Last week, Erica wrote about her favorite “apps for grownups” (easy to use, light on bells and whistles, get the job done) – read about it! This week, she’s biting into audiobooks…
Always an inveterate reader, I’ve found that the older I get the harder reading gets. My concentration flags and I can no longer plow through a 500-page book without falling asleep or skimming. Or even a 250-page book. I hate carrying heavy books around – even my Kindle seems heavy – and I’m constantly losing reading glasses. When my book club would assign long, highbrow books, I’d consider skipping the next meeting.
Until I discovered audiobooks.
Many of my non-techie friends also listen to audiobooks but are still schlepping the cassette tapes or CDs from the library, which I used to do – and hated. There’s nothing that makes listening to a book less fun than lugging a clumsy cassette or CD player and a bunch of CDs or cassettes around, and then losing track of your place. I’d constantly be pulling over to the side of the road to frantically fast forward or rewind a cassette, trying to find my place, a search that was usually futile because there’s no good way of bookmarking with cassettes or CDs.
Discovering that I could download books onto a tiny MP3 player was a revelation. Now I listen to books on my phone, which is even more convenient. Audiobooks support bookmarks, and have a list of chapters so you can jump around if you want.
Another great thing about audiobooks: a clean house. I never listen to an audiobook sitting down. I force myself to clean, exercise, do something active while I listen. I stick to a discipline of not allowing myself to find out what happens next until I get off my tush.
For listening, I use the same earbuds I recommended last week for my smartphone – the earbuds you can wedge behind your hearing aids. They have a handy microphone switch that also turns the audio on and off, so you can keep your place if you have to pause the book momentarily and/or switch to a phone call.
My Favorite Audiobooks
My daughter got me into a fantasy series, which are perfect for listening. Once you get swept away into the world of the book and a particular narrator’s voice, you want to stay and visit for a while. My favorite audiobooks are the longest, not only because I get more hours for my money, but also because being read to is an intimate experience that a paper book can’t duplicate.
My vote for best listen ever is the “Game of Thrones“ series which, in a reading by veteran actor Roy Dotrice, truly swept me away. I couldn’t have read that series in paperback because, at 1,000 odd pages each, I couldn’t have lifted the books – or the cassette or CD versions.
My second favorite is Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, which has 11 books so far, read by a narrator whose perfect Scottish accent makes me feel like I’m visiting the Highlands. I’ve also learned to appreciate Dickens. His quirky characters allow the narrators to chew up the audio scenery. I never would have read “David Copperfield” in a million years, but I’ve loved listening to it.
For a while I was on a great books roll but I overreached a bit with “Anna Karenina.” It was so endless that I couldn’t wait for Anna to throw herself under the train already.
Audible.com vs. your local library
Even though I know I can download free books from the library, I’ve subscribed to Audible.com since 2009. Audible has cornered the audiobook market for good reason: The company has reasonable prices, all the latest bestsellers, the most user-friendly interface, 24/7 customer service by phone and unquestioned returns. To get started with Audible, you just download the app, sign up on their site and then call their customer service number to guide you through downloading and listening to books. In its ongoing attempt to take over the world, Amazon recently bought Audible and has made it even more user friendly.
Audible membership is $15.95 per month for 1 credit, which gets you one book. For $22.95 a month you get 2 credits, or 2 books – but you can save money by shopping the sales instead. A daily deal arrives in your email from Audible.com every day, with a book that costs under $5.00, and there are regular sitewide sales with 200 titles for $4.95 each. I just picked up four titles for under $20 which will keep me busy for a couple of months, especially since one book is 30 hours long.
If you don’t want to pay for books, your local library offers the Overdrive.com app for free listening, which you can download on Google play. However, you can only keep a book for a week – and forget the latest bestseller. I checked on the availability of “The Goldfinch“ by Donna Tartt, for example (which I bought on Audible for one credit). There are 56 holds on one copy in my library system. And the Overdrive software is not terribly user-friendly. As an experiment for this article, I did manage to download a Maeve Binchy book after much trial and error. There’s no telephone customer service, but if you can’t figure out Overdrive, your local librarian should be able to walk you through it.
At the moment I’m deciding whether to listen to the Maeve Binchy before it disappears or sink my teeth back into Armistad Maupin’s “Tales of the City,“ which I bought on sale and started last night. But that means I have to wash the dishes, so maybe I’ll just watch TV.
What are your favorite audiobooks?
Erica Manfred is a journalist, essayist and humorist who writes about everything from dentistry to divorce to fantasy fiction. Friend her on Facebook.
Help. I love audio books for all the reasons you mentioned. I especially like to use them for falling asleep. However, I lose my place, and it takes forever to try to find where I was. I am loving the fellow who is reading Anna Karenina to me, but the audio book chapters do not correspond to the book chapters. So, I really cannot find my place. Thanks for any ideas. Carol
I like to have an audio book narrator read me to sleep, too, Carol. The trick is to turn on the timer either in the Audible app or on your device to turn off after 15 minutes or 30 minutes. Then it’s easier to find your place in the morning.
You might want to try The Classic Tales podcast https://itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/the-classic-tales-podcast/id258214995?mt=2
Whilst there are classics you can pay for, the podcast is free with a new episode each week. The narrator B J Harrison is really good. Give it a whirl.
Sounds great but I don’t have an iPhone. Is there an Android equivalent?
I am not an android user but I think this will work for you.
Thanks, I will definitely try that. I recommend “This American Life” app which is free from PBS. You can listen to years of This American Life shows with Ira Glass–some of my favorites. Also I think you can get stories from The Moth and Symphony Space. I love those. I’m sure they’re available for both Apple and Android.
I’m an audible subscriber, too. Not only are the books great, the technology just plain works. I like that I can listen on my phone or my iPad, and Audible syncs where I left off.
It’s amazing to me how many hours I can listen to books while doing other things: driving, doing chores, walking… (An audiobook on my phone + an hour of walking = exercise for the body AND the mind!)
And of course I love that two of my own books are available on Audible: Naked at Our Age and Better Than I Ever Expected!
If you want to try out using a small audio player for a book, you can rent a single book on a Playway device from your local library and keep it longer than a downloaded audiobook. Check them out at Playaway.com.