I don’t do it as much anymore since my commute to work isn’t that long, but back in the day I would listen to audiobooks all the time. Particularly in library school, I had a two hour commute (each way) with a ton of heinous city traffic, so audiobooks were a lifesaver. Not only would they allow me to do my reading for my literature classes while driving, but my involvement in the book made me incredibly patient about delays and tempered my road rage when jackasses cut me off.
However, the drawback to audiobooks when I didn’t have a long commute was that I wanted to enjoy the paper book or ebook, but that meant fast forwarding to part I was up to if and when I went back to the audiobook. Frustrating. Add to that that audiobooks are incredibly expensive, and you’ve got a recipe for abandonment, which I did.
Unsurprisingly, Amazon, known for creating good partnerships and being on the forefront of ereader technology, came up with a solution this fall for my dilemma. Calling it WhisperSync, they have worked with Audible, one of the leading audiobook vendors, to allow readers who purchase both a Kindle book and an Audible audiobook (with WhisperSync enabled) to be able to effortlessly go back and forth between formats, with the ebook or audiobook automatically picking up at the last place read. Cool, yes?
YES. The biggest complaint of all enthusiastic readers is “I wish I had more time to read!” so if it’s easier to read while you’re cooking, gardening, knitting, cleaning, working out, etc. you are getting through more books (and probably are more enthusiastic about those activities). Whether you have one of the Kindle ereaders or you are using a Kindle app on another device, you can utilize this new feature. What’s impressive to me is that the audiobook as an add-on is highly affordable (the expense of audiobooks can be quite prohibitive), I mean who wouldn’t get The Hunger Games audiobook add-on for $3.95, particularly if you had kids (*cough*) you wanted to entertain in the car?
Bimodal reading – physically reading the words while hearing them – actually improves and understanding, both for struggling readers as well as high-functioning readers. As an educator I’ve known this for a while, and encouraged it with ESL students who benefit from hearing the book as they are reading it. So many nuances of meaning can be extracted from the tone of voice and inflection of the narrator, and when you are unfamiliar with a word, hearing it pronounced gives you much more confidence in using it because you know you aren’t making a mistake. For the Kindle Fire line of ereaders, Amazon now has Immersion Reading, where a purchase of both the audio book and physical book comes together and you can actually read along with the performance of your book. Take a look at Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, announcing WhisperSync and Immersion Reading.
If you are someone who just likes audiobooks and listens to them all the time, check to see if your local library has a subscription to Overdrive, one of the leading vendors supplying audiobooks to nonprofit institutions. With just your library card, you can download the latest titles and best audiobooks on the market for free to your smartphone, computer, or ereader (they even just added the Kindle), keeping it for whatever length of time your library allows it to be checked out. On the Overdrive main page, there’s a place to put in your zip code and search for libraries near you who might offer this service. I think this service is a terrific use of your library, and clearly an affordable way of enjoying the medium for most people. Being able to download a couple audiobooks prior to a long trip – for free – seems like a great use of your tax dollars at work!
Keep in mind my one pet peeve about audiobooks which is the narrator has to be good! If you have a narrator you can’t stand, this is not going to work (and be open about narrators of different sexes than the characters – a good actor can work through that dissonance). Be sure before buying any audiobook, you listen to the sample (there’s usually a play button right under the book cover image) to make sure you’re going to have the best possible experience.
Happy listening! 🙂