Audiobooks are the busy booklover’s best friend: when you’re too busy or tired to thumb the pages of a paperback, you can just press “Play” and have a book read for you!
While audiobooks are a recent invention, Thomas Edison himself predicted their rise back in 1877, after he created the first phonograph record and foresaw a time when people “whose eyes and hands may be otherwise employed” could listen to books.
In fact, audiobooks have come a long way, from cassette tapes, to CDs, and now to downloads or even online online streaming services.
How to Listen to Audiobooks
Audiobooks can make for some pretty fun and easy entertainment. But there are some tips you should be aware of to help you get the most from your experience :
1. Decide which types of books you want to listen to.
First, understand that some books are better on audio than others. The more a book leans toward entertainment value, the easier it will be to listen to as an audiobook. More technical books may not be as effective.
This means that from your to-be-read (TBR) list, you should pick the titles that you think will be best served by audio. Works of fiction are often good choices, especially if you can find a good dramatized version.
2. Multitask wisely.
Clearly, one advantage of using audiobooks is the ability to multitask while you’re listening. But choose your activity wisely: driving or commuting are among the best ways to make use of audiobooks, because you’re not really using your mind on another activity.
But listening to an audiobook and browsing social media on your phone may not be a good pairing, as whatever you’re listening to will likely lose your attention at some point.
3. Practice self-narration or journaling.
One proven technique for better comprehension is to summarize what you’re read for yourself or another person. You can practice this even when listening to an audiobook, by pausing every few sections and either summarizing everything you heard to yourself, or writing it down in a journal or notebook.
Alternatively, you can recount what you’ve heard to someone else, such as your spouse, a friend, or a colleague. (Plus, it might make for a great conversation!)
4. Adjust the speed to your preference.
Many audiobook platforms, such as Audible, allow you to speed up or slow down the speed of the narration. This helps if you find the reading too fast or too slow; adjusting the speed according to your preference will help improve your comprehension and keep you engaged.
Is Listening to Audiobooks as Good as Reading?
Some people think that listening to audiobooks is not as effective as reading. But the general consensus among people who have done both is actually that they each give the reader (or listener) an experience with the book (or audiobook), and that neither of them is better or worse.
One way of putting it is this: while they are absorbed through different senses (one through the ears and the other through the eyes), they both challenge your comprehension and expand your vocabulary by exposing you to a wide variety of words.
In fact, some advantages of audiobooks include:
- You get to hear how difficult words are pronounced, skipping over the difficulty of reading unfamiliar words.
- With the right dramatization of audiobooks, you can hear how different accents and colloquialisms actually sound, even if you’ve never heard them before.
- You can listen to them even while you’re doing something else: this is something that’s virtually impossible to do with a physical book.
However, some challenges of audiobooks include:
- You can’t highlight or write notes on an audiobook.
- It’s more difficult to locate parts where something resonated with you.
- It’s easier to space out while listening to an audiobook, compared with a book that requires your full attention when reading.
For a more complete analysis, check out our post on the benefits of audiobooks vs. reading.
Where Can You Listen to Audiobooks for Free?
You don’t have to spend big bucks to get books read aloud to you. Many sources allow you to download audiobooks for free, or for a minimal subscription fee. Some of the most popular options include:
Librivox features classic books from the public domain narrated by volunteers. This gives you access to a wide array of free audiobooks.
The catch, though, is because it’s done by volunteers, sometimes it’s a hit-or-miss for getting an excellently executed story. But that doesn’t mean you can’t find treasures here: in fact, some volunteers have gone so far as to produce a dramatized version that will surely entertain you way past your bedtime!
You can access Audible, owned by Amazon, with a monthly subscription and the Audible app that you can get on any device. One advantage of Audible is that you can use Whispersync, which lets you continue reading on your Kindle without missing a beat.
You can check out our Audible review to get a better idea of this service. You can also try it for 30 days free to see if you like it.
Scribd is another subscription service for audiobooks, with choices ranging from Fiction, to Lifestyle, to Science & Tech. You can use it on the Scribd app on any device.
You can also try Scribd with a 30-day free trial.
Audiobooks to Try
If you are just getting started with audiobooks, we recommend checking out some of the best books on audio.
In addition, here are some samples you can try. The first two are free on Librivox, while Harry Potter and Can’t Hurt Me can be accessed with a free trial of Audible.
- Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery Dramatic Reading on Librivox
- The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood by Howard Pyle on Librivox
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling on Audible
- Can’t Hurt Me by David Goggins on Audible
Listening to Audiobooks
By using these tips for listening to audiobooks, you can maximize your learning and get the most from your listening experience while also doing some multitasking.
If you’re curious about other ways to enjoy books, check out our guide to e-readers and their benefits.
When do you like to listen to audiobooks? Share your favorite listening routine in the comments below!