Audio Books

23 Sep 2014

We lead very busy lives. Packing in all we want to accomplish can be challenging.

In addition, we all learn in different ways: some by seeing, some by touching/doing), and some by hearing. It’s important to know your learning style as it can affect when and how you learn best.

This is the first of a two-part series on learning audibly—learning by listening. This one is on audio books. The next is on podcasts.

While I do read books (paper and electronic), I’ve found it hard to sit still to read—not to mention finding the time! That said, I love to be exposed to new content and learn from others. I’ve found audio content to be awesome because I can listen while doing other things—like driving, cleaning house and gardening!

I have been a fan of listening to audio content since the mid 1970s, (when I also ran a tape library). I loved cassette tape lectures and sermons I could listen to in my car on a portable device.

Cassettes gave way to CD’s, another technology that was with us for a long time. I would get audio books or lectures and again listen to them in my car or while doing mindless chores like painting.

Today the CD has gone the way of the audiocassette (almost dead). My new car can play neither; rather it has Satellite radio, an mp3 input, USB connections and Bluetooth. It is optimized for portable devices like an iPod or smartphone.

So where do you get audio content? It’s available from multiple sources:

  • The best source for a wide variety of classic and recent audio books is Audible. The company (now owned by Amazon) and is based on a membership model. Signing up will get you a free trial month; after it’s $14.95/month. Membership gives you one monthly credit that is good for an audio book to download. It also gives you access to thousands of titles at discount prices, even under $5. Even though I don’t like the monthly charge and my credits sometimes pile up, I find this service gives me access to the widest range of titles that work with my curiosity and interests. It also allows me listen to books when I’m ready and for as long as I need (unlike library titles).

However, there are other less expensive (and less content) options available:

  • Libraries. Most public and university libraries carry both audio CD’s and downloadable mp3s that can be checked out for a few days to a few weeks. Accessing downloads from library sites generally requires the use of free programs like OverDrive  that you install on your computer. You can then listen there or transfer to a portable mp3 player, tablet or smartphone.
  • Booksellers like Barnes & Noble and Amazon sell audio books on CD.
  • iTunes has a free app called Audio Books. Downloading the app to your iPhone, iPod or iPad will give you access to thousands of free audio books. These are public domain books, so not the most recent!
  • Several websites offer free or paid content you can either stream or download and listen on your portable device. Librivox  and Open Culture have free public domain books. Obviously most free public domain books are older than 50 years, and seem to have more fiction than non-fiction.
  • Simply Audio Books allows you to rent CDs. (Do people really do that?)

If you’ve never done so, try out audio books, especially from Audible. It will help you make the most of the mundane aspects of your life. Turn those hours of commuting, cleaning and doing chores to productive learning time.

As the famous American basketball coach John Wooden said: “Five years from now, you’re the same person except for the people you’ve met and the books you’ve read.”

Now it’s easier than ever!

Royalty-free image by Mario Alberto Magallanes Trejo. Retrieved from:



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