A Conversation About Audiobooks

By Michael Cardin

Recommending audiobooks

As a librarian I am always promoting the library on or off the clock. One day I recommended to a friend that he try out the audiobooks one can download from the library’s website.

“Why do you listen to audiobooks?” he asked me with suspicion. “Isn’t that cheating?” He maintained that reading the print version of the book was the correct way.

It’s not cheating

“How is it cheating?” I countered. “Nearly all audiobooks produced these days are unabridged. If you listen to the audio version as intently as you read the print version you still will have a similar experience. Instead of using your eyes to process the information you use your ears.

In some ways audiobooks might give you more of a boost. There is research supporting the use of audiobooks. An article written by two librarians says research “repeatedly indicates that listening to audiobooks enhances comprehension, fluency, vocabulary, and language acquisition, as well as overall reading achievement” (Grover and Hannegan).

An addition to—not a replacement of—traditional reading

I went on with my explanation. “Audiobooks have changed the way I read. I still read the old-fashioned way. But now I find time to listen when I can’t read. With audiobooks I can cover more ground. For instance, when my son takes his nap and I have housework, I listen to audiobooks.

When I am outside raking leaves, I listen to the story of the man who compiled the Oxford English Dictionary.

During those long car rides, I listen to an author contest conventional wisdom regarding parenting.

When I cook and prepare food, I listen to a narrator describing the Maginot Line in France during WWII.

If you take all that time spent doing menial tasks, you have carved out more reading time. The range of subjects covered in audiobooks is the same as what you find on library shelves. From finance to true crime to study aids to romance to the classics, all the bases are covered.”

Great narrators

“You also get to hear the stories read by great narrators. Sometimes the author reads the book for you. These authors very often demonstrate the passion they feel about the topics of their books. Other times you’ll hear actors, well-known ones, interpret a great work of fiction. The words come alive. I’ve listened to an autobiography read by the author. It felt like that person was standing right next to me telling me his life story.”

How much does it cost?

“Don’t audiobooks cost a lot of money, particularly the really long ones?”

“I’m glad you brought that up. What many people don’t realize is that people can download audiobooks from their public library website for free. The Sails Library Network serves 73 Libraries in 40 communities throughout Southeastern Massachusetts. The Sails Library Network as well as the Ocean State Libraries Consortium offer both eBooks and audiobooks to download.

How to get started

If you have a valid library card you can sign into the Sails Library Digital Media Library and create an account. From here you can download Overdrive Media Console onto your computer. This allows you to download books to your computer and listen to them or to transfer them to your device—iPod®, iPad®, iPhone®, Windows Phone® and other devices.”

Give audiobooks a try

I further explained “All genres are represented in this ever-growing catalogue. This digital library mirrors existing library collections and caters to the needs of all patrons of every age and ability. In a way this digital collection is an addition, a supplement, and an enhancement of the existing collection. Until more hours are added to our allotment of twenty-four in one day, finding time to read is a challenge for those reluctant readers as well as the insatiable readers.”

“So,” I said to him, “now you have no excuse not to try audiobooks.”

Work Cited
Grover, Sharon and Lizette Hannegan. “Hear and Now: Connecting Outstanding Audiobooks to Library and Classroom Instruction.” Teacher Librarian 35.3 2008: 17. MasterFILE Premier. Web. 21 Feb. 2013.

Michael Cardin, MLIS, is the Young Adult Librarian at the East Smithfield Public Library in Smithfield, RI. This year’s Teen Summer Reading Program will be the seventh that he has planned and carried out.

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3 thoughts on “A Conversation About Audiobooks

  1. Thanks, Michael.
    I might argue, though, that when we read a book we hear the depth of our own voice if we are reading well. With an audio book, it is first and foremost always the voice of an “actor.” Yes?

  2. This makes an excellent argument. While I understand Bob’s question, he is assuming that all people have the ability to “hear their own voice” while reading. We utilize audiobooks as assistive technology for many of our students who struggle to hear themselves or comprehend what the read in a paperback book.

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