There is nothing traditional about books these days. After all, we’re all well-acquainted with the world of electronic books and audiobooks. Many of us have Kindle, Nook, other audiobook accounts, frequently carrying a virtual library wherever we go. But this month, we’re focused on audiobooks, because June is Audiobook Appreciation Month.
Originally known as “talking books,” audiobooks have become a staple in our culture. We listen to them while we drive, while we walk, while we work, while we clean the house—we listen virtually any- and everywhere.
It may surprise you to know that audiobooks aren’t exactly a modern technology. The concept came into being in 1932 when The American Foundation for the Blind produced the first audiobook recording on vinyl record. Each side of the record could hold 15 minutes of reading, so you can imagine how frustrating that would be, especially depending on the duration of the book…. After all, let’s consider the world’s longest book, In Search of Lost Time, by Marcel Proust (also known as Remembrance of Things Past). An unabridged edition of this title, published in seven volumes between 1913 – 1927, would require 153 hours of listening time…. Or, in 1932, 18,260 two-sided vinyl records.
Another fun fact about audiobooks—they are more expensive to produce than e-books or print books. Pricing depends on the narrator. Narrators can make between $100 to $500 or more an hour, which means a standard ten-hour audiobook narrated by a known voice may cost $5000 or more to produce. Plus, one must factor in the additional production costs. Therefore, to give some comparison, J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone would cost a reader $9.99 as a Kindle e-book; $8.49 as a paperback; or $29.99 as an audiobook.
Speaking of Harry Potter—the seven-book series was narrated by none other than Jim Dale, a legendary Broadway actor and comedian. Throughout the series, Mr. Dale created over 200 unique character voices and read for a total of 117 hours and four minutes (that’s like talking for almost five straight days). At one time, Mr. Dale held the Guinness World Record for the number of voices created for audiobooks (Roy Dotrice later usurped him with 224 distinctive voices in his narration of A Game of Thrones).
Audiobooks are great for learning, too. Parents who want their children to love reading may want to expose them to audiobooks. Research says that audiobooks can improve reading comprehension by 76%, and when students combine reading and audio, their recall is 40% greater than print alone. Audiobooks can help expand a child’s vocabulary and improve his or her fluency. For those who are concerned that audiobooks may negatively impact a child’s ability to sight-read, studies have shown that is not the case, especially when the audiobook is read in tandem with the print book. In fact, children become better readers that way.
So, find your next audiobook and get to listening! Most people are familiar with Audible through Amazon, and while it’s a great program, check out Scribd! Scribd offers unlimited downloads each month of both e-books and audiobooks.
So…. What book are you going to listen to next?