Audio Books: A Novel Way to Read a Good Book
In this fast-paced world, it becomes increasingly difficult to sit back, relax, and curl up with a good book. As Americans become highly skilled multitaskers, dedicated readers aren't giving up their passion—they're turning to audio books.
"I'm an audio book-ophile. I love them for the same peace, serenity, and brain food they give me as a normal book, but without the eye strain or book lugging that you'd otherwise deal with," says Susan Lindner, a busy mother of two and owner of a successful public relations firm in New York City. "I also find I'm falling in love with the art of storytelling. When they're read right, it's better than me reading it myself. Finally, I find I am so much more open to whimsy about the kind of audio books I read as there's no sense of ownership about them; you can just choose one and put it back."
Dale Siegel, White Plains, N.Y., an attorney who commutes 45 minutes twice a day to work, listens to a book a week. "It becomes a quiet place to have 'my time.' I do not feel compelled to return phone calls or check the Blackberry while driving," she says. "I get to multitask by reading and driving, and it passes the time, making traffic and a monotonous drive more bearable."
While they're not new, audio books are popular today not only because of increased demand, but because of the many ways you can get them. You can purchase or rent audio books, borrow them from the library as CDs or audio cassettes, or download them from the Internet as electronic audio files such as MP3 files.
Pay to play options
One popular site, Audible.com, allows you to pick a plan that suits your reading habits for as low as $7.95 a month. Then, using the site's custom tool or Apple's iTunes software, you can choose from more than 40,000 books, magazines, newspapers, and podcasts, and digitally download your selections. You can burn them to a CD or synch them with an MP3 player for portability.
Your library now has audio as well as the hardcover and paperback versions of your favorite book.
Another site, SimplyAudiobooks.com, offers more than 10,000 titles on CD that you can rent through a variety of plans—for as little as $11.95 per month. Selections will be mailed to you to enjoy as long as you like, then you return the selection in a postage-paid envelope. Then, the company automatically mails out the next selection on your list.
People like Harvey Rosen, an entrepreneur in Los Angeles, are willing to pay for these services over other options. "It's far more convenient for me because the books are downloaded at my convenience," Rosen, who uses Audible.com, says. "There is a far greater choice of material than what is available at my local public library. The convenience and variety of choices are well worth the cost."
How to get audio books for freeFor some, rising gas and food prices have caused tight budgets. This doesn't stop savvy consumers from reading on the go, however. While you can't legally download published modern titles and bestsellers for free, more services are offering free downloads of titles available in the public domain and unpublished novels.
Books in the public domain
Once the copyright expires on a book, it becomes part of the public domain and can be legally distributed. Many classics by authors such as Mark Twain, Jane Austen, and Frederick Douglass are available through a growing number of services with a mission to make all public domain titles easily accessible.
Beyond the classicsThe titles available at Podiobooks.com are predominantly by authors who have not yet gotten book deals, or who have given permission to provide their copyrighted work for free download. The authors who contribute appreciate the exposure to their work and hope to create a following for future titles. A fairly new site, Podiobooks offers approximately 200 titles as serialized episodes. Volunteers run this site as well, and online donations support the authors contributing to the site.
More services are offering titles available in the public domain and unpublished novels for free download.
Your public library: Audio books just a click away
Think your library only has the hardcover and paperback versions of your favorite book? Think again. By logging in to your local library's Web site, you may be able to download professionally recorded, copyrighted work publishers provide for "check out" using your library card.
Check to see if your library is affiliated with either NetLibrary.org or OverDrive Digital Media Locator. If so, thousands of titles await that you can download and retain for a set period of time—usually a few weeks. Once the lending period lapses, the license expires and you can't listen to the title again until you renew it. To prevent unlawful copying and distributing, the files are encrypted to protect the copyright.
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