Audiobooks 101: A Beginner’s Guide to Audiobooks

Audiobooks 101: A Beginner’s Guide to Audiobooks

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audiobooks

Listen up, readers: We know the world of audiobooks can be intimidating. You may not know where to find them, what to look for in a narrator, or if they’ll fit into your daily life. That’s why we’re here with an easy guide to getting started. Here, we break down why we love audiobooks, how to start listening, and a few of our tips and tricks for picking the right audiobook for you.

 

Why audiobooks

If you’ve spent years reading physical and ebooks, you may wonder what the fuss is about audiobooks. You may even be reluctant to part from the sensation of holding a book in your hands as you lose yourself in the story. But don’t let your habits stop you from testing the waters of a new way to enjoy your favorite activities. Here are just a few of the reasons why audiobooks are great.

Multitask like a pro
Torn between reading and doing the dishes? Not with audiobooks. Everything from chores to running errands to hitting the gym becomes more exciting once you press play on an audiobook. The format allows you to be productive in more ways than one!

Time flies
Whether you’re listening as you commute to and from the office each day or on an international flight, audiobooks have the power to keep you entertained.

Achieve your reading goals
Many readers find that their reading speed increases once they start listening to audiobooks. Part of this is because they can multitask and read, but it’s also because readers can adjust the narration speed to go faster than reading with their eyes alone.

Exclusive content
Audiobook narrators can take your reading experience to the next level. By giving voice to the characters and the prose, a great narrator can transport you into a story and make you feel as though you truly know the characters. Plus with full cast recording, music, and sound effects, audiobooks make the listening experience as immersive as possible.

Get star struck
Do you want more Lin-Manuel Miranda in your life? What about Meryl Streep? With audiobooks, you can listen to your favorite actors anytime you want to.

Exclusive goodies
Some audiobooks come packed with extras like author interviews, podcasts, behind-the-scenes insight, and more to round out your reading experience.

 

Ways to listen

When it comes to audiobooks, there are both paid and free subscription services. We’ll outline some of the most popular below, but we recommend taking a close look at each platform yourself to find the best fit. Try searching for books or authors you know you’re interested in reading to make sure that the platform you join has them available. Also, your local library may use an free app not listed below. Ask your friendly librarian to point you in the right direction if Libby and Hoopla aren’t available at your location!

 

Paid subscriptions

Audible
For $14.95 a month, Audible members receive one credit that can be redeemed for any audiobook on their site. Plus, each month Audible releases a limited amount of Audible Originals (plays, novels, and more) and members can listen to two for free. All books that you purchase are yours forever, even if you end your membership. Audible also offers members the option of putting their account on hold. With an easy-to-use app and the ability to read others’ reviews, Audible is a favorite among many readers.

Scribd
If you’re looking for a subscription package that includes more than audiobooks, consider Scribd. For $8.99 a month, members can read ebooks, audiobooks, and magazines. Like a library, you may sometimes have to wait for certain content to be available, but Scribd otherwise allows unlimited reading and listening all month long for members.

Libro.fm
Not ready to commit to a monthly membership? Try Libro.fm. This platform allows members to choose between a $14.99 monthly membership or the À La Carte option where they can pay as they listen. Plus, Libro.fm also offers readers the option of buying books through their local bookstore!

 

Free options

Libby
A library card is all you need to start listening with Libby. This app connects you with your local library and allows you to check out ebooks and audiobooks and download them for offline reading. It can even send them to your Kindle, if you prefer to do your reading there. It’s a great way to support both your local library and your favorite hobby without breaking the bank.

Hoopla
Hate waiting? Hoopla offers readers access to ebooks, audiobooks, music, and movies from their local library and there are no holds. Bookworms who love reading a book and then immediately watching the film adaptation will find Hoopla to be a great one-stop shop.

LibriVox
If you’re a fan of the classics, this app is for you. LibriVox is a database of free public domain audiobooks, with most of the texts coming from Project Gutenberg. The cool thing about this app is that all of the audiobooks are read by volunteers from around the globe. In fact, you can even volunteer to be their next narrator!

 

Tips and tricks

Sample first
A great narrator can take you into the world of a book with the power of their voice. We recommend listening to a sample of any audiobook you’re considering (offered for free on audiobook sites!) to get a taste of the narrator’s voice and style to see if it works for you.

Speed up, slow down
If you’re using an app for audiobooks, you’ll have the option to speed up or slow down the narration. Some readers may prefer to listen at a faster pace, and you should experiment with different speeds to see which sounds best to your ears.

Listen together
Audiobooks turn reading into a shared experience. Enjoy  audiobooks with your family or friends during a long car ride, or introduce a regular listening night for your household! Let your family vote on which book you’ll listen to next, and leave time to discuss what’s happening after each chapter. This is a wonderful way to encourage a love of reading in kids! 

Read along
Pairing your reading and listening can help to give you a more complete experience. Try following along with a physical book or ebook as you listen to your audiobook. You can also encourage your kids to read along as you listen together!

 

Choosing an audiobook

Now that you know more about some of the available services, it’s time to start listening. Here’s some advice for getting started.


Play favorites
Audiobook newbies often select an old favorite as their first listen. Revisiting a book you love in a new format can offer you a new understanding of the story, characters, setting, and more! Plus, you already know you’ll enjoy it!


Test the waters
Not ready to fully commit to 30+ hours of an audiobook? Give yourself an audio trial run by listening to poetry or short stories first!

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo, narrated by Elizabeth Acevedo

Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri, narrated by Matilda Novak

Go for a test drive
Audiobook sites offer short samples of each book so that you can get a feel for the narrator. Listen in and make choices based on whose voice you’re excited to hear more of. Be sure to keep track of your favorite audio narrators so you can listen to more of their work in the future. Here are a few of our favorites.

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens, narrated by Cassandra Campbell

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones, narrated by Sean Crisden and Eisa Davis

Ask for recommendations
Chances are you’re friends with a bookworm who loves audiobooks. Tell them that you’re getting ready for your first listen and don’t know where to start. We guarantee they’ll have some ideas. Speaking of, here are three audiobooks the Bookish team can’t get enough of.

Becoming by Michelle Obama, narrated by Michelle Obama

Love and Other Words by Christina Lauren, narrated by Erin Mallon

Sadie by Courtney Summers, narrated by Rebecca Soler, Fred Berman, Dan Bittner, and Gabra Zackman

Challenge yourself
Dive in headfirst and celebrate your induction into the great world of audiobooks by joining us for Audiobook Bookish Bingo! It’s a great way to try a variety of new audiobooks, and having a goal in mind will keep you motivated as you explore this new medium.

Kelly Gallucci
Kelly Gallucci is the Executive Editor of Bookish.com, where she oversees Bookish's editorial content, offers book recommendations, and interviews authors like Leigh Bardugo, V.E. Schwab, and Sabaa Tahir. She's just coming off of moderating an author panel at New York Comic Con. When she's not working, Kelly can be found color coordinating her bookshelves, eating Chipotle, and binging Netflix with her pitbull. She is a Gryffindor.

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