Perhaps you are one of the readers who discovered audiobooks during self-isolation to break up the hours in the day, or started to rely on them during daily walks or housecleaning. Maybe you joined our Virtual Book Club on Facebook and enjoyed the book selections via audio on Hoopla or the Libby app.
You’re not alone, as this opinion piece for Buzzfeed indicates and, as its author notes: “[…]some books are especially engaging in audio — some, I’d wager, are even better when you listen to them.”
Audiobooks are getting more and more popular. The Vulture blog from New York magazine speculates it‘s because of Audible’s push for exclusive and commissioned works, spurring other publishers to start their own audio divisions.
Nieman Lab points to the popularity of podcasts (especially podcasts specializing in fiction) driving more interest in audiobooks and cites a report from the Association of American Publishers showing that “[revenue from] digital audiobooks, recorded as ‘digital downloads,’ grew by a whopping 36.4 percent between the first halves of 2017 and 2018. In contrast, hardback and paperback revenues grew by 7.2 percent and 2.6 percent respectively, while ebooks shrank by 5 percent.”
Audiobooks have the same benefits as reading, with the added benefit of being an access point to books for dyslexic readers, visually and/or physically impaired people, and struggling or reluctant readers. The latter topic is covered in more detail in this Story Pockets blog.
Still, many people continue to think that audiobooks are like cheating for reading, so much so that the Audio Publishers Association has a Pinterest board of handy social media-ready visuals and infographics to counteract this narrative.
Of course, the Library is the first – and in my biased opinion, best – place to go when you want to find an audiobook to listen to. Our streaming and download services have a wealth of materials, while traditional books on CD can be found in the Library Catalog. And once you’ve found a narrator whose voice and delivery hit the sweet spot, don’t forget that you can search the OverDrive catalog for their name and find all the books that they’ve narrated. It’s a great way to find more titles to check out.
We also have a hand in creating audiobooks, through the recording studio at the Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, where volunteers are trained to record and narrate any book that has a Pennsylvania connection, and make it available to patrons of the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled – read more in this blog post!
If you or someone you know wants to learn the basics of our streaming and downloadable eResources, join us for a Virtual Computer Basics class on just that subject. The next one is coming up on Thursday, October 8th – register at the event page here.
Wondering where else you can find recommendations for the best of the best audiobooks? There are many blogs, like the AudioFile Magazine blog, that cover audiobooks exclusively. And there are several awards for finding lauded productions.
The Audie Awards celebrate categories like Audiobook of the Year, Audio Drama, Best Male and Female Narrator, and other genre-specific awards. The Independent Audiobook Awards has similar categories, while the Odyssey Award is part of the American Library Association awards lists and is given to “the producer of the best audiobook produced for children and/or young adults, available in English in the United States.”
This conversation between a veteran audiobook reviewer and a judge on multiple audiobook awards panels highlights what makes a good audiobook and what goes into evaluating an audiobook for an award, along with how audiobooks are evolving with Own Voices narrators and multicast productions.
For those who want to read and review the newest titles to create buzz for publishers, NetGalley just introduced an Audiobook option on its site, and Spotify has offered audiobook options for a while, although they are hard to find. Book Riot has a guide for the best way to navigate the Spotify options.
Open Culture, LibriVox and Project Gutenberg aggregate free audiobooks, mostly older books in the public domain, but also some free files from author sites. For the duration of the pandemic, Audible has offered its Stories service for free, a collection of books for children and teens.
With so many options, why not check out an audiobook today?
You can sign up for a free library card here. If you are new to our eResources, check out these tutorial videos on how to get started. If you have any additional questions, you can contact a librarian through Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. You can also call us at 412-622-3114 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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