The Value Of Audiobooks
By Cameron Phillips and Emily De Vogele
Since the beginning of civilisation, verbal storytelling has been at the centre of communication and human interaction. Alongside music, it is probably the oldest part of our society there is. From being huddled around a fire listening to an old sage speak their wisdom, to the young child being told a bedtime story by their parents, it remains a vital part of laying the foundations for people to become part of our industry. As we are a new team at The Publishing Post, we want to set our stall out and make it clear why we think audiobooks are a fantastic resource for readers of every kind. However, it should be made clear that reading, in whatever form it takes, is a subjective act. Some people prefer to read themselves and others prefer to hear stories. Audiobooks are not necessarily better or worse than physical copies, they are just different.
So, what makes audiobooks so valuable? Firstly, and most importantly, is that they are far more accessible to those with various forms of disabilities. If someone cannot travel to bookshops, or perhaps cannot hold books in their hands, then audiobooks are a fantastic alternative. They also offer the blind the same substitute. If people cannot focus for a sustained period of time, then audiobooks are again extremely valuable. Audiobooks have opened up reading for those who cannot do so the traditional way, and as technology advances, the ease and breadth of options will no doubt increase to make reading more and more inclusive.
Secondly, and this is where we get a little subjective, is the performative part of audiobooks. Whether they mean to or not, the voice actors will make both conscious and subconscious decisions based upon what they are reading, which will affect the way they perform the lines. This will undoubtedly change certain parts of the story they are reading versus someone who is reading it themselves. Performance can greatly enrich the story being told, with Stephen Fry’s reading of Harry Potter and Andy Serkis’ reading of Tolkien’s work springing to mind. Many people like for there to be a performative, almost theatrical delivery of stories, and audiobooks can provide this. Being told a story by a fantastic storyteller is something we all probably have in common going back generations, and audiobooks continue the wonderful tradition of oral storytelling.
Another benefit from using audiobooks is that you can use them on the go, or whilst doing another task that might not take up too much of your concentration. Much like the previously mentioned attribute of making them accessible, this is one of the most attractive features of audiobooks. Whether you’re travelling to work, or doing tedious house chores, audiobooks are there to make those moments more bearable and more enjoyable. Escapism becomes a mere play button away.
Audiobooks can also potentially provide cognitive improvements to the listener. Some people have short attention spans, and audiobooks force the listener to take in what is being said. To understand the story of the book, you must listen at all times, resulting in a person’s attention span improving. This is even more effective if the book you are listening to is a self-help book or a scientific study. The mind can easily wander, but audiobooks, more often than not, will have a pause and rewind feature, so if you did miss some key information, it will still be available to you. There is a lot of information the listener has to take in, whether it be the plot, characters, what the characters look like, sequences of events, even names. This is very overwhelming, but one’s ability to retain this information will progressively improve the more audiobooks you listen to, increasing brain activity. There are also studies that show listening to audiobooks can make a person more empathetic and aware of other people’s feelings. The better your brain gets at retaining information from an audiobook, the better it gets at retaining real-life information. Now, we’re not promising that listening to an audiobook will automatically improve your memory or attention span overnight, but it can’t hurt to give your favourite novel a listen. Or finally, pick up that book you’ve been wanting to get to for a while, but never quite found the time before.
All in all, audiobooks are simply a different way of consuming a story, and they are not for everyone. However, it would be folly to suggest that they have not greatly added into the literary canon and added viable alternatives for those who cannot or struggle to engage in traditional reading. We cannot wait to share our audiobook recommendations, hidden gems and upcoming releases with you all. Dig out an old pair of headphones or charge up your Bluetooth earphones and join us for your next literary favourite!