and try different apps.
My son has used one of these and it is something I would check out again. They use preloaded devices that you can listen to audiobooks on, or kids can do a guided readalong of the audiobook and a print book together. Most libraries carry playaways that you can check out. I think this is a great option for kids especially!
WHICH audiobooks should I listen to?
All audiobooks are not created equal and a bad narrator can really ruin your experience. But an awesome narrator and production can really enhance the story to be even more than what you would have read on your own. So how do you find the good ones?
Most apps/subscription services allow you to listen to a sample, before you download a book. I previously didn’t pay attention to those, but now I always listen to a small clip (if it’s not a narrator I am familiar with) so I can have an idea of if it will be a good fit for me.
If you find a narrator you love you can search what else they’ve narrated. There’s usually an option to click on the narrator’s name and it brings up all of their books. I’m including a list of my favorite narrators below so you see if they appeal to you. Apparently I’m one of those stereotypical people who love accents, because the majority of these narrators have accents ;). Clicking on the name will take you to all of their audiobooks as seen on Audible.
Jim Dale (He is basically the king of narrators and is probably the one narrator that most people are familiar with. He narrates more than just Harry Potter!)
Fiona Hardingham (her and Steve West also narrate a lot of audiobooks together- even better!)
Michael Kramer (He narrates most of Brandon Sanderson’s novels which is where I’ve heard him so much, but he narrates many other books I haven’t read as well)
Katherine Kellgren (Unfortunately she passed away in early 2018 and won’t have any more audiobooks released, but she has long back list that worth checking out! She’s been often called “the female Jim Dale”)
Jayne Entwistle (She is awesome at doing different voices and is one of the adult narrators that I feel can do children’s voices without sounding obnoxious)
A Couple Other Tips:
If you are worried about having the attention span for audiobooks start off by listening to books you’ve previously read and want to reread. Or read some children’s or Young Adult books. That way if you get distracted and miss some parts you can still get a pretty good gist of the story. Also you can always rewind- I’ve done that many times!
You can control the speed of the narration to match the pace you most prefer. I usually listen to my books on 1.5x speed, but sometimes slower or faster depending on the narrator.
All of the audiobook apps I have used have sleep timers on them so you can set your audiobook to turn off after 15 minutes or various other amounts of time. I have a hard time clearing my head at night to fall asleep and I very often fall asleep listening to an audiobook. This doesn’t work if I’m in a very intense part of the story though- it has the opposite effect of waking me right up!
And here are the links to my lists of audiobooks that I thought were very well done as broken down by age group. I’ve listened to many more beyond this, but these are ones that stood out to me as being particularly high quality:
I will add to these lists over time, so check back for updates. You can pin this page so it’s easy to find again and check back for new ideas.