BETWEEN THE LINES

Why audiobooks are good for multitaskers, travellers and young readers

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 19 May, 2015, 6:03am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 19 May, 2015, 6:03am

What book lover among us has not wished that they could get paid to read? For professional audiobook narrator Karen White, the dream came true when she was expecting her first child 16 years ago. Now, with more than 200 books recorded, she says her theatre training, experience working with directors in studios, and her voice training have been key to her success.

"Changes in technology have made it possible for me to work entirely from home. When I started out, I had to go to a studio and work with an engineer and director. Now, I have a studio in my house and I can edit as I go. I can upload the files directly to the production companies. It's not easy work, but I love it, and it allows me to have a career as a performer and still be there when my kids get home from school," White says.

The audiobook business is gaining a foothold in the traditional book industry.

I like to listen to audiobooks while my son is doing sports. Listening to a story enables me to keep an eye on the ball and appear riveted, while I occupy my mind in a more active way at the same time.

Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, advises that readers should use audiobooks "if you're trying to form a habit. If you don't enjoy going for a daily walk, but want to get that exercise, try pairing your walk with an engaging audiobook. The time will fly."

There are several resources for high-quality audiobooks. Be sure to download from a reputable site and select an unabridged version. Sometimes the author reads their own book, but professional audiobook readers bring characters to life in an exciting and subtle way.

To find great audiobooks, there are publications such as AudioFile magazine, or successful audiobook bloggers Audiobook Jukebox, Literate Housewife, Guilded Earlobe and AudioGals. The website Goodreads is a treasure trove of information about books and has an audiobooks section that offers everything from recommendations to technical advice.

A paid subscription to Amazon's Audible.com is the gold standard, but with a subscription rate of US$14 per month, it is expensive. It does offer a free service, but it's not advertised. Audible has Whispersync technology, that lets you bundle an audiobook with the purchase of a Kindle book, so you can go back and forth between e-book and audiobook. Downpour.com is a reliable alternative without a large subscription fee.

Subscription-based Tales2Go has more than 1,700 titles for children, and can be read on up to five devices, so the whole family can use one subscription.

AudioFile has an incentive programme called Sync. It gives away two complete audiobook downloads weekly, including a young adult title paired with a classic or required summer reading title, to listeners aged 13 and over. Most titles are available for download outside the US. OverDrive.com gives access to library collections around the world through a downloadable app.

Gweneth Rehnborg is a board member of Bring Me A Book, a leading advocate for family literacy in Hong Kong bringmeabook.org.hk