What are audio books

You don’t have to be a librarian to be surrounded by books. Books play a big part in our lives, regardless of whether you are an avid or occasional reader, as they are an important source of knowledge and entertainment.

These days, with the widespread use of digital media, paper books have started to take a back seat and make room to other forms of enjoying a literary experience. One of these new ways to “read” books is by listening to audiobooks.

An audiobook is a voice recording of a book. Basically, the text of a book, be it fiction, non-fiction, poetry or textbooks, is recorded by real people – usually actors experienced in interpreting text – on a cassette tape, CD or MP3 format  and can be listened to rather than read.

Audiobooks are preferred to paper books by many readers because they bring space saving, they cut costs and are easy to “read.” There are several categories of people who enjoy audiobooks more than others, and these are readers with limited vision or blind, struggling readers, second-language learners, those who retain information better in audio form than when reading, and busy people who don’t have time to read paper books.  

An “unabridged” audiobook is a word-for-word reading of the complete text of a book, while readings of a reduced version are called “abridged” audiobooks.

As for their origins, audiobooks date back to the 1930s, when audio versions of written texts appeared in schools as an education tool. Also then the “Talking Books Program” was established – a program designed to provide reading material for World War I veterans and visually impaired people. Among the pioneering companies in the audiobooks business, we can mention Caedmon Records, Listening Library and Spoken Arts.

Nowadays, CD editions of popular best-sellers are available at all major booksellers and many publishers also offer audio versions of new releases simultaneously with the print versions. Besides the CD format, there are also downloadable audiobooks, which are digital files (usually MP3) with the same content as a CD but which can be downloaded to a PC, laptop, smartphone or tablet and listened to whenever the reader wants.

To say that audiobooks come with a lot of perks would be an understatement. They have a lot of advantages over traditional books, hence their increasing popularity. First of all, it’s their versatility, you can replay them, move back and forward, and store them on any portable device to listen to them on the go. Secondly, the fact that they are read by actors makes some books more interesting.

Additionally, audiobooks allow you to keep up with books and relax at the same time, or maybe do other things while listening, like cleaning the house, cooking, taking a walk, exercising, and so on.

Up until a few decades ago, reading was the only way of acquiring information and knowledge, but there are books that are better understood and their message is better delivered in audio form, such as conceptual books, motivational books and biographies.