Have you heard… a book?


The debate between a paperback and an e-book is still on-going among book lovers and in the meantime,  there is another phenomenon on the way.  Audio books.  Have you heard about them?  Did you try them?

Recently, I saw a tweet which mentioned that the person listens to audio books when he goes for his daily jogs.  Intrigued, I checked it out and realised that a whole world of audio books exist and seems thriving while I have been unaware about the same.

What are Audio books?

Audio books are books read out by someone.  You can listen to the book instead of reading it.  The best thing is you know how much time it will take to finish.  Though I wasn’t aware of novels being read,  I had earlier listened to educational audio books and felt it was easier to listen to it than fall asleep reading it.  The reader reads in a monotonous reading tone with the slightest variations.  There are ‘dramatic’ readings too,  but I am sure I don’t want to try them out.  I am happy with the monotonous reading which is similar to how I will read it myself.

Advantages of Audio books

  • The time factor.  The books are divided into manageable chapters for listening.  If you have an hour or half an hour to kill,  you can listen to an audio book as you know when it will end.
  • You can listen to it any time.  Walking,  shopping, cooking,  doing dishes,  sleeping.  Just have the earphones plugged in.  I love listening to a chapter just before going to bed.  It lulls you into sleep.
  • Listening to audio books in regional languages.  Most of us read best in English.  But,  there is a whole treasure of literature in regional language.  Though I cannot understand all languages, I would certainly love to listen to Hindi, Marathi and Malayalam audiobooks.  Though I can read them,  I am painfully slow especially reading Malayalam.  Oh! the joy of listening to Randamoozham in Malayalam will be pure ecstasy.
  • Easy to read some of the classics.  Some of the classics are difficult to read.  I have downloaded ‘Wuthering Heights’ to listen as I found the book a tad tedious to read.
  • Great for listening to classics as most audio books are created for books whose copyrights have expired.  So,  a whole variety of books there available for reading.
  • No special software is required.  Just copy on the smartphone and listen to it like music.  I use Google Play Music,  but any music player will do.

Disadvantages of Audio books

  • If you are in a noisy background,  you may miss some of the words.  Like a truck passing on the road when you are walking.  It drowns out the words.  At such times, it is difficult to stop, pause, go back and listen again.
  • Some of the accents stay in your head.   After listening to ‘Silence of the Lambs’,  the reader’s impersonation of Hannibal Lecter stayed in my head for a long time.   Not a very welcoming thing.
  • For us Indians, we need a bit of time to get used to the foreign accents of the readers.
  • Some readers are terrible.  Just like bad music, bad reading completely puts you off the book.  Encountered just one till now and I gave up listening half-way.

Sources for Audio books

  • Amazon’s audible.com
  • Librivox.org – Huge volume of free classics.  They even have an app called Librivox so you can listen directly on the app. – This is my go to page for audio books
  • OpenCulture
  • This post has a wide list of pages for Audio books.

Career opportunities

  • You can embark on a career as an audio book reader.  Check out Amazon’s ACX.com.  A short research on the internet gives guidance on how to record these audio books.
  • Librivox.org is completely read by volunteers.  You can volunteer for the same.

My ardent wish 

Someone read out some classic Indian literature from regional languages.  It will surely have a wider reach than physical books.

23 thoughts on “Have you heard… a book?

  1. I have listened to a few audio books and liked them. Love the idea of reading one in Hindi, might give it a go if time permits 🙂

  2. I’ve tried it but gotta say, not a fan. When it comes to ebooks and paperbacks, I never got into that argument cos both have their advantages. I lean slightly in favor of paperbacks but love ebooks as well. But my chief issue with audio books is – it’s not reading. It’s listening. The purpose of books is for us to read them. Audio books defeat that purpose.
    Another thing is, I like the characters to form their own voices in my head. That’s something that doesn’t happen with audio books.

    1. The voices and the accents are definitely different from what I would imagine. But, it did take me some getting used to. I also avoid dramatic reading. Plain monotones are best for me. My favourite way of reading is still the paperback and will be always.

  3. Thanks and thanks again for this post Lata. This is something I so want to try at least for the kids. Seems like a fab idea for non-readers – a good place to begin. Bookmarking.

  4. As I mentioned in the tweet, they have been total game-changers for me. I absolutely love them. They are the only reason I clean and cook as much as I do. 😛

  5. Wow Lata, can’t thank you enough for this post. Though I still belong to the era of paperbacks.. I have been curious about audio books for a long time now. But never quite got myself to experience it. Probably i wasn’t sure where to look for it. Shall book mark what u have mentioned and must listen to one.😉

  6. I’ve never read an audio book and frankly find the ear phones a real fiddle. I often find myself stuffing the phones in half the time , an activity that detracts from my listening pleasure. So until my eyesight fails me, I doubt I’ll go for audio books.
    But you’re right about books in regional languages. I’m ashamed to admit that I don’t read in my native language as I’m not very fluent with reading the script. Consequently I miss out on a lot of good literature . It would be wonderful if someone made regional audio books. Perhaps you’ve tapped another e xcellent idea!

  7. My husband used to listen to them ardently. I have never felt enamoured by them. I prefer to read. Somehow my mind drifts off if someone else is reading.

  8. I have been listening to audio books for the past 3 years. I explored this concept while I lived in UK. I used to put on the plugs while doing the chores. In India, I buy audiobooks CDs of children’s books and play it on the car stereo while we commute on road. It works for improving the listening skills for the kid. The sources that you have mentioned here for downloading the audio books seem wonderful. I have to work out a way to copy the downloaded files in to a USB for playing n the stereo. It will be cheaper as compared to CDs.

    1. Check the sources, the download is straightforward just like mp3 files. You can also store on google drive and listen on your smartphone.

  9. Interesting concept, isn’t it Lata? Audio books are really popular in the West. But somehow, they allow the mind to roam and we can’t do much if our attention is scattered. Rewinding it to a part we missed might we difficult.

    Can we create bookmarks in these audio books too?

    1. I don’t know if we can bookmark audio books. Also, there is no specialised software for audio books and so, not much research done there. We can hope the next version of Kindle to have something like that.

    1. Try listening to a short story first. I tried Metamorphosis by Kafka from Librivox.org. Then listened to a book I had already read earlier. I agree if the reader is too monotonous, you may fall asleep. It will take a little getting used to.

  10. Audio books are good for travel, but I gave up on them after using them for about two years. They don’t hold my interest the same way as physical books do (and, I really don’t like eBooks that much, either.) But they are a blessing for those with visual impairments or those with long car commutes to work.

    1. Alana, nothing can beat the satisfaction of reading a paper book. It took me some time to adjust to the Kindle, this is also a different experience.

  11. I never really preferred e-books, and audio books also don’t seem very intriguing. Won’t the tone be different from the way we read in our minds? Then it wouldn’t be as enjoyable as when we read on our own would it? I haven’t yet tried it though. Maybe I could start with listening to malayalam books since I am painfully slow in reading the language. Thanks for sharing this news! 🙂

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