Just as there have been numerous conversations about whether it is really acceptable to read books on an e-reader, there are now many debates about the audiobook and whether you can really call it reading.
If you are a staid reader, chances are you are not going to agree with anything
I write going forward and so it may be worthwhile stopping here!
The traditionalist will perhaps argue that because you are not physically undertaking the reading for yourself that it is not truly reading. While others will say it really does not matter how you take a story in, reading is reading in any format.
Let’s also not forget that at one time the art of sharing stories was purely verbal. Stories that we have all grown to love from writers like Hans Christian Andersen and the Brothers Grimm to Shakespeare were once only ever part of an oral tradition passed down from one person to another.
As a book lover, I need to be truthful and say that it has taken me a long time to adopt the audiobook. In fact, I am ashamed to say that, it was only when the pandemic first hit in March 2020 and I lost my desire to read that I even considered listening to a book rather than reading it.
I have very quickly realised that listening to audiobooks means that I can be transported to somewhere else at any time of day. I am no longer restricted to waiting until I have a spare hour or two to sit down and immerse myself into a novel. Now, even when I am on the go, I can listen to storytellers. When I reflect back, I realise just how much time I have wasted and how many extra books I have missed out on consuming each year.
“Audiobooks are immersive, educational, instructional, entertaining and
they’re perfect for the time rich and the time-poor.”(Western Down Libraries Blog)
As I grew to love reliving stories through the narration of others, I began to look into the benefits of reading in this way. The results shocked me. It turns out auditory reading doesn’t just help with my yearly reading challenges.
What are the benefits of listening to audiobooks?
Before we consider the advantage of listening to books for adults, lets first consider the impact of audiobooks on the development of younger readers.
More now than ever before, children prefer to pick up a tablet or turn on the TV to watch something. I think about the different ways that my nieces and nephew learn today in comparison to when I was their age. They now have an abundance of different mediums to use for their personal growth and while many condemn the likes of YouTube there is are far more educational tools available to parents today that play to children’s different strengths.
Thinking back, when I was there age, I use to love snuggling down underneath my duvet at bedtime while my mum read to me. I can also just about remember sitting on the carpet at primary school each morning while our teacher read a chapter or two from the latest class read. It was an opportunity for our imaginations to run wild. We didn’t have to keep pausing over difficult words; we were racing through the pages in the hope that the teacher would sign off to say we have completed our required reading. As kids, where we had the freedom to create a whole new world, it was only our imaginations that limited how far we took it.
Thinking back now, it was this that caused me to develop my reading and fall in love with books – not the actual act of reading as such.
Therefore, the use of audiobooks at a young age can only help to improve not hinder their literacy skills further surely, especially for those auditory learners out there.
Whether it is an adult or a child picking up an audiobook, however, there are several rewards for listening to the written word.
Regularly listening to books is now known to:
- Increase reading accuracy
- Increase reading speed, expanding vocabulary and improving fluency
- Teach better pronunciation
- Improves language comprehension
- For those that are time-poor, listening to books while undertaking other tasks helps with time management issues
- Build better listening skills
- Improve your attention span
- Improve your memory
On top of this, research shows that listening to books being read aloud can actually help to improve our mental health and wellbeing.
“Listening to novels and non-fiction being read aloud can help us become
not just more well-read, but can improve mental well-being too.” (Psychology Today)
This particular point seems to validate my reason for picking up an audiobook. I started to listen to books during a time when many of us were struggling. We didn’t have the freedom to explore as we once did and were forced to remain at home; something that I know many people are still finding difficult. I felt too anxious to pick up a physical book, my mind constantly focusing on the negativity in the world and so listening to a story instead was a way to overcome my inner anxiety.
Everything I read at the time came across as flat and uninteresting; my inner voice just couldn’t recreate the images in my head. Everything was drab and boring and as a result, I gave up on more books last year than ever before. My lack of love for reading, I believe, was purely down to the mental stress I felt, not the author’s ability to write an attention-grabbing book. Audiobooks, therefore, became a new form of escape for me. I could go out walking, running, complete household chores or simply relax on the sofa with my eyes closed concentrating on what was being said to me.
It was a completely new form of escapism for me and I loved it.
The best way to listen to audiobooks
As with everything else, I am sure there will be people out there that disagree with me on this but personally, when I am listening to an audiobook it is a personal retreat from the real world. Therefore, I am not one that listens to books on a loudspeaker, unless I am on a long car journey and it is something we have both expressed a wish to listen to it.
Instead, after a few months of listening to audiobooks through the cheap freebie earphones that now come as a standard accessory with any new phone purchase, I treated myself to a brand new set of headphones. They have everything I need including a noise-cancelling setting which allows me to fully absorb myself into the story as it unfolds. Personally, I also couldn’t get on with sticking the ear-buds inside my ears every time I wanted to listen to a book so instead, I went for a set of wireless headphones that go over my ears – far more comfortable in my opinion.
For me, sound quality is important. After all, when choosing an audiobooks people are picky about their narrator, with someone like Stephen Fry and his very distinctive tone being extremely popular. For that reason, in order to get the full sensory experience from listening to a book, you need to make sure that you have the right listening equipment and that your hearing is not being affected by anything.
Someone once told me that they gave up on audiobooks for several years because to them they just sounded dull. It wasn’t until they visited the doctor with an earache that they realised that their hearing problem was due to a build-up of earwax. As soon as this was resolved they went back to their audiobooks and could not believe the difference in quality.
I am not saying that we all need to flock to the doctors or other companies like Auris Ear Care for a hearing assessment but the quality of an audiobook is highly reliant on this particular sense being at its best. If we are struggling to hear for any reason, we may miss the inflexions and implications of the narrator’s tone, which depending on the topic, may mean that the listener doesn’t adopt the storyline as it is truly meant – an issue that could cause the reader to fall out of love with audiobooks.
Finally, for me, the genre of the audiobook also plays a part in how I want to listen to it. If for example, I am listening to a book about self-care I want to feel relaxed at the same time so lighting a few candles, perhaps listening to it while in the bath, are all considerations I will make. Likewise, if I am listening to a motivational book, I need to have a way to take notes whether that is on a notepad or on my phone, so it is not something I would listen to when running. For running, when not listening to music my chosen book is normally action-packed as I do not want something that is drawn out and laborious: the last thing I need is anything that would only hinder my workout.
Therefore, in order to fall in love with audiobooks, you need to find the right book for the right moment. It may even mean that you discover new genres and topics; perhaps books that you would never consider sitting down to read.
If you have yet to find an audiobook you enjoy then my advice is to stick with it. I have listened to audiobooks that I have desperately wanted to enjoy but just couldn’t feel anything towards them. Others, that have either been suggested to me by friends or picked up on a whim, have left me with a burning desire to continue listening until the very end.
Just like with traditional printed books, not every audiobook will be a success, but if you are persistent you will find the right type of book for you.
Just remember, reading is reading in any format, there are no rules, and therefore reading in any form counts!
If you are looking to try audiobooks for the first time, consider signing up for this free, no-obligation trial.
Are you an audiobook fan? Which audiobooks would you recommend for first-time listeners?
Disclaimer: Some links in this article are affiliate links, which means that if you purchase through them, we receive a small commission.
If you are based within the UK or the US and prefer to support independent bookshops, then you can find a full list of all the books and authors mentioned in this article on our bookshop page.
Did you enjoy this article? Then PIN it for later…