Books on Tape
I’m sure by now most or all of you have enjoyed some form of “Books on tape.” For those of you too young to remember the things that came before CDs (or are even CDs becoming old school now?), my earliest memories of books on tape were when my Dad was in Vietnam in 1970. He read aloud a book for us, recording it on a cassette tape, one chapter at a time and mailing the tapes to us in the United States. My husband did the same thing in 1999 when we were in Germany and he was in Saudi Arabia with Desert Storm. (My dad read a horse story and my husband read Mouse and the Motorcycle.)
Audio Books vs. Read Alouds
Since those times, I have listened to hundreds of audio books, and I don’t think the best narrators out there will ever surpass those experiences. But I will say that many of the narrators I’ve listened to make the power of the written word come alive in some pretty wonderful ways. And while reading aloud to our children should be a regular part of parenting, sometimes it’s nice to be on the receiving side of read-alouds, and not just on the giving side.
One of the nice things about audio books (as opposed to read alouds) is that they can be listened to again and again without wearing out the narrator (read: parent or older sibling). And they can be enjoyed at almost any time. One of my sons who learned to read late commented recently that he would have LOVED to have had more audio books available when he was younger. (We tended to have enough for road trips, but certainly not near as many as “real” books, so he and other late bloomers were at the mercy of their older sibling’s reading time when they wanted to enjoy a good book together. (Chronicles of Narnia and the entire American Adventures series were popular read alouds.)
Traveling with Children
We tend to listen to A LOT of audio books while traveling, regardless of who is in the car. Obviously the choices of books vary, but the act of listening to books is a common part of road trips in our family. In the early years it was generally CDs picked up from the library or tapes and CDs that we had purchased. Even the one vehicle we’ve owned with a DVD player in it (our 8 passenger Toyota Sienna), involved much more listening than watching. (See the blog post on travelling on the Lewis and Clark trail for more information on how we handled that.)
When traveling with children, I can’t even imagine not having a vast variety of audio books to help fill the hours with fun and education. As I mentioned in the Lewis and Clark post, we have a special love of Odyssey, Jungle Jam, and Jonathan Park stories for road trips that involve children.
As time moves on, so does technology. So now, we are just as likely to be listening to a book we’ve downloaded, but in many ways the more things change, the more they stay the same. I have been an Audible account holder for three years now, and since that account is more for me, than for others, it does contain a lot of books that I got just for me to listen to. But, in the midst of all of those there is still a fairly good mix of children’s books – from Winnie the Pooh and the Little Prince to the Water Horse and Pippi Longstocking (and the Hobbit, if you can include that on a list of children’s books, which I have mixed feelings about). I’ve listened to this particular recording of the Hobbit all the way through twice, and if you won’t think less of me, I’ll even admit to having listened to the Water Horse and Pippi Longstocking (actually I’ll admit to those either way – they were fun books). I have only listened to the beginnings of the other two, but in time, I hope to add those to my completed list. (Maybe I’ll look for an opportunity to share them with my grandchildren.)
Educational Value of Audibles
For children learning to read, the ability to hear a book and follow along on a physical copy can be very fruitful. And for older students, the amount of educational materials available on Audible is quite impressive. Their collection of the Great Courses lectures series alone makes Audible invaluable. The lectures are aimed at college students and other adults, but with careful use, many of them can also be very useful for high school students. (More on Great Courses below.)
My Personal Audible List
My listening library is as eclectic as my physical library (and the books I write, for that matter). My interests are vast and varied – and a quick look at my audio library shows that. Many of those books are ones that I sought out for one reason or another, but many others are ones I found thanks to one of Audible’s great sales (their “Daily Deal” being one of my favorites – though sometimes I find they can go many, many days before I see something even worth looking at). One of the many things I like about Audible is that when you have a membership they give you 12 months to decide whether you actually like a book or not. (And when an account gets as backlogged as mine does sometimes, that’s a nice time period.)
With that wonderful refund policy, I’ve actually returned about 10% of the books I’ve gotten from Audible. I usually make returns for one of two reasons – I don’t like the narrator or the bad language is just too much to put up with. Or, thirdly, on a few occasions it was because I just couldn’t get into the story. And it’s nice to be able to return a book for any of those reasons.
And, as a result of their specials, and their generous return policy, I’ve discovered a whole world of Audio books I wouldn’t have known existed.
Great Courses as Audibles
I would be remiss in not mentioning one particular category of Audible books that alone would make my Audible account worth having – the Great Courses lecture series. Almost every Great Courses series that can be bought as just an audio can be gotten through Audible. At just $10 – $15 (depending on your credit costs), I know of no better way to listen to their amazing array of wonderful courses! (And if you watch the sales, sometimes they are even cheaper than that!) I still buy the occasional video-based course straight from Great Courses, but if it will work as just audio, I buy it from Audible!
Just a small sampling of some of my favorite Great Courses Audible books (and I’ve bought over 40!):
- America in the Gilded Age (bought because of my interest in the Vanderbilt’s Biltmore home)
- Building Great Sentences (one of many writing books I’ve bought and listened to)
- An Economic History of the World Since 1400 (one of the many Economics lectures I’ve bought)
- History of the Ancient World (bought to help my son enjoy his College Freshman History class more)
- History of Eastern Europe (bought after I took a cruise along the Danube River last summer)
- How to Read and Understand Shakespeare (one of several Shakespeare lectures I’ve enjoyed)
- The 30 Greatest Orchestra Works (purchased, well, just because!)
- Machiavelli in Context (bought for research on Leonardo da Vinci and his era)
Other Types of Books I Enjoy
And of course, I do listen to “real” books in addition to the many lectures I enjoy – both fiction and non-fiction. Some of my favorite non-fiction books have included more books on writing, more on history (I’m sure both of those surprise you), in addition to more Shakespeare and economics. My fiction books are pretty well mixed as well, though I have discovered that I enjoy quite a few “political thrillers” and “cozy mysteries,” – with Rhys Bowen being one of my favorite, newly discovered authors!
At $10 – $15 for the “full priced” audible books I buy, and $5 or less for the sale books, I get lots of bang for my bucks for the Audible books I purchase. If you haven’t already given Audible a try, I can strongly recommend it!
Now that I’m three years and three hundred plus books into my Audible journey, I’m constantly amazed at how many people haven’t tried it. For $15/month, you get one credit (which equals one regularly priced book), or for $25/month you get two credits. (And it probably won’t surprise you to know that there’s an even more impressive/expensive membership for those of us who want to get an average of more than two books per month.
So have you given Audible a try for yourself and/or your family? What are your favorite books to listen to? I would love to hear what your thoughts and experiences with Audible have been.