Why Audiobooks?

Adrianne and TRex Audiobook
A stuffed Tyrannosaurus rex with headphones displays OverDrive information during a recent audiobook display at the Vicksburg District Library in January.

By Adrianne Schinkai, Head of Reference and Circulation Services, Vicksburg District Library

In an age of full, busy schedules, audiobooks are providing consumers a way to get in their fill of reading and information while they are constantly on the go. Eric Hansen, director of the Vicksburg District Library, demonstrates this during his own commutes to and from the Grand Rapids area each day. “I estimate that I have listened to more than three dozen audiobooks while driving to work at the library,” he says.

Audiobooks started out as books on audiocassette, better known as books on tape, but soon adapted to the compressed format of compact discs. This allowed for more data in a conveniently sized item until the downloading of audiobooks on electronic devices debuted. This also provided ease of access for users. “Audiobooks on CD are a great choice for people who have questions about technology and would like to keep things simple,” Hansen comments.

The audiobook collection of the Vicksburg District Library includes over 1,200 titles on CDs. Patrons are allowed to check out the titles as they would books in print. But the collection also includes audiobooks that can be borrowed and downloaded through the OverDrive app, which adds 2,700 titles.

The user accessibility of OverDrive is something Hansen is proud to promote. “OverDrive audiobooks give readers the opportunity to check out books without physically visiting the library. We love to have patrons visit our location, but this is a good option for home-bound patrons or patrons whose work schedules preclude them from visiting us.” Patrons can use OverDrive from the convenience of their home as long as they have their library card number and an internet connection. As part of the Southwest Michigan Library Cooperative, patrons are able to access audiobooks as well as ebooks through the online application.

As audiobook popularity rises, publishers are adapting their various items into the format. This has led to some well-known names being tapped to narrate works of both fiction and non-fiction. British actor Stephen Fry is known for his narration of JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series. Dennis Quaid recently performed in The President is Missing for James Patterson. And a current bestseller, Michelle Obama’s Becoming, is read by the former first lady herself.

The cost of an audiobook depends on various factors, just as it would for a print book. The longer the book, the more information there is to hold on a disc or in a file. Hansen adds, “With audiobooks, it is important to remember the cost of renting a recording studio and hiring an actor or professional reader to read the book aloud. In the case of especially long books…the cost of producing an audiobook will be much more significant than producing a short book.”

A novel on CD could be anywhere from five discs to beyond. For example, Obama’s Becoming clocks in at 19 hours of listening on 16 discs, which will run a buyer about $25 to $40. Purchasing the downloaded version tends to be more affordable as there is no material cost and the title can be stored in the cloud for future use.

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