Audiobooks on the Rise

By Allison McCausland

A&E and Online Editor

“The scar had not pained Harry for 19 years. All was well,” echoes the car radio speakers as the engine shuts off from a 45-minute commute. The driver steps out to go to work with a tear in her eye and a smile stretched across her face, triumphant at her completion of the famed J.K. Rowling series.

Bookworms have grown accustomed to racking up the number of paperbacks they’ve completed in a year, but in the fast-paced world of today, it’s a miracle that these connoisseurs or even the average reader can complete one. Their secret: audiobooks.

The immediacy and on-the-go attitude of society in the modern era has made many grow accustomed to the accessibility of entertainment whenever and wherever the consumer wants it, and books are no exception. Companies like Audible by Amazon and LibriVox capitalize on these trends by offering a wide selection of titles to be downloaded on laptops, phones and tablets that are carried and listened to at the leisure of the consumer.

Audiobooks have been around since the 1970s, but it has not been until recent decades that their popularity and use outside of those with eyesight impairments and children learning to read have become mainstream. A recent study by the Audio Publishers Association found that two-thirds of listeners utilize audiobooks because it’s a great way to multitask as well as finding that an overwhelming majority listen to them on their commutes. According to the statistics gathered by Good E-Reader, 48% of these listeners are age 35 and under, demonstrating the youth movement that correlates with the increasing popularity of having stories read to people.

The enjoyment of the experience of having a story read to the listener can be seen, or rather heard, in the narrators behind the words. Jim Dale, the Grammy-winning voice behind Harry Potter, and Roy Dotrice, the award-winning actor for the first five books of Game of Thrones, have received critical acclaim for their creation of voices and enthralling narration of their audiobooks due to their unique brand of entertainment. Even big-name actors such as Jeremy Irons and Stephen Fry lend their iconic voices to the narration of diverse stories, while authors like Neil Gaiman and Toni Morrison give listeners an inside look into their books by reading aloud their own works.

Getting started with audiobooks is easily accomplished with a few simple clicks and a good pair of headphones. Brands found on Audible and iTunes require an account set-up before browsing thousands of titles both free and requiring payment. Certain obscure or small-scale titles might vary from app to app due to the different digital distribution and copyright policies an author or publisher might put in place, but popular novels from authors like Stephen King or Gillian Flynn will no doubt be found across all platforms.

If consumers don’t necessarily have the money or feel like spending for their reading pleasure, there are dozens of free audiobook apps and websites, such as Overdrive or Lit2Go, that cater to savers. These free options, however, often only have certain small-scale titles or classic literature, poems and short stories that are in the public domain, so listeners hoping to hear the latest Outlander are out of luck.

Not all audiobooks have to be downloaded. Sellers like Amazon and Barnes and Noble sell CD versions that can be listened to in the car, while others can be conveniently checked out at the local library.

With more options to read than ever, a commute to the office can end at Hogwarts as soon as the car radio play button is pressed.

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