Audiobooks 101: History, Availability, and Benefits

Even for people who love reading, finding the opportunity and time to read can be a challenge. Due to this, many people decide to turn to audiobooks – a convenient alternative to traditional reading. With an audiobook, you can listen to your favorite books or listen to the latest bestsellers no matter where you are or what you are doing. 

In this article, we discuss everything that you need to know about audiobooks. 

What is an Audiobook?

As the name suggests, an audiobook is a recording of a book or other work that is being read aloud. Audiobooks can be exact word-for-word versions (unabridged), or it can be a shorter version of the text (abridged). You can listen to audiobooks on your smartphone, tablet, portable music player, computer, or even in cars that support streaming audio. 

Audiobooks generally come in one of the following formats: MP3, AAC (Advanced Audio Coding), or WMA (Windows Media Audio). It is important that you know what format(s) your device supports before you purchase or download any audiobook. Remember, not every device supports the same audiobook format. 

History of Audiobooks

The availability of audiobooks in digital form is relatively new compared to other audio technologies. However, the origin of audiobooks actually dates back as far as the 1930s! Previously known as talking books, audiobooks were sold in physical form on vinyl records and analog cassette tapes. They were typically used as an educational medium and were commonly found in libraries and most schools. However, with the invention of the internet, audiobooks became digitally available. 

Today, a vast selection of audiobooks are available online from a variety of sources.

How Can I Listen to Audiobooks?

Since audiobooks are now available as digital audio files, you can listen to them using a variety of electronic devices. Some of the most popular devices used to listen to audiobooks include MP3 players, smartphones, computers, tablets, home stereo systems, and cars that support streaming audio. 

Where Can I Buy Audiobooks?

There are numerous apps and websites that provide access to audiobooks, both free and paid. Here, we list down some of the best sites where you can find and download top-quality audiobooks. 

  • Audible. Audible is the biggest source of audiobooks, offering a vast selection of titles to choose from. It requires a monthly subscription; however, there is a 30-day trial that you can take advantage of.
  • LibriVox. Unlike Audible, LibriVox is completely free of charge. However, it does come with limitations. You won’t be able to listen to the latest bestsellers here, and the selection is quite limited. Also, while audiobooks on Audible are often read by the author or celebrities, audiobooks on LibriVox are read by volunteers from all over the world. 
  • Google Audiobooks. Google Audiobooks is a subscription-free service that allows users to purchase books individually. Google Audiobooks allows you to listen to audiobooks books on virtually any digital device. It offers thousands of titles, including several bestsellers. 
  • Downpour. Downpour is a commercial website that offers a subscription-based service; however, they also sell individual audiobooks. They also allow users to rent audiobooks. You can instantly listen to high-quality audiobooks or download them to your iPhone, Android, and other listening devices. 

Reasons Why You Should Listen to Audiobooks

A whole book entirely read out to you. Audiobooks are a huge help for those who are visually impaired and have reading disorders; however, it also incredibly useful for anyone else who loves to read but can’t find the time. 

Here, we list down some of the key benefits of listening to audiobooks. 

  • It can help you save time. One of the biggest benefits of audiobooks is that it can help you save time by multitasking. You can listen to audiobooks while you’re cleaning the house, cooking, or exercising. Most people even listen to audiobooks while commuting – it is a great way to pass the time, especially when you are stuck in traffic. 
  • It can help improve your memory. While listening to an audiobook, there are several things that you need to remember – from the name of the characters, sequence of events, important places and destinations, and more. The ability to retain these details will continue to improve the more you listen to audiobooks. And as your brain gets used to remembering information from stories, it also becomes better at remembering other things from your life. 
  • It can help enhance your focus and attention span. When listening to an audiobook, you need to pay attention to what the narrator is saying – and you have to maintain that attention throughout the entire book. You can easily get lost once you get distracted; and unlike reading paperbacks, it can be difficult to go back and re-listen to it again. So, make sure to stay focused and don’t let yourself get distracted. 
  • It can help improve your pronunciation and speaking fluency. Listening to audiobooks can help improve your pronunciation and speaking fluency. You can do this by listening to the narrator closely and try to imitate how they pronounce different words. You can also study their intonations, pauses, and their reading speeding – all of which are important to have good speaking fluency.
  • It can help you gain insight into the author’s thoughts. Many audiobooks include commentaries from the author, while some are even read by the authors themselves. This can be very beneficial, particularly if you want to gain more insight into the author’s thoughts and their writing process. 
  • It has positive effects on mood and mental health. Just like listening to good music can help boost our mood and mental health – listening to audiobooks can have a similar effect too. Reading inspirational and motivational quotes are great, but it doesn’t have the same impact as listening to someone say the words out loud to you. Furthermore, some people listen to soothing audiobooks before going to sleep. For most people, listening to a soothing audiobook can help them wind down and relax, which in turn, can help them fall asleep. Remember, sleep is a big factor in improving and maintaining our mental health. 

The Bottom Line 

Audiobooks are a convenient alternative to traditional reading. They are available in different formats and can be purchased from a wide variety of sources. Furthermore, audiobooks offer many wonderful benefits – from helping you save time, enhancing your focus and attention span, to boosting your mood and mental health. 

So, if you haven’t tried audiobooks yet, give it a try and experience the many benefits that it can bring!

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