14th September 2017
They’ve been around since the 1930s as ‘talking books’, yet the debate around audiobooks continues. Are they really as good as people say? You might not be ready to give up your good old fashioned paperbacks just yet, but the benefits of audiobooks are undeniable.
Here are 5 reasons we think they’re awesome.
1. They aren’t cheating
First and foremost – audiobooks are not cheating.
Let’s get the science out of the way: according to psychologist Daniel Willingham, a professor at the University of Virginia, the cognitive processes involved in both listening to a book and reading it yourself are very similar in adult, typical readers. So, in this respect, audiobooks are not ‘cheating’ your brain.
Great literature will always be great literature, whether it’s read by you, or read aloud by someone else.
We think reading, in whatever form you choose, should be enjoyable. It’s not a competition – there’s no winner, no last place. It’s not a test – you aren’t going to get a gold star, you aren’t going to fail. You can’t cheat at enjoyment. If listening to a good story is your preferred means of reading (and we’re with you on that one) then embrace it wholeheartedly, immerse yourself fully within it, and most importantly, enjoy it!
2. Multi-taskers love them
You’re constantly on the go, you’ve always got your hands full, and there never seem to be enough hours in the day. If you aren’t getting the children ready for school, you’re stuck on your morning commute, taking the dog for a walk, or tackling the washing up. The idea of sitting down and getting stuck into a good book seems nigh on impossible.
Enter the audiobook. Perfect for busy lifestyles, audiobooks are the efficient book-lover’s best friend. Whether you’re cooking, jogging, driving – any time you’ve got brain power but no hands free – convenience one of the great qualities of the audiobook.
Even during the most mundane tasks you can be transported to another realm with the press of a button (you might even find you want to pound the treadmill for an extra 10 minutes just to get to the end of the chapter!), and it’s the perfect way to relax before a hectic day at work. Granted, not all tasks are compatible with listening to audiobooks (and that rewind button comes in handy if your mind happens to momentarily wander), but give it a go next time you’re trawling through that mountain of ironing and thank us later.
3. They’re a perfect way to unwind
So, you finally manage to steal a moment to yourself – what are you going to do?
Remember how soothing it was to have a bedtime story read to you as a child? Run yourself a bath, snuggle up in your favourite chair, close your eyes and lose yourself as you’re whisked off to another time or land, surrounded by characters who are vividly brought to life by expert narrators.
The beauty of audiobooks is that you can immerse yourself completely. Plug in your headphones and suddenly the rest of the world disappears.
4. They can help you discover a text in a whole new light
If flashbacks of stumbling through Shakespeare at school fill you with dread, or ‘stuffy’ Jane Austen makes you want to snooze, let us change your mind.
The key is the narrator.
They’re more than just a narrator – they’re a storyteller. Their voice will be authentic, articulate, intuitive, and consistent, allowing you to absorb every word. Their intonation (or prosody) will help you understand complicated or old-fashioned phrasing, humour you might have missed (see Ms. Austen), or bring to life a character. And have you ever read a book and wondered how on earth you pronounce that word? These guys are professionals, after all – they’re expert storytellers and their talent and their love for reading will shine through.
Some might use character voices, some might not – find a style that you love and you’ll be amazed by how easily you drink in the information, and the intensity of the emotional experience.
Needless to say that audiobooks are also brilliant for people with dyslexia, those who are blind or partially sighted, and often people with ADHD. Nobody should miss out on brilliant stories.
5. They’re great for children
Can’t, try as you might, get your kids to pick up a book? Feel a pang of guilt every time you see your little ones glued to a screen? Why not keep them occupied with a brilliant audiobook instead? Less passive than watching television, audiobooks will stimulate their imaginations and get them hungry for literature. Choose a story that will have them gripped (plenty of action and a brilliant narrator ought to do the job) and they’ll be begging for your Audible credits in no time.
Not only are they a great source of entertainment for children, they’re also an invaluable learning tool for budding bookworms and struggling readers alike.
Listening to a story being told introduces children to texts that would ordinarily be above their reading level. Audiobooks develop comprehension and critical listening skills, improve fluency and intonation, and allow children the opportunity to gain a greater understanding of the conventions of storytelling and structure, improving their own writing and communication skills. Encourage your child to read along with the narrator and you’ll see their word recognition and reading speed advance no end.
“But won’t it put my child off learning to read properly?” On the contrary – studies have found that children who listen to audiobooks in fact want to read books more rather than less. For those who struggle with literacy, audiobooks are a fantastic way of bringing the joy back to reading, improving their skills and their overall self-esteem.
This website has some eye-opening stats on how listening to audiobooks improves literacy.
So what do you think? Are you an audiobook convert? Why do you love listening to stories? Let us know what you think below.