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Audio Books: Reading with Your Ears

2014-01-28T16:57:00Z Audio Books: Reading with Your EarsDenise DeClue nwitimes.com
January 28, 2014 4:57 pm  • 

Within the last month a friend of mine in Porter County read the new Donna Tartt book, “The Goldfinch,” “The Luminaries” by Eleanor Catton, “The Significance of All Things” by Elizabeth Gilbert, “The Secret Scripture” by Sebastian Barry, and “The Tennant of Wildfell Hall” by Anne Bronte. Meanwhile, she said she “drove a couple hundred miles, cooked, cleaned, did the dishes, scrubbed the floor, walked, knit two sweaters and half-a-dozen socks.”

How'd she do all that? Technically, she “listened” to these books—read them with her ears not her eyes. Although there is avid discussion about the merits of audio books vs. the time-honored written word, I am firmly in the camp of the audio people. So are millions around the world and thousands in our area. Like many retired people, I just don't have time to do one thing at a time.

Local librarians tell me that audio books are an ever-increasing part of their circulation. Downloadable books (ones you can access through the Internet) are no longer thought of as part of the technological future, but are becoming an ordinary way in which we access ideas.

Julie Bradford, Director of Circulation at Lake County Public Library in Merrillville, said she listens regularly and the audible circulation at her library seems to be doubling every year.

Bradford said that their downloadable audio book circulation is exploding. “In 2009, patrons downloaded 6,300 audio books,” she said. “In 2013, they downloaded 26,353. Looking at those statistics, you cannot deny the popularity of the service!”

Phyllis Nelson, Assistant Director of the Porter County Public Library System in Indiana, said that “The Panther” by Nelson DeMille was the last book to which she listened. “Wow!” she said, “I love him.” She listened in her car on CD. She said she hopes that, in the very near future, Porter County will be able to offer downloadable services similar to Lake County. Now they have an extensive collection of audio books on CD.

“I'm sure audio books will continue to be a popular format. People are ‘on the go’ more than ever—whether it be for business, vacation, or other personal reasons. And what better way to pass the time in a car than listening to a good book?” said Nelson.

As more and more people become comfortable with the Internet, and carry phones that allow them to listen to recordable material, more are realizing that “listening to books” is a little present you can give yourself.

I've been listening for years. I think the first one was “Krakatoa,” by Simon Winchester, who read it himself and did a darn good job. I picked it up from a Cracker Barrel on the way back from Florida. You can still buy audio books from Cracker Barrel and return them at the next store down the road. “Krakatoa” was brilliant. Even my 30 year-old son was impressed.

Clearly Cracker Barrel was onto something. But more and more people were listening to books in places other than their cars. Around that time, my friend Pat lent me an audio recording of “Reading Lolita in Teheran” by Azar Nafisi (read by Lisette Lecat) in which an Iranian female professor describes the revolution that wrecked her life. It was a truly enlightening book making every news story about Iran a lot more meaningful.

Pretty soon I was at the local library, astounded to find they had a huge collection of books on audio tape. I listened to classics, renowned artists I had missed, histories, biographies, every crime-fighting series I could find—as I cleaned out the silverware drawer, closets, went for walks, re-arranged contents of cabinets, worked in the garden, drove in the car—and knit.

I found different places to acquire books: the Chicago Public Library was building its “downloadable” collection. While still in your pajamas, you could go online and order a book. If it was super popular, you had to wait until it came in.

OK, that friend of mine in the first paragraph was me. And those books were, and continue to be, fabulous.

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