As a writer, I work with the written word, but oddly, that’s not how many fans will become acquainted with my work. In fact, the rise in popularity of audiobooks is taking over the marketplace and the platforms of many digital ebook companies, including Amazon. It’s a modern day gold rush. Audible beware! Because if Audible doesn’t make some changes they will fall behind the current tide of new platforms rising to narrate and distribute audiobooks.
So why are audiobooks so popular? I think there are several reasons.
- Multi-tasking. Ever try to read an ebook while driving? I have a sister who loves audiobooks while driving. And she’s not alone. Free time is at a premium these days and listening to an audiobook while driving lessens driving stress and gives the driver a break in their day. It also allows the driver to have time to “read” a book they don’t have time to do at any other part of their day. One friend of mine listens to an audiobook while he cooks and does other things. He enjoys that.
One caution: I used to teach driver’s ed, and listening to an audiobook is definitely distracting to any driver, but perhaps not as bad as a cell phone since you’re not responding. But the brain can’t multi-task with 100% concentration on both driving and listening to an audiobook. Research bears that out—so be careful!
- Characters come to life with audiobook through dialogue that can evoke anger, passion, compassion, and other emotions. A narrator can inject tension and pacing, and the listener can easily get caught up in a story that otherwise might require more effort to imagine.
- Passengers can listen on earbuds without bothering anyone, and while on the computer or doing something else—multitasking again!
- Audible and other platforms are making it less costly to listen to audiobooks.
- You might resent screen time, especially if your job requires you to be on a computer all day. An ebook reader or kindle is essentially another screen, and an audiobook gives your eyes a rest.
- You might enjoy reading a book you love, and then want to listen to the audio version to enjoy it again!
Given all those great reasons above, why would anyone read an ebook?
- Well, you might want to read at the beach and allow your ears to take in the waves and calls of gulls while there—which is appealing.
- At bed in night, if your partner is sleeping, perhaps curling up with your book is more relaxing, less stimulating for the end of the night, and more “quiet” than an audiobook.
- You might prefer to imagine characters and action, instead of listening to a narrator give their interpretation of things. In fact, the “voice” that a narrator uses for a character may seem so out of character that it throws off the story every time you hear it. This would be even more true if you read the story and then listened to the audio. A mediocre narrator will ruin a book that you loved when you read it.
- You might want to read but still be able to hear if someone calls your name to cook, clean, or take out the garbage—but that might be another reason to listen to an audiobook!
- You can read at your own speed, and a narrator forces you to go at their speed. This could be annoying for a fast reader, or if you are reading nonfiction and want to skim uninteresting passages or even whole chapters. Much harder to do that with an audiobook.
- You can easily go to a chapter in the middle of the ebook to find something you want to read or review again—which is harder to do in an audiobook. This would be of more importance in a nonfiction book.
All in all, the preferences of reading an ebook or listening to an audiobook seem individual and a product, in part, of your lifestyle. The rising audiobook interest might plateau out at some point, with some readership simply wanting ebooks over audiobooks. That seems likely. Also there might be a segment of readers that enjoys both ebooks and audiobooks. In any case, audiobooks are being sought out by more and more readers, so they are here to stay.