Audiobooks have gained in popularity recently and it’s easy to see why.
Even for people who love books, finding the opportunity to read can be a challenge. Many, then, have turned to audiobooks, a convenient alternative to old-fashioned reading. And as a welcome boost for the publishing world, listening to the latest bestseller while exercising or cooking dinner seems to be pulling in new audiences who may not traditionally buy books or perhaps for people conscious of their screen time, it’s a relaxing alternative.
Gone are the days of stuffily-read versions of the classics. Audiobooks have come of age with the likes of Elisabeth Moss reading The Handmaid’s Tale, Meryl Streep narrating Charlotte’s Web, Andrew Scott reading The Dubliners, Rosamund Pike reading Pride and Prejudice and Stephen Fry with a 72-hour long reading of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes: The Definitive Collection.
With such A-list talent it’s no wonder that Deloitte are predicting an audiobook sales boom.
In fact the boom is so great that some authors are even skipping print and writing exclusive audio content. Many are actively embracing audio such as Ben Aaronovitch, author of the Rivers of London fantasy series, who has admitted that he now has actor Kobna Holdbrook-Smith’s version of this character in his head when he writes. Others such as Michael Lewis, Adam Kay, Jon Ronson, Joanne Harris and Phillip Pullman have all written original works for Audible.
With dedicated teams and the creation of in-house studios in order to produce increasingly creative and ambitious listening experiences, many publishing houses are trying to broaden the audience for books.
“We’ve invested a lot in audio over the last few years,” says Richard Lennon, publisher at Penguin Audio. “There’s a real enthusiasm around the opportunity to do exciting, creative things, and broaden the audience for books. Our approach to it has been to think about how we can keep pushing the listening experience further and further.”
But is listening to a book really the same as reading one?
Human beings have been sharing information orally for tens of thousands of years while the printed word is a much more recent invention, says David Willingham, a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia. “When we’re reading, we’re using parts of the brain that evolved for other purposes” he explains. “Listeners, on the other hand, can derive a lot of information from a speaker’s inflections or intonations. Sarcasm is much more easily communicated via audio than printed text. And people who hear Shakespeare spoken out loud tend to glean a lot of meaning from the actor’s delivery,” he adds.
But as most of us have been reading the printed word since we were five years old really it comes down to personal taste and convenience. Doesn’t it?
Which would you choose? An audiobook or a traditional book? Or would you choose both? We would love to hear your views.