Storytelling Came First. Hints on Finding Audiobooks

The holidays are coming. Will you and your family be traveling? Do you have an audiobook already lined up? Michele Braun weighs in with a two-part take on the Does listening to an audio book count as ‘reading’? controversy and reveals some of her methods for locating inexpensive audiobook versions of her family's favorite reads.


Part 1: The Grace and Charm of the Spoken Word

Storytelling and the spoken word have ancient roots.  Experts tell us that writing is a relatively new phenomena in human history:  Apparently the desire to communicate through sound is hardwired, while written language must be taught.  To me, a physical book is a very special thing.  Equally wonderful, equally important, are the words and stories, and listening to a story read well opens new worlds.

A  Librivox audiobook recording of "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz," by L. Frank Baum, read by J. Hall. Total running time: 3:44:51. Stay tuned--next week's post will discuss Librivox in more detail.

Many of us have early memories of hearing stories.  Maybe it was a picture book at bedtime or story time at the local library.  Perhaps your wonderful Kindergarten or 1st grade teacher entranced the class by chapter-a-day reading of an exciting novel, such as The Mouse and the Motorcycle or Ribsy, by Beverly Cleary.  Maybe grandparents, aunt, great uncle, older neighbor told stories about their youths, of how-things-were-different-when-we-were-young.  There can be grace, charm, cadence in the spoken word not always obvious on the written page.  

Audio book recordings make oral storytelling widely available.  They help children read when there’s no storyteller handy.  They let me read in conditions not conducive to physical books—for example while driving or washing dishes.  Audio recordings also make the written word more available to those with dyslexia, visual and other limitations.  (Reading Rockets agrees--check out their take on  how audiobooks can reach even the most unenthusiastic reader.) Unfortunately, while e-book editions are frequently priced below hardcopy editions, the list price of CDs can be quite high.


Hints for finding reasonably priced audio books

The most obvious place to find a book is a public library, and audio recordings are no different.  Many libraries stock books on CDs and some still carry books on cassette tape.  (Note that the cost of a new tape player can be less than the list price of a recorded book on disk.)  Interlibrary loans and cooperative arrangements across groups of local libraries increase the selection, although you should be patient while the recording is ordered and shipped.  (Some library systems charge nominal fees for this service.  My local library used to charge $0.50 per book, but dropped the charge a few years back and now assesses the charge only if a patron fails to pick up an ordered book.

Most of our audio books have come from public libraries:  all of the Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings series, Cornellia Funke’s The Thief Lord, Ghost Knight, Dragon Rider, “Ink world” and, most recently, Reckless books.  We originally listened to Marguerite Henry’s Misty of Chincoteague and Brighty of the Grand Canyon on library tapes.  

Some public libraries have also joined electronic services that make free audio and e-book editions available to their patrons.  The Cloud Library, OverDrive, Hoopla, and OneClickDigital are examples of these services.  While these services claim collections of 3000, 4000, or more audio books, I’ve had trouble finding books I want to read.  Still, no free stone should go unturned, and these can be good sources of books you wouldn’t have heard about otherwise.

Stay tuned--next week’s post has even more sources for low-cost audiobooks.



Michele says, “At bedtime, my mother would read to us. I favored Beatrix Potter and Madeline, while my brother requested the nonfiction Microbe Hunters.  Later, during junior and senior high school summers, my mother would insist that I not spend my ‘down time’ sprawled on the couch; I should go outside.  So I’d take my book to the lounge chair out back, but never stop reading. Since my daughter was born, I’ve read thousands, maybe tens of thousands, of pages to her, rediscovering old favorites and exploring new stories and worlds together.”

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