Up until several months ago, I had never really dipped my toes or should that be ears into the world of audio books. I am not sure why. Maybe it’s as simple as it had never occurred to me or I never had a compelling reason to.
However, recently I was looking for something that would fill in that dead space where reading a book the traditional way wasn’t practical such as when sweating it out on my exercise bike. I normally listen to music, a podcast or watch an episode of something or other but that was starting to get boring.
It was while looking at bookstagramme posts on IG that I noticed a few people supplemented their reading of books with listening to books. I stopped, clapped my hands together in glee and thought … there is my fourth option.
So I dutifully fired up Mr Google to see what my options were. Boy … are there plenty of them!
From my very rudimentary research it seems that there are two main ways to access audio books: via a subscription based service or buy as you go.
Subscription based is just as it says. You pay a monthly fee which gives you access to a large body of material usually numbering in the tens of thousands of books. Without going into too much detail, the fee allows you to access a certain number of titles per month. Some suppliers allow you to keep the books indefinitely whereas others operate like a library, you rent and return.
The other option is to buy an audiobook from a supplier for a one off charge – simply download and it’s yours.
I feel the key to knowing which one is right for you is frequency of use.
Will you use a subscription service enough to justify the ongoing cost? Are you going to do enough listening to make it worth it or, with all the other methods of entertainment competing for your attention, will you only get through one book every few months?
Think of it this way.
For example: A monthly sub costs $15 and individual book buys cost $25 (this seems to be a rough average).
If you think you will only listen to one book every three months, a monthly subscription of $15 will mean that the book will end up costing $45. If you purchase it as a one off, the same book will cost $25.
If you think you will listen to three books a month, a monthly subscription of $15 will mean that each book will cost $5. If you purchase those three books as individuals at a cost of $25 a piece, you will end up spending $60.
Sorry for all the maths but you get my drift.
After all that head scratching and mathematical calculations to last me for the next forty years, I decided on the one off charge model for now while I was just starting out. I can always switch to a subscription based service if I find my usage and costs going up.
So what supplier?
This was a little easier to decide upon. I operate within the Android ecosystem, more specifically Google products, so I located the Google Play Books app, downloaded it and went shopping!
But what was I in the mood for? Much like ebook shopping, I sat staring at the screen for what seemed like forever waiting for something to leap out and grab me. The one thing I did know was that I didn’t want to start with a very long audio book (I class anything over 4 or 5 hours as long).
In the end I decided on Shakespeare by Bill Bryson. Why? Well he is one of my favourite authors. I find his work gently humorous, very informative, unthreatening and stress free (and it was only a tick over five hours in length read by the author himself). I loved it!
Next was the Surgeon of Crowthorne by Simon Winchester. I had read this the traditional way many moons ago and thoroughly enjoyed it, so thought I would revisit it as an old favourite. Again the author provided the narration and it was just as fascinating and amazing a tale as I remembered it. If you haven’t read this book you really must.
But now for fiction! After two forays into the world of the true story I arrived at the doorstep of make believe with the Queen of Crime, Agatha Christie. And Then There Were None is an absolute cracker! The story is first class and, super bonus, it is read by Hugh Fraser (he played Captain Hastings to David Suchet’s Poirot on TV and I just love him). The chapters are of a manageable length so I usually got through a couple in one session so a big thumbs up all round.
Next was another Christie, one of her classics, Murder on the Orient Express read by the fabulous Kenneth Brannagh (which I assume he recorded as a tie in to his recently released movie version of that book). As with all things Sir Ken he gave it his all with gusto which made it a fun listen. And it wasn’t until hearing it read to me that I realised how much of an abrupt ending it has. Admittedly I hadn’t read it the old fashioned way in years so maybe I had just forgotten but it just ends …
I am now on a Roald Dahl kick. Matilda has been consumed and The Witches is now keeping me entertained. I am particularly enjoying The Witches as it is read by fabulous Miranda Richardson. That woman is a legend! So talented.
As you can tell I am quite taken with audio books. I find they have a soothing quality about them which I guess is dependant on the narrator but I have been lucky so far in that respect. There is something about being read to which is very calming even when pounding away on an exercise bike! I have been thoroughly entertained with all my choices so far. I am going to stay away from the heavier crime novels or psychological thrillers etc. but that is just an extension of my overall reading habits (I don’t like books that cause me undue levels of stress so generally modern crime is out).
I am not at the subscription stage yet as I take a break every few days to listen to a podcast or two because variety is the spice of life but I can see myself eventually joining such a service.
My recommendation … give audio books a go. They are another way to access the joy of books, the wonder of the written word and the amazing world of stories both true and made up.
I’m pretty sure you won’t regret it!
(Header Image: Negative Space)