Books

My Tips for Audiobook Listening

I am fully aware that a) I have mentioned these tips sporadically already through other posts and b) that audiobooks are considered controversial by some. To address these two things really quickly:

– Because I share my reading experiences on my Instagram (personal, and now my bookstagram), I have been getting a ton of questions about audiobooks. I want this post to concisely answer those questions and to live here forever so I can link back to this post as FAQs pop up.

– Listen (no pun intended 😉), if you don’t think audiobooks count as reading, no problem. Keep on carrying on. Personally, I do.

WITH WHAT APPS DO I LISTEN TO AUDIOBOOKS?

I use a range of apps. It’s out of personal preference. I’m also not super budget conscious so I don’t mind spending a little more on audiobooks, especially since I really enjoy listening to books.

I have a subscription with Audible & purchase audiobooks through Libro.fm. Technically, you’re definitely fine choosing just one. Audible (which is owned by Amazon) has great original content that I like to have access to in addition to the book credits I have and Libro.fm supports your local bookstore. Since I listen to so many books, I alternate between the two depending on whether I have an available Audible credit for the month or not.

** I have worked with Audible in the past, though it was a one-time flat-fee sponsored post and I recently received a handful of free downloads from Libro.fm in exchange for promoting on my bookstagram and a code to pass along a discount to followers. Truly love and use both though.

I also use Libby, which connects with my library card so I can download audiobooks (and e-books if that’s your thing!) for free. It’s great because you can see what’s available now or you can place a hold on a book you’re interested in and be added to a waitlist.

I almost always start my audiobook hunt via Libby. I scroll through what’s available sorted by popularity. Or, I may have an idea in mind and I’ll search for it there first. If the waitlist is too long, I move on to pay for it. Or, if it’s a book I’d like to read but I’m not dying to read ASAP, I’ll place a hold and wait for it. It’s pretty obvious that if a book strikes my fancy, I’d rather download it for free than to pay for it!

If it’s not available via my library and if I don’t want to be on a waitlist, I then either use an Audible credit (if I have one for the month) or purchase through Libro.fm.

HOW TO CHOOSE WHAT TO READ (aka listen to)

THE NARRATOR // Audiobooks are different than books in that a narrator can make or break it! It’s kind of like taking classes at school. Sure, everyone takes calculus but if you get assigned to a boring teacher who hasn’t changed their lesson plans in two decades and your friend gets assigned to the best teacher that everyone prays to get because she’s so engaging and makes learning fun, chances are, she’ll enjoy her class more than yours. Same material, different outcome. You’ll figure out after a while what kind of narration you prefer, but in the meantime, don’t skip listening to the previews available before committing. (If you’re downloading a book via Libby, you can still listen to the sample via Audible or Libro.fm for free.) Trust me, if the narrator isn’t your cup of tea, it’s not worth it.

THE CONTENT // Some books lend themselves better than others in audio form. When I was first starting listening to audiobooks, I really enjoyed memoirs read by the authors themselves. I’m almost always guaranteed to enjoy non-fiction books too, even preferring listening to reading text. Now I can listen to any kind of book, but if you’re not used to audiobooks, I’d recommend avoiding books with complicating timelines (particularly books that go back and forth between two years) and numerous main characters. Well, I should add the caveat that this is what prefer. One easy way to see what you like best is to reference your favorite podcasts! If you like true crime podcasts, try a whodunnit or mystery novel. If you like interviews, try a memoir. If you like podcasts about entrepreneurship, try a business book.

One great thing about audiobooks right now is that these aren’t your grandmother’s “books on tape” anymore. Publishers recognize that this is how people are consuming their books now and they’re creating true masterpieces as a result. The audiobook Daisy Jones and the Six, for example, was incredibly well done with each character narrated by a different actor.

HOW TO CONSUME AN AUDIOBOOK

I have to be doing a secondary task to listen to an audiobook. If I try to listen to one sitting on a couch or reading, I simply fall asleep or find myself down a weird train of thought and realize I’ve missed two chapters, twenty minutes later. One of the things I like about audiobooks is that it allows me to capitalize on my time. I listen literally throughout the day, even if I only have five minutes. I can easily get in an hour of listening a day, which seems like a lot but trust me, the time adds up. I can’t always sit down for an hour to dedicate to reading, but I can squeeze an hour in over the course of a day. I listen while I: empty the dishwasher in the morning, take the dogs for their walk, fold laundry and put clothes away, drive during various errands, work out, needlepoint, and even curling my hair. My favorite time to listen to audiobooks is while working out. It actually makes me look forward to my workout and makes it go by that much faster.

Again, if you’re already a consumer of podcasts, you can kind of follow the same line of thought for when to listen. If you haven’t dipped your toes in the water at all, just dive in and figure it out from trial and error. (This is where having a library card helps because if you end up hating an audiobook, you can just quit without having wasted any money.)

 

Some of my Favorite Audiobooks

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29 Comments

Caitlin

I have loved following along with your Bookstagram! It’s definitely inspired me to read more and listen to more books. As an elementary reading teacher, I constantly refer parents to provide books on tape for students. There’s a huge amount of value in listening to them and to hear the rich vocabulary! So worth it as an adult as well. 🙂
Caitlin
LemonadePressBlog.com

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Liz

Carly- I (like many others) held the opinion that audio books didn’t “count” as reading. Then I heard the episode “The Universal Page” on one of my favorite podcasts, 99% Invisible, and changed my mind. I actually feel bad for ever believing audio books don’t count – as a podcast fiend it’s a rather hypocritical opinion, and moreover, I was not even acknowledging my own privilege as someone who can see well enough to read with my eyes! I encourage everyone to listen (link below) but for the TLDR crowd – consider whether a vision-impaired person is “not reading” by choosing to listen to an audio book. And before you say “Braille!” (Imagine losing your eyesight in adulthood and needing to learn Braille?), consider also that many people who can read with their eyes can find the experience uncomfortable- perhaps they suffer from dyslexia? Perhaps they have physical discomfort holding books or turning pages? Perhaps they absorb information best via audio, and not by reading? There are countless reasons why audiobooks are a perfectly valid form of reading.

“The Universal Page” 99% Invisible: https://99percentinvisible.org/episode/the-universal-page/

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Genevieve

What a great post! I love audiobooks and they are such a great way of getting extra reading time in while doing other tasks. I consider having someone read to me as reading a book so I very much count audiobooks as reading too. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

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Sue

Listening is reading!! Thinking it is not is kinda old school. The world is always changing, growing and adapting so we must also.
Thank you for this post. Love your content.

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Kristen Woolsey

I set a goal to read 12 books this year, one a month. I’m well over double that goal because of audiobooks! Libby was a game changer for me. I love it, and you get plenty of time to listen/read. Plus it’s free!!

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Kathryn

Thank you so much for suggesting Libro.fm. I’ve recently gotten into Audible, but felt a little pang of guilt each time I passed my favorite bookstore. I had never heard of this service before, and can’t wait to start supporting my local favorites.

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Allison

Couldn’t agree about audiobooks more! It’s a different experience than sitting down with a book, sure, but the convenience far outweighs any misgivings I have.
Tip! Audible will also let you return an audiobook if it just really isn’t your thing. Even if you finished the whole thing and it just didn’t jive, you can get your credit back!

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Alex

100% agree! Audiobooks for life! My husband and I disagree on this, and there was once a NYT article that actually got into why some people love them and some people do not. Who are your favorite narrators? I sometimes search for books that way.

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Sarah

I used to only listen to my audio books in the car but after you gave the tip that you literally listen anytime you are doing small tasks – it totally changed the way I listen!

Also – 100% agree on the narrator. Always listen to the sample first!!

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Lauren G

Love ‘From Scratch’ and ‘The Whisper Network’! Both authors are speaking at the Texas Book Festival in October and I can’t wait! Going back to audiobooks, I was also hesitant about them until I saw how much you enjoyed them. I tried one awhile back and the narrator just wasn’t doing it for me. Once I started using Libby with my local library, I felt better about trying audiobooks since they were free and I found some that I really enjoyed! They’ve replaced a lot of podcasts for me. Hope this post introduces audiobooks to more readers! Especially those who feel like they don’t have the time for traditional reading with busy schedules.

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Rachel

I also love the Scribd app! It’s a subscription ($8/month) that offers thousands of ebooks and audiobooks, generally with different content than Libby. Another great, affordable option!

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Phyllis

Great post that I will refer back to {and also send the link to my ‘audiobooks don’t count as reading’ friends!} I don’t even get the “judgment” on this. Which way do you ENJOY a book? I was a life-long reader ~ I loved the feel of a book in my hand, the scent of a library and read/enjoyed a lot of books. BUT then life got busy and one of my favorite pastimes faded away. Enter audiobooks. I listen to them via my Alexa device in the house {from ceiling speakers installed in our kitchen and master bath!}, as well as on on my iPhone in the car. AND…the proof is in the pudding. Prior to audiobooks, I was only reading about one physical book a month. After audio books, I’m getting the joy from one book a week! Last year, I actually was able to finish 50+ books this way! And I can honestly say, I ENJOY audio books as much as I do a physical one. Life is too short not to enjoy it in whatever way works!

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Annie

Liz makes such a good point about the privilege of reading. As an English teacher, getting my students to read at all can sometimes be a challenge for myriad reasons – interest, stamina, time, comprehension, decoding difficulties, other learning issues… it’s endless. For many students, their comprehension is stronger if they listen, and it feels not quite as daunting. I encourage audiobooks frequently!

Gate-keeping about books – from how we read them (listening, e-readers, etc.) to how we organize our books – is so tiresome to me, and I don’t really see the point. I am an avid reader and have many books, but sometimes I listen to them, sometimes I use an e-reader, sometimes I skip around and read the last chapter first, sometimes I put a book down 100 pages in (and refuse to feel guilty about it).

Sometimes I organize my books by author, sometimes by color, sometimes by favorite books or time period in my life I read them or genre. These things work for me. It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t work for you – do your own thing.

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Grace K.

I’m much more of a podcast girl–something about holding a fictional book in my hands is too important to me! But I love how widespread and polished audiobook productions are becoming. I’ve heard some of the best audiobooks are celebrity memoirs (Mindy Kaling, Amy Polehr, etc) because if you’re a fan then you already know and love their voice.

I appreciate how thoughtful your tips are and will definitely keep them in mind if listening to an audiobook! (loving the new content lately btw)

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Christine

I love listening to audio books! Included with the Audible subscription, they have the Wall Street Journal digest that has 4-5 articles from various sections of the paper each weekday. I listen to it while getting ready for work in the morning. I would recommend it to anyone as an easy way to keep informed!

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Aleda

Carly I don’t know if you’ve heard of Hoopla? I heard of it from another blog. It’s linked to your library just like Libby but there is no waiting time! It has limited selections but there are good ones there! I’m so greedy with books that I take what I can get now and free. I just finished an American marriage from there! English is not my first language. I’m fluent in English but sometimes it’s hard to read a very serious and complicated book that needs so much comprehending that I tend to read along while I listen to them.

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carly

Yes! But hoopla only shows what your library has available where Libby shows what’s available AND let’s you join a waitlist for additional titles

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Denise

If you don’t like a book on Audible you can return it for a refund or refund of credits. It’s pretty easy to do.

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PeachyEssay

Good audiobooks create more vivid images and stronger emotions in my head than a good movie. Perhaps this is because the images in the head are more reliable than the images on the screen. In the movie, actors play roles, and I rarely can completely disengage from their play. And here is only a good story and an interesting storyteller. Eyes do not get tired of paper or screen. And so all day I look at the glowing dots. An hour without screens is a luxury. Can be combined with other things that do not require a brain. Walks, trips, household chores, cooking. Audiobooks are soothing. I stopped getting annoyed with people on the subway and on the roads when I got hooked on audio books.

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carly

YES!!!! It’s such a nice break from screens– great point! (And I completely agree about your subway comment. I feel the same way when I get stuck in traffic. It’s like “bonus” listening time!)

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CC

I’d love to hear what equipment you use for listening to books while working out. Do you have an arm band for an iPhone?

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JB

I had never been a fan of audiobooks until I started working at the library and decided to try them while I shelved books. I couldn’t get into fiction books (I prefer to read them myself so I can “hear” the characters’ voices the way I want to), but I’ve really enjoyed nonfiction. Funnily enough, I’ve always HATED reading nonfiction, biographies, memoirs, etc., but I love listening to them. I also use Libby through my library so I can listen for free and I always make sure to tell patrons about this awesome service!

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pinoy tv wale

100% agree! Audiobooks for life! My husband and I disagree on this, and there was once a NYT article that actually got into why some people love them and some people do not. Who are your favorite narrators? I sometimes search for books that way.

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Leslie

Hi Carly! I’ve known about you and your blog and Instagram for a while, but completely fell in love with you during your episode on the Bad on Paper Podcast. I love how bookish you are. As an 8th grade English teacher, reading has always been a part of my life but you’ve inspired me to really make more use of audiobooks (which in the past, was really only reserved for road trips!). I love my car ride to work–no more NPR (even though I love it). The news of the world lately has been so depressing! My whole mood changes starting with a book on the way to work! It also allows me to read more of what my students are reading. I love MY personal reading and reserve that for weekends and books, but audibooks are a great way for me to read what my 13 and 14 year olds are reading too! Thanks so much!

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