If you’ve ever taken a class on ancient literature, mythology, or even anthropology, you’ve probably run across “the oral tradition”, mankind’s earliest form of storytelling. Perhaps I’m getting to heavy here, but I’m basically saying that listening to stories rather than reading them was the norm at one point. In the 21st century, the oral tradition is making an unexpected comeback in digital form via the audiobook.
No, It Isn’t “Cheating”
Books on tape and on CD have been around for years, but those had drawbacks that made them more of a novelty than anything. A four hundred page books spread across a dozen CDs isn’t particularly compact, or cheap. Longer books appeared on CD with a higher price, and that kept them out of the range of most casual readers. It was digital download that really helped the audiobook we know and love take off.
Of course, the format has its critics. Hardcore book lovers who claim that listening to books just “isn’t the same” and that it’s “cheating”.
That claim has proved to be unfounded on a number of levels, both scientific and cultural. The experience of listening to a book is very much the same as reading it yourself: researchers at the University of Virginia found that whether you like reading or listening comes down to a more physical preference, not a mental one. People who prefer reading like having the physical book to hand. I like listening, plus it’s a lot safer when I’m driving to work to do that instead of trying to read at the wheel!
The work week is getting longer and longer. A recent survey showed that less than 20% of Americans still work 40 hours a week, and so it becomes harder and harder to find time for reading. Fortunately, audiobooks have broken free of the car stereo, thanks to NOOK free audiobook apps for Android, and any other mobile device you’d care to name. The Nook audiobook app, among others, makes it easy to take a vast selection of audiobooks with you anywhere you go. Driving to-and-from work, jogging, chores or repetitive work tasks. You can’t physically read a book while doing all these things, so an audiobook can keep you company.
Easy Listening and Tracking With Mobile Apps
Although the listening was OK on CD’s, finding your place was always a pain. Skipping tracks, forwarding through chapters? Nightmare. Now mobile apps fix a lot of that hassle with a touchscreen interface that makes it easy to track through the chapters and pick up exactly where you left off. Nook and similar apps let you set bookmarks at favourite passages or other spots you’d like to be able to find again.
Mobile apps also make picking up new titles a breeze. The Nook app links you straight to the entire audiobook store with a touch of a button, where you can browse 50,000 titles to your hearts content and make a new purchase with another single touch.
Experience the Story a Whole New Way
Some audiobook fans are happy to argue that listening to a book is the same experience as reading it. Others take a different stance: listening to the book is completely different, and that’s why they love it. Since MP3 audiobooks really took off in the early 2000’s, the format has attracted some serious talent to perform books both modern and classic. Performing an audiobooks is a challenge far beyond simply reading aloud, and these talented actors put their own spin and interpretation on the material. New Yorker columnist John Colapinto described listening to William Hurt’s reading of The Sun Also Rises, an Ernest Hemmingway novel he’d never been able to get into, as discovering an entirely new book, thanks to the personalities and the humor Hurt brought to the characters. Some adaptations take it even further, like the full cast audiobook of living legend Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, which features over forty different actors in unique speaking roles.
Ever since MP3s and digital downloads became standards, audiobooks have taken off as an art form in their own right, with a dedicated fanbase to call their own. Chances are you already own something with an audiobook player that fits in your pocket, and if not, the download is just a click away and almost certainly free. Between massive online libraries and subscription services, audiobooks are a great option, cost effective and eco-friendly, and easily accessible for an adult on the go.
Being read a story isn’t a pastime for kids anymore.