As I'm sure you know if you've read my blog for any amount of time, I'm an avid reader. I absolutely love reading, and always have. I enjoy learning new things as well as just being swept away from my current problems in real life. As I've gotten older though, I find it harder and harder to devote the time to reading that I would like. There are just too many things to do in the day from working full time to keeping up with my house to working on my hobbies like knitting and sewing - there never seems to be enough time to accomplish the things that must be done, let alone the fun extras that I would like to do. So, how do I still read so many books? Audiobooks. Scoff if you will, oh disbelievers, but audiobooks have seriously changed my life. I only started with them because I received one for free back in my couponing days (The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald courtesy of Downpour.com), and I enjoyed it so much that I went on to find more. That was in April of 2013, and I have never looked back.
The shocking thing about audiobooks when you first get into using them is definitely how expensive they are. I've seen some recordings of books go for as much as $40 - $50! Clearly that is not an affordable alternative to regular books, especially for a thrift store junkie like me who gets books for 25¢ each. How do I get around this? The public library. I will confess that I hadn't entered my local library in over 10 years - I used to just buy books myself as I got older. I renewed my card though and was struck with awe at how much the library system has changed since my teenage years. The library has the usual books on cd and whatnot in their actual branches around town (which I have also been known to borrow and upload to my itunes library so I can listen to them on my phone), but now they have an online library! My library has ebooks and audiobooks that are available to checkout through a lovely site called Overdrive.com. I just set up an account on overdrive, then searched for my local library. Once you find your local library, you just put in your same card number and password that you would use on the regular library site (they tell you all that when you sign up for a card), and you are able to check out their files. Overdrive lets you access the books for a set period of time (usually 2 weeks), then when your due date comes you just no longer have access to the files.
Overdrive is my favorite way to listen to books. You can download the app on your computer, tablet or phone and use their program to download the files and listen. I use my phone so I can literally take it with me everywhere. I walk around my house, phone in hand, doing chores and "reading" all the time. I even hold it up to my ear while I brush my teeth if I'm in a particularly heavy part of the book. The only limitations you have with overdrive is that you have to wait your turn for a book just like all physical library books - only one person can check them out at a time - but you can "place a hold" on any book and join the queue to get that book next (in order of when you requested it). You can also make "wishlists" of your library's books on overdrive and then you choose to view only the books on your wishlist that are available for checkout (I do this all the time). The other big limitation is that you only have access to books that your library has purchased, so the selection will not be as extensive as online audiobook clubs (I will list those shortly). Even this can be avoided :) I just found out this week that some libraries will allow access to their files even if you don't live in their area! this link lists libraries from around the country who sell memberships for a yearly fee. I just got a membership to the Fairfax County Virginia Library this week - I nearly wet myself when I looked through their selection while I was deciding if the fee was worth it and saw that they have 12,919 audiobooks! That's just insane. Most every book I searched for before making my decision, they had it, particularly the classics. Frankly I think that access to almost 13,000 audiobooks is well worth $27 for the whole year, especially when you consider how much audiobook clubs cost. Anyway, Overdrive is amazing and I highly recommend checking into it.
Librivox.org. Librivox is a public site that offers free audiobooks of any book in the "public domain" - a book goes into the public domain so many years after its publication (at the moment, any book published before 1923 qualifies). The only catch - these are not professional recordings. All of these books are read by volunteers. Some are very good volunteers, but some are really not, lol. Also most books are not read entirely by the same person - each file is a chapter, and you can volunteer to read as many as you want. On the plus side, Librivox does have a free iphone app, so you can listen to them on the go. I've listened to several books this way and while they certainly aren't the quality of the professional recordings, they are free, so don't look a gift horse in the mouth :) (As a total side note, you can also volunteer to read for librivox - pretty cool!)
Audible.com. Audible is now owned by Amazon, and they follow the usual format of audiobook subscription services: you pay a monthly fee and that fee gives you 1 credit each month. Each credit can be used for 1 book, and if you want any more than that you get a special "member discount" on their other titles during your membership. The nice thing with Audible is that they will give you a free trial - usually this is just 1 month, so 1 free book. I do see other deals though - Living Social currently has an offer to get 2 free months if you sign up through their link (it's still completely free), so you would get 2 books that way. This is what I did. Also Groupon has a deal going now that you can get a 3 month subscription for $2.95 per month, so you would be getting 3 books for $2.95 each - definitely a good deal. My membership saved me recently when I ran out of time on reading Atlas Shrugged through my library - it was 63 hours long, so it took me longer than the 2 week checkout period to listen to, and I couldn't renew it because someone else already had a hold on the book. It was a tragedy - I was 48 hours into the book and I'd have to wait another 2 weeks to finish it - no freakin' way. Audible had the book for $5.95 with the member discount (normally it's $40 on other sites), so the money was well worth it to me to finish the book without waiting. So, I'd recommend the free trial - it's worth it for the freebies and the discount :)
Downpour.com was my first ever introduction to audiobooks, though I will confess that I only did it because it was free :p Very occasionally they do freebies (I've seen 4 different books they gave free since April of 2013). I found out about the freebie from Hip2Save.com, and she posts whenever they have another one available. Other than the freebies, Downpour is just like Audible: their membership is $12.99 per month and that gives you 1 credit, plus you get the member discount on their other titles. Downpour is very good about putting certain books on sale at a deep discount, so I recommend signing up for their emails - I'm tempted pretty often when they go for $3.95 each :) Downpour has a free app for your phone, but you can also just download the file and listen to it on any type of music player.
Audiobooks.com. I actually received a few books for free this year for being a World Book Night giver (which was seriously so nice of them), and to use them I had to get them from audiobooks.com. This service is just like Audible: their subscription is $14.99 per month and you get 1 credit per month. The only difference I can find is that you can purchase additional credits throughout the month instead of the "member discount" on other books. I cannot find out how much the extra credits cost though. This site also has a free app for your phone and that's how I use their service.
So, will you give audiobooks a try?
I am such a huge advocate of audiobooks - I recently got my sister into the ranks, despite her initial reservations. She used Overdrive and downloaded a book for her drive to Oklahoma, and she already has remarked at how accomplished she feels :) I love that I am able to read so much more than I used to due to time restraints. I also love that I am able to read classics with ease now when in physical form I always had trouble getting into the writing style. Classics have become my fall back genre now, and all but 1 of my 5 star books from last year were classics. There are good reasons these stories have stood the test of time. I also am fascinated by non-fiction, particularly in brain science, which can sometimes be a drudgery thick with facts and studies, but they are easy to get involved in when they are being read to me. I've also gotten over a book being so large they intimidate me, and while that means their audiobooks are long as well, it feels like less time than if I am reading a physical book. Just last night I started listening to Little Women while cooking dinner :)
I really hope this little rundown has been useful to someone out there. I had to do a lot of research to find all these services and how they work, so hopefully this will help you navigate the audiobook world more easily. Also, if you know of any useful (and let's face it, cheap!) sites that I did not mention, please comment and let me know so I can add them to the list!
Now you have no excuse - get out there are read!